The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce (GACC) has announced in a press release it will present Mayor RJ Berry with an “Award for Excellence in Public Safety”.
The award is one of many awards given out yearly to business and civic leaders by the GACC.
The Chamber claims Mayor Berry is entitled to the award for three main reasons:
1. Because he secured funding for a government innovation program to “study” approaches to curbing crime,
2. Berry announced a program with law enforcement agencies to coordinate efforts to prosecute repeat offenders, and
3. Berry advocated “double dipping” to allow retired police officers to return to work and get paid their salaries and retirement pay.
The GACC giving the award to Berry is an insult to the voters of Albuquerque and to its membership struggling and contending with high violent and property crime rates.
The GACC is giving Berry and award for trying to solve the very problems he has been instrumental in creating.
Among the problems Mayor Berry needs to be held accountable for include the dramatic increases in our crime rates and the destruction of one of the finest police departments in country from gross mismanagement.
Only in the corporate world are awards such as a golden parachute are given to someone for absolute failure.
Mayor Berry’s Public Safety record for the last eight (8) years has been nothing but a total failure and in no way deserving of any public safety award for excellence.
For eight (8) years, Mayor Berry has done nothing about the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) spiraling out of control, the tremendous decline in the number of sworn police officers and our rising crime rates.
DECLINE OF APD UNDER MAYOR BERRY
Eight (8) years ago when Berry took office, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history and was fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers.
In 2009 when Berry took office, APD response times had been brought down below the national average and violent and property crime rates in Albuquerque were hitting historical lows.
Today in 2017, response times are at historical highs with calls to APD taking hours instead of minutes to respond threatening public safety.
In eight (8) years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police all under the public safety leadership of Mayor Berry and his appointed police chiefs.
The first year he was in office, Berry made numerous mistakes that started the Albuquerque Police Department in the downward spiral it has yet to recover from and problems it will take years to correct.
The first major mistake Berry made with APD was the appointment of political Republican operative Darren White as Chief Public Safety Officer who implemented policies that had a disastrous effect on moral and APD recruitment.
White wound up resigning under pressure after 16 months in office when he showed up to a traffic accident investigation involving his wife and was accused of interfering with the investigation.
The first year of Berry Administration, Mayor Berry abolished the longevity program that kept experienced police officers from retiring, unilaterally decided not to pay a 5% negotiated pay raise, abolished the APD take home car policy, eliminated sign on bonuses and mortgage down payments for new recruits and implemented a college education requirement for new recruits but did not pay college wages.
Moral within APD plummeted and the mass exodus of experienced police officers began with Berry’s gross mismanagement of APD.
After four years of losing experienced officers because of his policies and because the police academy could not keep up with retirements, Mayor Berry began his efforts to advocate the New Mexico legislature to reinstate “double dipping” to allow retired police officers to return to work and get paid their salaries and retirement pay.
In 2017, APD is funded for 1,000 sworn officers but has only 853 sworn police officers.
In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard.
In 2017, APD has 853 sworn police with 436 are assigned to field services and 417 sworn police officers assigned to the various specialized felony units and command staff.
Given the volume of felony arrests and cases, APD is severely understaffed to complete felony investigations.
Over the last eight (8) years, Mayor Berry has been very hands off with APD and allowed his appointed Chief’s to destroy one of the finest police departments in the country.
For close to four (4) years, Berry retained APD Chief Ray Schultz, first under the supervision of political operative Darren White who had no problem keeping Schultz as Chief.
Berry allowed Schultz to mismanage APD without civilian supervision and Schultz engaged in questionable management tactics against rank and file police officers and at one time Shultz labeled sexual misconduct within the department as “nature at play” without Berry voicing any objections.
Schultz left APD in 2013 but only after negotiating a million-dollar plus city contract with TAZER International a contract Schultz said had been “greased”.
Schultz later went to work for TAZER within less than a year after leaving the city.
