ALBUQUERQUE – A whistleblower lawsuit filed by former New Mexico police detectives says they were retaliated against for repeatedly raising concerns about the operation of their department’s sex crimes unit.
Former Albuquerque Police Department detectives Mandi Abernathy, Sally Dyer and Teresa Romero filed the lawsuit in 2nd Judicial District Court last week, The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday.
The lawsuit by the former detectives says the sex crimes unit leadership undermined the investigation and prosecution of serial rapists and failed to train newer detectives about how to investigate complex and sensitive cases.
The lawsuit also alleges mishandling of their work and assignments or mistreatment by a superior.
The city of Albuquerque and police department are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
All three detective have resigned, and Dyer and Abernathy now work for other law enforcement agencies in the state.
The detectives seek damages, two times back pay with interest, compensation for damages, reasonable attorney fees and other relief the court deems proper.
Over the past several years the Albuquerque Police Department undertook testing of decades worth of rape evidence kits to clear an enormous backlog.
Officers were told in 2017 to stop using a database to track suspect information. The unit’s leadership “frustrated” the detectives’ attempts to use of a national FBI database, the lawsuit says.
“It’s clear this wasn’t just incompetence; this is absolutely a purposeful effort to undermine the arrest and prosecution of serial rapists,” said Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney representing the detectives.
Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos did not respond to the specific allegations. The city had not been served with the lawsuit but plans to investigate, he said.
The department “has been working to improve investigations of sexual assault” including tests of the backlog of rape kits, Gallegos said in an email.