Free Speech

Albuquerque Police Sued for Muzzling Critics

Too thin-skinned?


ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a legal complaint in state district court against the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission (POC) for suppressing the statements of several community members during their meeting held on December 13, 2012. During this meeting, the plaintiffs, Charles Arasim, Kenneth Ellis, Silvio Dell'Angela and Eli Chavez, all planned to criticize the POC for permitting a commissioner who they believed had a conflict of interest to remain on the commission. When the people attempted to voice these criticisms during the public comments section of the meeting, the Commission silenced them and refused to allow any public discussion of the topic.

The plaintiffs in this case are all community advocates against police use of excessive force. They regularly attend POC meetings to monitor the body's investigations of alleged incidents of abuse. A New Mexico jury recently ordered the City of Albuquerque to pay 10.7 million dollars in damages to the family of plaintiff Kenneth Ellis after an Albuquerque police officer wrongfully killed his son, Kenneth Ellis III.

It's a bitter setback to the reform coalition, which responded this morning with a letter (PDF) to Congress opposing the proposed expansion. "Unfortunately, the draft under discussion is a significant expansion of the CFAA at a time when public opinion is demanding the law be narrowed," it says. A committee vote is expected within the next month following a House Judiciary hearing that took place on March 13.