Category Archives: Access

Statement for Rio Grande Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists

Re: APD public criticism of local news media

The Albuquerque Police Department public information office, which is resorting to more direct social media feeds and bypassing journalists in the process, this week called KOB TV “irresponsible” for obtaining video of a police crash and sharing the footage.

The local chapter of SPJ takes exception to this specific criticism and this general trend in which APD has made critical statements against the media.

KOB obtained the video legitimately and had every right to use it. The police department has a lot of gall to ask for what amounts to a favor from the media after consistently showing so much disrespect for our critical role in society and for the people we’re working to inform and educate. The video showed a crash involving a public employee that led to serious injuries. Broadcasting such a video is in the public interest.

The Albuquerque Police Department’s record on transparency would be laughable if it didn’t have such a serious impact on the people it purports to serve. The department frequently withholds recordings made by its own officers as it sees fit, releasing video and other public records only if they serve the interests of APD and its administrators. Public records requests are routinely delayed for months, or worse, simply ignored. This is against the law. That APD would have the temerity to demand that a news organization release video not yet obtained by the department despite its considerable resources is an insult.

The APD is free to tweet and post whatever they like, but resorting to social media and bypassing journalists is a practice our chapter opposes because it cuts out the role of journalists — who are stand ins for the public — to ask questions of powerful officials about policies, news, etc. That’s propaganda, not transparency.

Albuquerque Journal:  Facebook is APD’s megaphone

Gray Skies: Big Black Squares

By Marisa Demarco

There are two ways a campus sexual assault can be investigated: 1) criminally and by police, which may lead to a trial in months or years down the line 2) administratively by a university, which could lead to a student being suspended or expelled.

People who’d been sexually assaulted at the University of New Mexico came to me with stories about how the long, confusing administrative investigation left them feeling vulnerable, and in some cases, unable to finish school. In some instances, the reporting process itself, they told me, put them in jeopardy. They said the system re-traumatized survivors of sexual assault.

The federal Office of Civil Rights says administrative university investigations should take 60 days. But I was hearing from my sources that these were going on for way longer than that.

I started looking for numbers. How many cases spilled over that 60-day timeframe and how long did they drag on? Students were telling me cases dragged on for more than a year sometimes. UNM said it was an average of only 90 days.

I put in an IPRA request for timeline information. I tailored my request so identity was not part of the information I sought, only dates. Pages and pages of black squares came to my inbox. The documents were so heavily redacted, I couldn’t make heads or tails of them.

Many of the students I spoke with did not want to be used in any reporting I did. Person after person would explain that speaking out could lead to a lot of trouble within their academic program or could be a traumatizing experience.

And the university, though willing to speak generally about the process for investigating civil rights complaints, didn’t sufficiently respond to student allegations that UNM’s investigations interfered with their ability to finish school.

Using expert sources, I still reported on the core issue and what’s at stake for students. KUNM aired a series before and after the Department of Justice released its report on how UNM handles sexual assault.


Marisa Demarco is a radio reporter with KUNM News and an SPJ Rio Grande board member.


It’s Sunshine Week, which is all about your right to know.  We’ll be rolling out all kinds of content on this site and on social media. This “Gray Skies” series will look at instances when officials, agencies and public institutions not transparent and evaded the disinfecting power of sunlight.

GRAY SKIES: IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES MUST COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS

By Heath Haussamen

A recent tweet from U.S. Immigrants and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed that the agency had arrested an Arkansas man on “child sex tourism charges.”

That arrest fit the narrative ICE spreads – that immigrants are criminals who need to be deported – so the agency released details.

But try to get information on a detained immigrant not wanted for any crime other than living in the United States without legal status, and you get a different answer. Last month, after four days of back-and-forth emails, an ICE spokeswoman told me the agency would release no information on a case I was asking about “absent a signed privacy waiver from the individual.”

For days, she said she was researching my request. She could have given me that answer from the start. That’s called being given the runaround.

Unfortunately, ICE and other immigration enforcement agencies are allowed to do just that.

Local and state transparency issues should be spotlighted during this year’s Sunshine Week. While New Mexico has some of the stronger state-level transparency laws in the nation, getting agencies to comply is often challenging.

At least at the local and state level we have recourse through the courts and law enforcement. But federal immigration enforcement agencies like ICE are not required to release information about people they’re detaining.

As The Texas Tribune recently reported, ICE “provides detailed immigration histories of ‘criminal aliens’ only when it chooses to — like after high-profile cases that spark local outrage. ICE refused, meanwhile, to give the Tribune identifying information about any significant slice of the immigrant population it detains, deports or releases — extending privacy protections even to nine of the state’s 12 undocumented death row inmates.”

That makes it really challenging to learn about what immigration authorities have been doing since Donald Trump became president – and whether arrests in Doña Ana County and elsewhere since he took over are “routine,” as ICE insists, or the military operation Trump claims.

Thanks to reporting by journalists and information from activists, we know that the numbers of people detained may not be higher than under former President Barack Obama, but there is a difference: Folks living in the United States without legal status but not otherwise wanted for a crime were usually left alone before. Now, it appears, agents are detaining such people.

Regardless of whether you agree with that, it’s a significant policy shift that affects people living in our communities and rips families apart. It deserves public scrutiny so people can hold elected officials accountable for what their government is doing.

The Boston Globe recently asked Trump to adopt a new level of transparency.

“President Obama should not have allowed this vast system to jail and deport people in secret, and you should not, either,” Globe editor Brian McGrory wrote to Trump. “We urge you to end this secrecy once and for all.”

The selective release of information is deceptive. Real transparency gives us access to data and people’s stories – all stories, not just those that fit a political agenda.

Officials with ICE have complained that reporting on recent arrests was erroneous, irresponsible and harmful. That’s crap. If you want us to report facts, give us facts. If you don’t, you’re to blame when you feel misrepresented. We’re doing our best to find the truth without your assistance.

We should all join the Boston Globe in demanding transparency from immigration enforcement agencies.

Haussamen, a Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande Chapter Board member from Las Cruces, runs NMPolitics.net, a news organization devoted to hard-hitting, fair exploration of politics and government that seeks to inform, engage and build community. Reach him at heath@haussamen.com, on Facebook at /haussamen, or on twitter @haussamen.


It’s Sunshine Week, which is all about your right to know.  We’ll be rolling out all kinds of content on this site and on social media. This “Gray Skies” series will look at instances when officials, agencies and public institutions not transparent and evaded the disinfecting power of sunlight.