Outgoing POB member calls police oversight agency executive director insubordinate. Chelsea Van Deve
- Accuses CPOA Executive Director Ed Harness of being insubordinate.
- CPOA's investigation into last year's bloody underwear case was negligently handled.
- The Executive Director of this agency being both a lawyer and a former law enforcement officer allowing such outrageously counterfactual and anti-legal drivel, made by the very mouths of the officers being investigated, is jaw-droppingly shocking to me."
- “The Board should be concerned that Director Harness repeatedly insubordinated this body in his petulant attempts at winning a proxy war with the Board’s authority."
Outgoing Police Oversight Board member Chelsea Van Deventer on Thursday blasted other POB members, and the executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, Ed Harness, as being insubordinate and botching the investigation into how the Albuquerque Police Department mishandled the investigation of a 7-year-old girl who went to school with bloody underwear last year.
Van Deventer, an attorney, ripped Harness and other board members in a six-page resignation letter that she submitted Thursday. She accused POB member Bill Kass of working to punish her for taking a job as the top prosecutor for Laguna Pueblo, and accused member Joanne Fine of being rude and of trying to prevent her from commenting on cases before the board.
Van Deventer also called for an audit of the CPOA, the agency that is supposed to investigate civilian complaints against police officers, saying it has botched at least one case—the investigation into APD's handling of the bloody underwear case.
But Van Deventer, who joined the POB in February 2018, saved most of her ire for Harness, who says he's a finalist for a similar job in Forth Worth Texas. She ripped Harness for accepting APD's assertions that its officers didn't have probable cause to take the girl's underwear into evidence and begin an investigation into her situation.
The New Mexico Attorney General's Office eventually stepped into the case charged the girl's parents with numerous crimes.
“The case [the CPOA's probe how APD handled the bloody underwear incident] is too complex and the CPOA's investigation too negligently handled for the Board to be able to correct the shockingly numerous problems presented by the CPOA's investigation of the complainant's appeal,” Van Deventer's letter said.
“The CPOA relies on patently erroneous 'legal' justifications as provided by the very officers who decided not to collect—or even to personally examine—the potential forensic evidence.”
Then Van Deventer savaged Harness for failing to challenge APD's explanation as to why its officers didn't tag the underwear into evidence.
“These arguments are so bad as to be embarrassing. The Executive Director of this agency being both a lawyer and a former law enforcement officer allowing such outrageously counterfactual and anti-legal drivel, made by the very mouths of the officers being investigated, is jaw-droppingly shocking to me,” Van Deventer's letter said.
Here's another one of her attacks on Harness:'
“Further, I urge the Board consider the fact that it has, for over a year’s time, asked the CPOA repeatedly to analyze how this evidence was handled through the lens of the SOPs in place for the handling of evidence, and the CPOA has absolutely refused to do so. I would note for the Board that the CPOA has added some lines to this most recent version of the investigative findings letter related to this question, but that those lines contain nothing more than misleading red-herrings, which evade and do not answer the question of whether the handling of evidence did or did not comply with the SOPs regarding the handling of evidence. I consider those additions to be further insubordination of your Board.”
“The Board should be concerned that Director Harness repeatedly insubordinated this body in his petulant attempts at winning a proxy war with the Board’s authority. The Board might recall that they sent this case back for further investigation over a year ago. At the subsequent CRC meeting, the Executive Director placed the case back on the CRC agenda as though the CPOA had complied with the Board’s directives when in fact the CPOA had completely undermined the Board and represented the same case without on iota of the further investigation and analysis the Board requested. When I arrived at the CRC meeting where Director Harness represented the same work-product that the Board had sent back, it was clear that Executive Director Ed Harness as well as Vice Chair Joanne Fine had colluded in an attempt to get the case out of the office without the CPOA having completed the investigation as requested by the Board. Member Fine insisted that the CPOA had done what we had asked and that she was satisfied with the changes to the letter and the completion of the investigation despite the truth—literally nothing had been done and literally nothing had changed. The investigative findings provided at the CRC meeting were not different by even one character than the findings that the Board had just sent back. Please review the 132-18 Case Log, which details these events, that I have attached.”
The man who filed the complaint against APD with the CPOA, former police officer and former POB member Jim Larson, said he agreed with Van Deventer's assessment of how the CPOA and the POB have mishandled investigations into misbehavior by APD officers.
“I think my complaint [against APD] was poorly investigated [by the CPOA], and Chelsea has highlighted many of my concerns,” Larson said.
“I'm sorry to see her [Van Deventer] go. I think she was trying to make this model of civilian police oversight here in Albuquerque work. I have serious questions that it doesn't work.”