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Activists plan forum on police

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By The Staff

Local activists are planning a public forum on alleged police misconduct.

They event is being organized by Pat Leahan of the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center, Steve Flores of the Northern New Mexico Hispano Coalition and activist Lorenzo Flores. They all spoke on KNMX last week about the forum.

The forum is set for 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the VFW hall on Mills Avenue.

Steve Flores said incidents of police misconduct in Las Vegas are on the rise.

“We’ve received a lot of complaints of police misconduct, beatings, etc.,” Flores said, “and we have a lot of people asking us for help with those issues.”  

Leahan called for the formation of a citizen’s review committee to oversee the Police Department. Both Leahan and Steve Flores said that it was difficult to file complaints against police officers.

“The citizens run into a brick wall when they try to go through the process,” Steve Flores said. “We’re talking about illegal searches, questionable searches, lying on official statements. Even though there’s a lot of stuff going on, nobody believes the citizen.”

Leahan also said people who her center has assisted have been thwarted in their efforts to file complaints against police misconduct.

“The citizens we’ve directed to go through the formal procedures are unsuccessful. These aren’t just rumors, these are serious problems,” she said.

However, Police Chief Gary Gold said his department has an established process for dealing with complaints against police officers. The department’s internal affairs officer, Capt. John Trujillo, categorizes the complaints based on their severity. Then officials decide whether a full-blown investigation is necessary, Gold said.

The chief estimated that the department has received 30 to 50 complaints since he took over as chief two years ago.

“Some claims have been founded. Others have been unfounded,” Gold said. “Officers have a right to due process.”

The forum organizers said Diane Wood of the American Civil Liberties Union will be at the event with official complaint forms so aggrieved citizens can file.

Lorenzo Flores asked Police Chief Gary Gold specifically not to attend the forum and also requested that no uniformed officers be present. They said that a civil rights lawyer and civil rights experts will  be on site to answer questions.

“We are asking anyone who has been beaten up by police or has been a victim of police misconduct to speak up and not be afraid,” Steve Flores said. “There will also be opportunities to talk in private.”

Gold said he had wanted to attend the forum, so he could hear the citizens’ complaints.