- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The leader of the police union in New Mexico’s largest city, who has been a critic of federally ordered reforms of her police department, is facing child abuse and bribery charges after authorities say she repeatedly beat a teenage relative.

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Stephanie Lopez was arrested Thursday following allegations she hit the teen in the face and head during a fight over a utility notice, according to authorities.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said Lopez, 40, was released Friday morning after posting a $5,000 bond.

The abuse accusations against Lopez signify the latest in a spate of troubles for the city’s beleaguered police force, which has struggled to rebuild public trust following a series of shootings and a scathing federal report that found patterns of excessive force within the department.

The police department says the arrest came after officers asked the sheriff’s office on Wednesday to investigate the allegations.

“At this time, no one from the department has read the criminal complaint or been briefed on the specifics of this case,” Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier said in a statement.

There was not immediate decision regarding her status with the police department.

Meanwhile, a police union spokeswoman confirmed Lopez was on leave as president as of Friday.

Court documents show Lopez declined to be interviewed by detectives Thursday until she spoke with an attorney. It was unclear Friday whether she had retained one, and she did not immediately return a request for comment from The Associated Press.

According to the complaint, the teen was repeatedly hit in the head and face, causing significant bruising. Lopez was also accused of pulling the teen’s hair before throwing the child to the floor.

The teen reported the abuse to a school resource officer, who contacted the state’s child welfare agency and law enforcement.

At a safe house, the teen told authorities that Lopez’s two younger children witnessed the abuse, which started after Lopez became “extremely upset” upon learning a utility shut-off notice was posted on the family’s front door and the teen didn’t tell Lopez about it.

The youngest child was interviewed and confirmed the teen’s account, authorities said.

The witness intimidation charge against Lopez stems from a conversation that came the morning after the alleged abuse when the teen was dropped off at school. “Think about what you say today at school; you won’t be with me; you won’t have your freedom,” Lopez allegedly said, according to court documents.

Lopez was elected as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association in 2013 as the U.S. Justice Department was eyeing a federal investigation into Albuquerque police over allegations of excessive force.

She replaced Joey Sigala, who resigned amid controversy over a union practice of giving money to officers who were involved in shootings. He later was fired after being arrested on domestic violence charges. Those charges were later dropped after his wife refused to cooperate.

A year after taking office, Lopez received a warning from a state law enforcement board for mixing union duties with her responsibilities as a police officer while responding to a domestic violence case involving a fellow officer.

Her arrest comes as an independent monitor is overseeing court-ordered police reforms. A harsh report by the Justice Department faulted police for inconsistent policies and using excessive force, especially in cases involving mentally ill suspects.

Lopez has spoken out against some of the reforms and said they would get in the way of officers doing their jobs.


AP Writers Russell Contreras and Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.


Follow Mary Hudetz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/marymhudetz. Her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mary-hudetz.

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