Between January and November of 2021, the Las Cruces Police Department recorded a total of twelve internal affairs cases, ranging from formal citizen complaints to internal investigations.
That’s according to a new report from police auditing group OIR, which is contracted to present semi-annual audits on the LCPD to the Las Cruces City Council.
According to OIR’s Teresa Magula, each of the twelve cases were reviewed individually during the auditing process. She says the audit revealed that the department responded appropriately to complaints.
“Overall, the department is responding with appropriate practices and outcomes,” Magula said. “We saw that the investigations generally were complete, objective and thorough in the best practices that we have seen in our work. The actions taken were very appropriate and show a real commitment to accountability.”
While a contract was awarded to OIR by the Las Cruces City Council in February of 2021, this audit is the first one to be presented to the council. OIR says they hope to be able to build upon each additional audit to highlight trends within the department.
For now, the group is suggesting small changes. OIR’s Michael Gennaco says this includes a recommendation to generate formal findings even for preliminary investigations.
“Under the system that we initially looked at, some cases the department was not making formal findings about,” Gennaco said. “They were lower-level cases, but in our view, we think best practice is that the department ought to be making a finding of one sort, no matter what the level of concern is. In our view, all these cases should come to a formal finding.”
The group is also recommending increased training for domestic standby and welfare checks. Gennaco says OIR reviewed a few cases where officer confusion about department expectations in domestic standby situations was apparent.
“We thought the whole department would benefit from training on how to perform, consistent with the law and expectations of the department, with regard to domestic standbys,” Gennaco said. “That is a situation that is always potentially dynamic, in which an officer is called when there's a transfer of children by parents who are estranged or divorced. As well as welfare checks, which again, some basic understanding and getting everyone on the same page, in our view, will eliminate future allegations.”
LCPD Chief Miguel Dominguez says the department has already begun to implement recommendations from the audit, including additional domestic standby training.
“Any finding that the auditor has and makes recommendations we looked at immediately,” Dominguez said. “Domestic standbys for example, we took the recommendation, and the training has already been held…Any recommendation that we look for, or that is made by the auditor, we act upon it immediately, see if we can implement the training right then and there, or implement it into our training as we go throughout the year.”