ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Police Department is under scrutiny for its public information officer Twitter account. Councilors and citizens have criticized the account for being disrespectful and now the police chief is weighing in.
“I think it’s unacceptable and I wouldn’t put up with it in my business with an employee that I had,” said Councilor Renee Grout in Monday night’s city council meeting.
“It is beneath the dignity of you and this department and everything you’re working on,” said Council President Pat Davis.
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City councilors did not mince words during Monday night’s city council meeting, speaking to APD Police Chief Harold Medina on the conduct of the department’s public information officer account. Chief Medina said the account is run by APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos.
“Let me make this clear. I will work personally to defund that position, to defund that account, and to prohibit the city from using Twitter in that way if we continue to not solve this problem,” said Council President Davis.
A quick search on the Twitter handler, @APD_PIO, and you can find tweets like this. In one response to one criticism on crime statistics the handle tweets back, “how is crime in Tanoan?” In another tweet, it says, “calling out your b.s. is a public service.” Another user tweets, “what’s the going rate for cyber bullying and hiding behind the public keyboard,” and Gallegos tweets back, “six figures.”
In one tweet, a user referenced the APD SWAT fire that, “murdered Brett Rosenau,” the teen who died in a house fire sparked by a device used by APD officers. In response, Gallegos tweeted, “Didn’t know a fire can murder someone.” Gallegos is also accused of targeting the former police chief on Twitter.
“We do not make fun of our former police chief’s health conditions on Twitter. That is too far and someone needed to be disciplined for it and as near as I can tell it hasn’t happened,” said Council President Davis.
“We do push back and we do give the proper narrative back,” said Police Chief Harold Medina.
He said they respond to make sure their officers are treated fairly and to help correct misinformation.
“Number one, dissuades people from reporting those crimes because they think APD is not going to do anything, and number two it takes away from the work that our officers do each and every day,” said Chief Medina.
While some responses from the handle are responding with information on suspects or happening crime scenes or data from the department, others are questionable. KRQE asked Medina if he took issue with any of the tweets.
“I looked at who Gilbert was fighting and there was an obvious dislike of these individuals and our Mayor and this is very politically motivated,” he said. “Do I cringe at times because we’ve pushed back? Yes, but I think it’s also important….they could’ve been handled without as much sarcasm but I think at a point things become so personable [personal].” he said.
He said the department will continue to push back but in a more informative manner moving forward. “We’re going to be more data based in our responses and we’re going to be more factual based in our responses,” said Medina.
Councilors said they have brought this issue up to Chief Medina before. Medina said they did have the account dormant for a while but brought it back after getting attacked on crime statistics.