ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It is a well-documented case of high-level wrongdoing at the Albuquerque Police Department. While assigned to the Chief’s office, Lieutenant Jim Edison pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in illicit overtime. Over a 12-month period, the lieutenant was paid $242,758. That’s more than the police chief and even the mayor.
It began in 2020 after Lt. Edison was tapped to lead APD’s COVID-19 response. His duties included coordinating testing, contact tracing, compiling stats, and responding to virus-related emails and phone calls. Even though his assignment was a day shift desk job, Lt. Edison padded his pay with thousands of hours in time and a half call-out overtime. Homicide Detectives receive call-out O/T when they respond after hours to a crime scene. Lieutenant Edison claimed call-out overtime for after-hours emails and phone calls. He told a supervisor he was allowed two hours of call-out overtime for any phone call he received outside regular working hours.
For example, Saturday, January 16, 2021. Edison hit up taxpayers 12 hours of overtime for making phone calls and sending emails on his day off.
January 22, 2021. The lieutenant documented seven minutes of off-duty work and claimed eight hours of overtime.
Sunday, January 31, 2021. Edison accounted for 22 minutes of work and claimed ten and a half hours of overtime.
Edison put in for overtime hours practically every day for a full year, even Christmas. On December 25, 2020, Edison claimed eight hours O/T. And there must have been some kind of email emergency on New Year’s day 2021 because, instead of celebrating, the lieutenant said he was doing police work and claimed 11 hours of overtime.
Last year, APD launched a series of Internal Affairs investigations aimed at the lieutenant’s timecard practices. In a memo from an Internal Affairs Investigator, Edison was informed, “It is alleged you have committed fraud by being paid over 40k for the first two months of 2021.”
Internal Affairs informed Chief Harold Medina, “…a reasonable likelihood of a criminal prosecution exists against Lt. Edison.” Following extensive investigations, IA Investigators concluded Lt. Jim Edison had violated numerous APD Codes of Conduct, Rules, and Regulations.
Earlier this year, then Interim Superintendent For Police Reform, Eric Garcia, told KRQE News 13 that Edison’s violations were “very serious.”
“Lt. Edison decided to claim overtime when it wasn’t appropriate. Lt. Edison wasn’t truthful with his supervisor. … He was abusing the system,” Chief Medina said in a February interview.
Edison was fired from APD last November. Because any police officer who violates New Mexico police standards can have their Law Enforcement Certification revoked, APD is required to report Edison’s misconduct to New Mexico’s Law Enforcement Academy for investigation. “The relationship that exists between the citizens of the state of New Mexico and the licensed professionals who are charged with delivering public safety to them is critical. Public trust in those licensed professionals is paramount,” said Benjamin Baker, the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Interim Director.
APD’s leadership violated state law by failing to report Edison’s misconduct to the Law Enforcement Academy. “I’ve corresponded with the leadership at the City of Albuquerque Police Department, alerting them to this matter being brought to my attention … and the absence of a filed complaint from their office with the (Academy) Board,” said Benjamin Baker.
In late August, APD finally reported Jim Edison’s misconduct to the Law Enforcement Academy. His Police Officer Certification is under review by the Academy’s Board.
End of story? Not quite. You see, he’s back. In June, APD rehired Jim Edison. Today, he’s a police Lieutenant assigned to the Airport. And what about that documented timecard misconduct? The city wiped it clean like it never occurred.
Here’s what happened. Edison appealed his firing to the City Personnel Board. However, after he threatened to sue the city for civil rights violations, APD did an about-face and apparently decided Edison’s misconduct wasn’t so bad after all. City officials negotiated an out-of-court settlement behind closed doors. Jim Edison was reinstated retroactively to November with full back pay and benefits. And, just to make sure there are no hard feelings, the city handed Edison something extra, a bonus check for $20,000.
As part of the Settlement Agreement, Edison will be demoted and his misconduct discipline will be reduced from termination to a two-week suspension. Disciplinary actions arising from the timecard wrongdoing will be removed from his personnel record.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says former police officer Tom Grover. Grover is an attorney specializing in police misconduct cases. “It’s a public record. I don’t think you can just make it disappear. I’ve never seen a disciplinary record be removed. They did the investigation. There were findings. There was a final decision to discipline. It just goes away?” Grover said.
Jim Edison’s firing last year was based on violations of APD’s internal Codes of Conduct. Because Edison’s timecard activity may violate state statutes, APD referred the matter to the Attorney General for a criminal investigation. So will Jim Edison be charged with a crime? We may never know. As part of the Settlement Agreement, APD pledged not to refer allegations of Edison’s misconduct to outside law enforcement agencies. And if a referral has already been made, APD must retract the referral.
“I thought, how strange is this? How can you withdraw a complaint of commission of a crime,” says retired state prosecutor Steve Suttle. Suttle says, in his 30-year career, he’s never seen a provision like that. “Facts are facts. And if there are facts here, after investigation, that reveal acts of crimes, the D.A. or the A.G. is perfectly within their power to pursue those with the bringing of charges or an indictment,” Suttle said.
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A spokesperson for the Attorney General says APD did refer a case in April and an active investigation into Jim Edison’s timecard activity is pending.
The City of Albuquerque will pursue an independent audit of Lt. Edison’s pay records to determine whether his claims for overtime were consistent with state law.
Why did the Albuquerque Police Department change its mind about firing Lieutenant Edison? That’s something neither APD nor Edison will talk about. The Edison Settlement Agreement has a confidentiality clause stipulating the parties have no comment.