PORTALES, N.M. (AP) - An outside audit Portales Police Department is highly critical of the department and Chief Jeff Gill in particular.
The report by a Rio Rancho consulting firm portrays a culture rife with officer intimidation, lack of communication and sloppy handling of evidence.
The City Council ordered the review after Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry was charged last year with three felony counts of tampering with public records. Berry resigned from office and pleaded no contest to the charges.
The report notes that Gill's management style was one of trust, placing "tremendous" authority in his subordinate supervisors.
"This trust and management style," the report said, "created an informal organizational structure coupled with delegation of duties (and) effectively screened the chief from the actual operation of the department."
Gill told the Portales News-Tribune on Friday that he agreed with most of the report's findings and accepted full responsibility. He said he has addressed most of the issues criticized in the report and taken a more hands-on approach to running the department.
"I'll take the blame," Gill said. "The responsibility is mine and all I can tell you is I'm going to fix it. I've taken big steps to fix it and I'm taking more."
Among issues cited by the FKR Consulting were fears among patrol officers to report violations of policy and procedure above their chain of command, policy violations in evidence rooms and numerous violations concerning firearms, including issuing weapons to officers without documenting proficiency evaluations or qualifications as required by New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy rules.
"Over time," the report said, "a culture developed that did not encourage officers/employees to bring new ideas or differing opinions forward nor were they encouraged to report any weakness in the systems. Some (officers) hold the view that they were discouraged from speaking out or reporting violations."
Auditors noted that Gill has begun significant change since Berry resigned and "Generally the officers and employees feel they can approach the chief with their concerns."
But on a recent return visit to the department after their first assessment in March, authors of the report noted that employees still felt intimidated by supervisors who asked them to do things outside of policy and a frustration or indignation on the part of a supervisor when a report's accuracy or compliance with policy was questioned.
"This," the report said, "is a clear indication of the effect of the 'old' culture."
Although the report doesn't make note of it, former Portales Police Officer Tyler Marney initiated the investigation of Berry by going to District Attorney Matt Chandler with his concerns. At the time, Marney was severely reprimanded by Gill for breaking chain of command, records show.
Marney has since resigned from the force and both he and Gill said they are forbidden by a confidential agreement from discussing details of his departure.
"The officers felt uncomfortable going around the deputy chief to talk to me," Gill said. "That comes down to the retraining of the staff and letting them know the previous situation is not going to occur again. We sent them (department supervisors) off to modern leadership classes to reinforce that."
Berry did not respond to requests for comment.
Gill said despite the review's findings, he is pleased with the report's outcome. He also said all evidence has been inventoried and none was missing or unaccounted for.
"I think it's fair and it's accurate," Gill said of the report. "The only issue I've found in this deal was that there was old evidence that needed to be destroyed and wasn't."
Portales Mayor Sharon King said she also felt positive about the results of the report.
"A lot of that for me is after the situation with Lonnie Berry, you feel nervous about your department, so to have law enforcement professionals come in and say, you have nothing major to be concerned about, is re-assuring," King said. "I saw it as a very positive thing that I didn't have a whole lot of problems to be concerned about in that department as I had first thought I would."
Information from: Portales News-Tribune
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
A few tips on how to prevent thieves from taking your stuff over Winter Break, a look at the right to die trial, and other stories with Matt Mauro, Elizabeth Mauro and weather with Meteorologist Kristen Van Dyke.
NMFOG says government agency cannot bar someone from access to information just because it does not like what that person says about the agency.
Some Cleveland High School students say a traffic plan for getting them out of school forces them to take a dangerous and tricky left turn onto a 55 mph road, something parents and staff don't have to do.
An emotional mother is still waiting for answers about what happened to her missing daughter.
The federal jury weighing a life or death sentence for convicted killer John McCluskey has announced it couldn't reach a decision.
New details about the two New Mexico men arrested Tuesday for the murder of a Texas woman.