Albuquerque Mayor David Rusk and two attorneys for the city were found in contempt of court Friday night for refusing to cooperate with a federal grandjury investigating allegations of police brutality in Albuquerque.
U.S. District Court Judge Santiago Campos said he will fine the city $25,000 on Monday if Rusk, the son of former U.S. secretary of state Dean Rusk, does not hand over personnel files on two policemen accused of beating two Hispanic couples last April.
The fine would increase each week the contempt continues, totaling $150,000 by Jan. 8, the date the grand jury is scheduled to dsiband.
In demanding the personnel records, Campos swept aside Rusk's claim that they are confidential, protected by executive privilege.
Ever since the officers' records were first subpoenaed last June, Rusk has insisted they contain nothing relvant to the case - and that to turn over the files "would remove from our hands vital tools for maintaining internal discipline in the police department."
As in most cities, Rusk argues, police in Albuquerque are promised that their testimony and interanl department investigations will never be used against them in court. In turn, they are required, under penalty of being fired, to answer incriminating questions posed by their superiors.
If the records are released, Rusk predicts, no officer in Albuquerque, and many other cities, would ever co-operate with an internal police department investigation.
Calling the courts "a very clumsy arena" for the investigation of civil rights complaints, Rusk said, "I don't see this as a function of the federal governments on a routine basis."
"We have been more than responsive" as local officials, Rusk said Dec. 5, the day the contempt proceedings were initiated.
Since Rusk took office in December 1977, the City Council has established a civilian police advisory board with limited authority to make recommendations to the police chief about officers' conduct.
Critics of the advisory board call it a weakling. A coalition of community groups fought for a police review board, with broader authority to investigate complaints.