It was dissapointing, but not surprising when Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Leitenant Leslie Brown was quoted, by the Albuquerque Journal, as saying that criminal defense lawyers will do anything and say anything to get their clients off. Mr. Brown's comment came under scrutiny as did his policy of making mandatory quotas for DWI field officers.
Obviously, I have a problem with quotas. Quotas encourage police to make wrongful arrests. Indeed, they place normal APD DWI officers in the same position as the dirty APD DWI officers. Now, otherwise respectable, credible officers will be hard to distinguish from the lying slobs out there like APD Officer Marissa Martinez. If officers fail to meet their quota, they risk termination. DWI is a big business for APD DWI unit officers --most people don't know that. DWI officers earn about $35,000.00/yr. and make themselves an additional $50,000.00 or so from milking DWI arrest-related activities. Under a quota system, more arrests will be made of those who actually passed the subjective field sobriety tests, and who test under the presumptive limit of intoxication. And who benefits? Just request APD officer earnings and you'll see.
Lastly, Mr. Brown's comment was a clear slap in the face to criminal defense lawyers --a group of lawyers that I have been proud to be a part of since I took the attorney's oath. Mr. Brown said,in essence, that criminal defense lawyers were liars. I do not doubt there are criminal defense lawyers that have lied before. But I know that there are APD officers that have lied before...and lied under oath. Most notably, I remember taking a rookie lawyer with me to a license revocation hearing. My client could not make it due to his work schedule. The lawyer was new to the practice and simply wanted to tag along to see how a hearing was conducted. Towards the end of the hearing, I asked the officer if he saw my client again, would he recognize him. The officer said, "Of course, he's sitting right next to you." Needless to say, after my attorney friend showed the hearing officer his driver's license, the client got his license reinstated, and, of course nothing happened to the APD officer in terms of disciplining him.
It is no secret that the Albuquerque Police Department has earned a reputation for employing crude, unprofessional officers: Officers have allegedly been caught burglarizing a liquor store, attacking homeless people, sexually assaulting children, punching citizens, one being hired after admitting to theft, drug use, vandalism and bribery. See, Props to the Albuquerque Police Department, http://albuquerquedaze.blogspot.com/2009/05/props-to-policemen-of-new-mexico.html (August 9, 2009); New Mexico Officer Brawl Reports Two Stories,
(August 9, 2009).
Back to Brown's comment -what a careless and outright dumb comment for a high-ranking APD official to make. It is damaging to our system of justice, and many of my colleagues and I are offended by it. What will become of it? Will the Lt. be disciplined for making such a reckless comment? No. Of course not. But just to get it right, Mr. Brown, criminal defense lawyers are not any more of liars than anyone else --especially APD officers.
I recently bought a t-shirt from my local criminal defense lawyers association that pretty much sums up our job: "Protecting the Bill of Rights one client at a time." Hopefully the new mayor will make APD stand for Albuquerque Police Department.