ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is introducing a new system it said will bring transparency and hold prosecutors and law enforcement accountable. But, the roll-out of the new system is catching local agencies by surprise.
“There’s a lot more questions than I have answers and I think that’s fundamentally my number one concern,” Shaun Willoughby, President of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said.
In a letter dated October 14, 2020, the DA’s Office told the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the Albuquerque Police Department it is introducing a new system based on the Giglio Supreme Court Ruling which, in part, requires information impacting the reliability of a witness’ testimony to be disclosed.
“My office joins a growing number of prosecutor offices around the nation that are embracing reform and police accountability by formalizing this Giglio inquiry process. Historically, requests for Giglio material have been done on a case-by-case basis and the results of earlier Giglio inquiries have not been searchable. Beginning in November my office will start implementing a formal and searchable system,” the letter, which KRQE News 13 obtained a copy of, said in part.
It goes on to say that officers listed as witnesses in an open case will receive a questionnaire where information like past misconduct of bias, use of force or truthfulness, or criminal charges will be disclosed and investigated. The findings then go into an officer’s personnel file. KRQE News 13 asked if the findings would be made available to the public.
“The District Attorney’s Office will provide public access any time a formal Giglio notice is filed in a pending case but we are currently prohibited from sharing specific, confidential information that may form the basis of our Giglio determination,” said a spokesperson for the DA’s Office.
But confidentiality is a concern for Willoughby. He wants to know more about the questions in the questionnaires and he wants more communication.
“We understand the DA has the authority to get this information, it’s almost required of his office to get this information by law. We just feel that it’s important to sit down and have an open dialogue with decision-makers before they roll it out so that our officers have the information to be successful,” Willoughby said. “I’m just disappointed with how the DA approached this. I’m disappointed that he didn’t bring stakeholders to the table.”
While the Giglio case and its use in law aren’t new, the DA’s office said it’s formalizing the process now because its “recent slow-down” in criminal courts gave them time to develop a training protocol and the infrastructure to launch the new policy.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said the letter is a ‘sensitive matter’ and that it’s writing a direct letter of response to the DA’s Office. However, it did say it had concerns over the confidentiality and constitutionality of the incoming changes.
KRQE News 13 reached out to APD which said it had no comment on the matter at this time.
In an emailed statement, the DA’s Office said:
The District Attorney is committed to using every available tool to improve transparency, accountability and integrity within our criminal justice system. Giglio disclosures are a standard part of federal prosecution but they are not often used or well understood inside our state system. We believe they are an important component of our larger reform efforts and an essential step in ensuring that the system is untainted by bias, misconduct or dishonesty. We also believe it will have no impact on the vast majority of police officers who have no sustained findings on their record.