Santa Fe police Lt. Christopher McCord, arrested in March on suspicion of domestic violence, is now facing a hearing before the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board over the possible suspension of his certification.
McCord spent two months on “alternative duty” following the March 19 incident in Albuquerque. Chief Andrew Padilla said at the time that McCord would have no contact with the public until the criminal case was resolved and an internal investigation complete.
Instead, Padilla returned the lieutenant to his leadership position in mid-May, while the internal investigation continued.
By that time, the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office had dismissed the charge against McCord — a third-degree felony count of aggravated battery on a household member with a deadly weapon — because prosecutors were unable to contact his accuser.
The Law Enforcement Academy did not receive a complaint against McCord alleging misconduct, said Herman Lovato, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. Rather, Lovato said, the director of the academy filed her own report on McCord’s arrest. She sent him a letter April 7 notifying him she intended to have his police certification suspended.
A copy of academy Director Kelly Alzaharna’s report shows she cited a March news article on McCord’s arrest.
McCord requested a hearing before the academy’s board, Lovato said.
It’s unclear when the hearing will be held. Lovato said it was scheduled for the board’s next meeting in August, but according to the academy’s website, the board is not set to meet until September. Lovato did not reply to an email Friday asking for clarification on the date.
A criminal complaint filed by Albuquerque police in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court said McCord’s wife had accused him of attacking her during a dispute at their home.
The complaint alleged he punched the woman in the kidney, grabbed her by the neck and squeezed, and hit her two times across the face with an iPad.
A friend took her to a hospital, where she called police. According to the criminal complaint, the woman had bruises on her lower left back, left arm, her face and around her neck.
The felony case was forwarded to the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Adolfo Mendez, a spokesman for the office, said prosecutors dismissed the charge against McCord the day before a preliminary hearing because they couldn’t reach his wife.
“Exhaustive measures have been used to make contact with no avail — including several phone calls and voicemails, along with attempted personal service by investigators to her home and other possible address,” a court document said.
Her participation in the hearing was necessary, Mendez said, “and without being able to contact her, we were unable to proceed.
“If we were able to establish contact, and she were interested in pursuing, that is something we could reinitiate,” he added.
District attorneys also have the option of sending a case to a grand jury for review. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2nd Judicial District had suspended its grand jury proceedings.
Asked whether prosecutors could have pursued a grand jury indictment in McCord’s case, without the accuser’s cooperation, Mendez said in an email the office can evaluate a domestic violence case to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute a suspect without the victim’s help.
But, he said, “In this case, the victim’s testimony is essential to establish the elements required to initiate and ultimately prove felony domestic violence.”
McCord could not be reached for comment on the case or the upcoming hearing on his certification.
In a phone interview in March, he said the incident occurred after he filed for divorce. His wife was upset, he said, “and kind of took it a little too far.”
His wife also spoke briefly with The New Mexican. “I think that there are some things that are in the police report that are inaccurate,” she said.
Padilla said in an interview earlier this month he had decided to allow McCord to return to his regular duties after the criminal charge was dismissed, despite initially saying he would wait until the internal investigation was complete.
“What changes was he would remain on his alternative duty status if the criminal proceedings were still happening,” the chief said.
The pending internal investigation does not restrict McCord from responding to any type of calls, including reports of domestic violence, Padilla said.
Dispatch logs show McCord responded to at least two domestic disturbance calls between May 16 and June 15.
On June 16, the department altered the format of the daily dispatch log, omitting the names of officers who respond to each call. It is unknown whether McCord has responded to a domestic violence incident since then.
If the internal investigation determines McCord has broken any of the department’s policies, Padilla said, the agency will forward the case to the Law Enforcement Academy Board for review.