The legality of the city TAZER contract is still being reviewed by the New Mexico Attorney General.
In 2013 after proclaiming the city conducted a “national search” for a police chief, Berry selected and appointed political operative Gordon Eden as APD Chief who had no prior experience managing a municipal police department.
During the last eight (8) years, there have been over 40 police officer involved shootings resulting in 38 deaths with over $61 million dollars in paid in settlements for police misconduct and excessive use of force cases.
Mayor Berry has done next to nothing about APD gross mismanagement, not even when the Department of Justice (DOJ) found a “culture of aggression” that lead to a federal consent decree and mandated reforms.
Each time the Federal Monitor has presented his critical reports of APD to the Federal Court, Berry has essentially remained silent and declined to demand accountability from Chief Gordon Eden and the APD command staff and hold them responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.
CRIME RATES UNDER MAYOR BERRY
Violent and property crime rates in Albuquerque are at historical highs under Mayor Richard Berry.
Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics reveal the total number of violent crimes in Albuquerque increased steadily and went from 4,291 in 2010 to 5,409 in 2015.
According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, from 2009 to 2015, Albuquerque’s violent crime rates increased by 21.5%.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that in the last eight (8) years, Albuquerque has become the is fifth-most violent city in the country on a per capita basis while the nation’s violent crime rate dropped by 13.7%.
In 2009, when Berry ran for office the first time, he made auto thefts a corner stone issue in the Mayor’s race by doing a commercial standing next to his burned out stolen truck and vowing that he could do better as Mayor and make Albuquerque the worse place to be a criminal.
Eight (8) years later, Albuquerque has become number one in the nation for auto thefts.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s latest Hot Spots report shows Albuquerque and of Bernalillo County as the worst place in the nation when it comes to auto theft per capita.
In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County or more than 27 vehicles a day.
According APD statistics, the total number of property crimes in Albuquerque has steadily increased each year during the last six (6) years going from 26,493 crimes in 2010 to 34,082 in 2015.
GACC AWARD CONTRADICTS ITS OWN FEARS
The Chamber’s “Award of Excellence in Public Safety” to Berry taints and destroys the Chambers credibility.
The Chambers award comes just days after high tech firm “Lavu” sent the city a letter that it is “fed up” with downtown Albuquerque crime and that it is contemplating moving out of downtown and out of the state unless city hall and APD does something about the crime in downtown.
(See June 24, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1 “The firm fed up with ABQ crime; Lavu mulls move as Downtown safety declines”)
The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce (GACC) has its offices just around the block from Lavu.
The President and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Terri Cole told the Journal that the chamber is also very concerned about crime in Downtown Albuquerque.
Cole said the crime problems in the area became so serious that seven months ago the chamber asked its landlord to secure their front door.
Visitors to the Chamber must now announce themselves through an intercom system so they can be buzzed in and allowed access to the Chambers offices.
No one can take the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce “Award of Excellence in Public Safety” to Berry serious given the Chambers own fears of crime in the downtown area.
The GACC giving an “Excellence in Public Safety Award” to RJ Berry is like giving an “Award of Excellence in Security Investments” to convicted Ponzi scheme felon Bernie Madoff who is serving a lifetime sentence for stealing billions from people who trusted him with their lifetime savings.
Berry was entrusted with protecting the public safety but instead has destroyed and robbed the city of one of the finest police departments in the country endangering public safety.
Rather than accepting an award that he does not in any way deserve, Berry should do the right thing and thank the Chamber for supporting him without any question for eight (8) years and ask the Chamber to not make the award to anyone given Albuquerque’s high crime rates.
The next thing you can expect is Berry to award the Chamber the “Excellence in Economic Development” award for all those jobs and corporations it has not brought to Albuquerque.
You can tell the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce what you think by calling their number (505) 764 3700, but don’t go there in person because the front doors are locked because crime is so bad downtown.
You can also tweet the Chambers President at @TerriCole3.