ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hired a convicted felon and allowed him to continue working in a high-ranking position even after officials learned he had provided a wrong birth date and Social Security number, city records show.
Documents obtained by KOAT-TV through an open records request show that Amir Chapel was hired in April as the department’s policy and compliance manager.
The position, which paid $72,000 a year, was created to make sure police followed the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice involving use of excessive force.
A department memo and court records show Chapel had been convicted of forgery in Texas, misuse of a credit card in Illinois, and robbery in California.
Under Albuquerque personnel rules, applicants are ineligible for city employment if they make a false statement on applications or if they have a prior felony conviction involving “moral turpitude.”
Chapel checked a box on a city form indicating he had never been convicted of a felony and gave a wrong birth date, documents showed.
A memo from investigators also said Chapel didn’t use his own Social Security number on a document involved in a background check.
After Chapel was hired, the department got a tip about his record, according to a department memo.
A day later, Chapel’s supervisor sent an email to all APD commanders and deputy chiefs saying Chapel was “not available” to do his job due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
Emails show Chapel returned to work a week later.
Chapel resigned from the position on Dec. 9 — the day the city released records to the TV station related to his hiring.
In a statement, the city said it couldn’t comment on personnel matters.
However, it said police typically run background checks, which are conducted by a contractor, and which generally provide criminal history information for the past seven years.
Chapel told KOAT he didn’t do anything wrong and he thought he didn’t need to check the box indicating he was a felon because the convictions were old. The convictions occurred in 2002, 2003 and 2007.
Chapel said he had not interviewed for his position because he knew two commanders at the Police Department who reached out to him about the job.
Albuquerque police have faced criticism over hiring practices in recent years, including the 2018 hiring of a former New Jersey law enforcement officer accused of excessive force in a more than decade-old lawsuit.
Leonard Nerbetski— appointed as a civilian manager of Albuquerque’s Real-Time Crime Center — was accused of putting a gun to the head of a woman during a 1996 traffic stop as a New Jersey state trooper.
The New Jersey lawsuit, which named Nerbetski, was later settled without the state admitting any wrongdoing. The Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark reported the traffic stop involving two troopers led to changes in how state police handle complaints of misconduct.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller defended Nerbetski’s hiring and said it was intended to help manage “a more effective and community-focused APD.”
Nerbetski previously did not return voicemail messages seeking comment.