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Judge says Santa Fe violated law by failing to produce records requested by ex-cop

Santa Fe violated state law by failing to produce records concerning missing evidence requested by a retired police officer.

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State District Judge Bryan Biedscheid has determined the city of Santa Fe violated state law by failing to produce records concerning missing evidence requested by a retired police officer.

Biedscheid wrote in a May 29 ruling the city unlawfully denied a May 5 request from retired Santa Fe police Lt. Michele Williams for public documents concerning missing sexual assault examiner kits and ordered the city to produce them by June 15 or file a response stating why it shouldn't have to comply.

The judge said he'll hear arguments on the city's response, if it files one, at a July 7 hearing and will later determine whether Williams should receive damages under the state Inspection of Public Records Act.

City spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said in an email the city does not respond to threatened or pending litigation.

This is the second time Williams has accused the city of violating the records act since she retired from the department late last year.

She filed a lawsuit in January, contending the city failed to produce records related to misconduct complaints against officers.

In that case — which is still pending in state District Court — she said she asked for the complaints and the results of investigations into them. But she claimed the city only produced some of the records.

She knew the records weren't complete because of her familiarity with the internal workings of the department, Williams said in that complaint. But the city's records custodian didn't say which records the city was withholding or why.

Williams filed a tort claim notice in February advising the city she intends to file a whistleblower complaint because she claims department officials retaliated against her after she reported a now-retired deputy chief's alleged time card irregularities and also raised the possibility of missing firearms and a stolen scope from a gun buyback program.

The police department is in the process of implementing new software after an audit by an outside consultant detailed a number of issues with the department's evidence-handling policies and procedures.

Problems in the department's evidence room were a factor in prosecutors' decision to plead a murder case down to voluntary manslaughter last year after physical evidence in the case was lost.

The department also confirmed it had lost evidence collected during the investigation of a 2018 rape case. It has acknowledged evidence in a rape case from 2014 also is missing.

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