What makes someone a cop? That is the key question in the case of Albuquerque’s David Young, who arrested prostitutes and their clients for the Police Department’s Special Investigations Division. At no time was Young actually a sworn police officer, says the Los Angeles Times. A civilian employee, he worked as a volunteer reserve officer when he made his arrests. Under New Mexico law, arresting officers handle misdemeanor prosecutions in metropolitan court. Young appeared as the prosecuting agent in several cases.
Since news of Young’s role surfaced last month, the criminal justice system has been thrown into turmoil. One prostitution case that he handled was dismissed before it went to trial, and defense attorneys are preparing to appeal nearly a dozen more. The Police Department has suspended its reserve program and identified 46 other criminal cases that reserve officers handled, ranging from traffic tickets to domestic violence. Those other cases also may end up challenged in court. “It’s pretty wild,” said Mary Han, a civil rights attorney chosen by the public defender’s office to handle the cases involving Young. “If you or I were to go out and impersonate a police officer, we’d go to jail.  It’s a real perversion of the legal system.” Police officials say Young, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was acting with the blessing of the department — and always with sworn officers close by.