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Santa Fe police lag in responding to checkpoint data request

September 24, 2018

The request for information seemed fairly straightforward.

But for Santa Fe police, it proved a formidable task.

On June 22, The New Mexican asked the Santa Fe Police Department, as well as the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, for the specific location, date and time of every sobriety checkpoint each agency had conducted since 2014.

The request, filed under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, also sought statistical information for each checkpoint, including the number of people who were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Within two weeks, the sheriff’s office provided all the requested information.

The police department took nearly three months to respond. Even then, after repeated follow-up requests, it was able to supply only incomplete information.

The request was originally filed with Lt. Sean Strahon and Capt. Marvin Paulk, who were assigned to handle requests for public records while police spokesman Greg Gurulé was on leave. A copy of the request also was sent to an email address the police department set up for such inquiries.

A month later, still no response.

The law requires the inspection of public records “immediately or as soon as is practicable under the circumstances, but not later than fifteen days after receiving a written request.” If the review cannot be done within three business days, the records custodian “shall explain in writing when the records will be available for inspection or when the public body will respond to the request.”

Paulk, who has worked to established a good rapport with the news media, apologized for the delay.

“I don’t like making excuses, but I’m going to get this solved, I will tell you that now,” he said. “I’ll get you this information a lot sooner than 30 days. I’m talking closer to three, OK?”

Three days later, Paulk said the department needed more time to fulfill the request. To start with, he said, the department would provide data since 2016. The information, he said, was not easily accessible.

To complicate matters, Paulk said, the person who was in charge of DWI operations in 2014 and 2015 had retired that day.

On Aug. 6, Lt. Jose Gonzales of the Support Operations Division emailed a partial response.

On Aug. 21, with Gurulé back in the office, the newspaper made another inquiry into the status of the request. A week later, Deputy Chief Robert Vasquez got involved.

“Mr. Greg Gurulé forwarded me an email regarding your request and informed me that your IPRA request had not been fulfilled,” Vasquez wrote Aug. 28 in an email. “I spoke with Captain Marvin Paulk and Lieutenant Jose Gonzales, and I was reassured that they would have your request completed by September 4, 2018. I apologize for the delay.”

The department missed that deadline, too, though by only a day. The response included information for only 2017 and 2018 but stated that the department was in the process of “locating and retrieving” data for 2016.

The following week, the newspaper made yet another inquiry about the statistics for 2016.

Gurulé said Gonzales was still working on them and that he would provide them “as soon as he is able.” When pressed for a firm commitment, Gurulé said Gonzales would provide the 2016 data after completing another report due to the chief Sept. 13. That prompted the newspaper to ask why the department was putting the public records request on the back burner.

Two days later, the department handed over the numbers for 2016.

“I cannot locate any data or files for 2014 and 2015,” Gonzales wrote.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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