Residents talk about police

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By David Giuliani

A crowd estimated at more than 100 people came together over the weekend to talk about alleged police misconduct in Las Vegas.

The standing-room-only crowd, which filled the VFW hall on Mills Avenue, included several officials, including Assistant District Attorney Tom Clayton and City Council members Andrew Feldman and Diane Moore.

Council members Morris Madrid and Cruz Roybal weren’t present. Neither was Mayor Tony Marquez.

Frank Susman, president of the Northern New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Diane Wood, ACLU policy director, were also on hand to distribute informational pamphlets and tell attendees how they can file complaints about police misconduct.

“We accept written complaints, and we have a team of attorneys who review them,” Wood said. “The forms are available online.”

Wood said that both the state attorney general and the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy also accept complaints about police misconduct.

Several locals recounted their experiences with alleged police abuse. Resident Gilbert Chavez spoke of Las Vegas police officers beating his son and Tasering him multiple times. Chavez said one of the officers continues to harass his family.

Resident Joe Montaño spoke of seeing off-duty Las Vegas police officers at a bar, obviously intoxicated, leaving in their personal cars. Local activist Pat Leahan also reported seeing a drunken officer doing the same thing. She said she reported it but that nothing was done.

Local body shop owner Victor Herrera spoke about being threatened by a Las Vegas police officer and hassled by city code enforcement after intervening when he saw an officer beating a woman on the hood of his car.

“I’ve lived all over the country, and I’ve never seen harassment like you have in Las Vegas,” Herrerra said.

Paul Skotchdopole, a retired Las Vegas police officer, now works for Albuquerque’s police oversight commission. Skotchdopole spoke about why that citizens review committee was formed and how it works. Skotchdopole said the committee has full access to all city documents and that its investigations have resulted in positive changes for the city.

Wood of the ACLU said the Las Vegas charter would have to be changed to home rule before such a committee could be set up here. A city panel has been drafting a proposed home-rule charter.

Organizers said there will be a follow-up meeting, but a time, date and place have not yet been set.

Gold couldn’t be reached for comment. He had said he wanted to attend the forum, but organizers said they didn’t want him there. Gold has previously said the department has an established procedure for turning in complaints against police officer, a process that he said the department takes seriously.