Mayor Tim Keller and police chief Mike Geier on Wednesday rolled out policy changes for the Albuquerque Police Department that they say will stop child abuse and neglect cases from being mishandled as was the case of the 7-year-old girl who was allegedly prostituted out by her family members.
Geier signed three Special Orders today that will apply to the entire Police Department. Existing officers and new cadets will get training on the policy changes to ensure they are successfully implemented.
Here's a quick look at APD's old policies, the new policies and how things will change:
The changes relate to gathering evidence in potential criminal cases, accessing the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Services Department's child abuse database and the retention of lapel camera videos when officers are called out on child abuse and neglect cases.
Perhaps the biggest change is that all officers who go out on child abuse and neglect cases will have to collect evidence if there if there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime, and regardless of whether the incident is a crime scene or a crime has been reported.
The second biggest change is that on all child abuse and neglect calls APD Real Time Crime Center personnel will access the CYFD database and relay that information to officers within three or four minutes.
And any video footage of child abuse and neglect calls will have to be retained for a much longer period of time than is currently the case.
Here are the policy changes:
1. Gathering and Retaining Potential Criminal Evidence in Child Abuse and Neglect Matters
· All officers with a reasonable suspicion of a crime involving child abuse or neglect will collect and preserve all items of possible evidentiary value.
· The officer will immediately notify the appropriate on-call detective, unit, or supervisor.
· The officer will collect the items regardless of whether the incident is considered a crime scene or a crime is reported.
· If a crime has not been reported, the evidence will be stored using a unique numerical identifier for a non-reported crime and retained until one year after the child turns 18 or the completion of the statute of limitations.
2. Use of Crimes Against Children Unit Case Management System (CACU) and CYFD Law Enforcement Portal
· First APD-wide policy that does the following:
o All officers encountering allegations of child abuse or neglect on any call for service or field interaction will contact the Real Time Crime Center and request a query for information through both the CACU case management system and the CYFD Law Enforcement portal.
o This will help to ensure all officers are aware of a child or family’s history with CYFD or APD’s CACU detectives.
3. Video Footage Retention
· All officers must tag their video footage from interactions in which child abuse or neglect is alleged in APD’s storage system as “evidentiary.”
· This new policy will ensure the video footage is retained in the system until one year after the juvenile becomes an adult or the completion of the statute of limitations.
· This policy change assures that the video footage can be used in any subsequent criminal prosecution.
Photo: Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Mike Geier signing APD policy changes
During a news conference in which the changes were announced and signed by Geier, Keller said, “We are taking action today to address shortcomings in old APD crimes against children policies. These special orders will help build a better system to protect kids in our city and help officers with guidance. We’re ending the confusion about the collection of potential evidence and making it clear that previous case information must be accessed. While the investigation into the specifics of the Stewart case is ongoing, we wanted to act now to make some commonsense changes to give officers clear guidance.”
Geier said, “Our goal with these policy changes is to put protections in place for children. We are giving officers the resources and direction they need to make the best possible decisions about the welfare of kids in our community.”