The Albuquerque Journal did one final front page article on the tenure of Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden.
(See December 4, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “Chief Eden’s tenure mired in tough times; Ex-APD boss receives mixed reviews from people who interreacted with him”).
Despite the headline as well as some of the negative facts pointed out, the entire article basically says that Chief Gordon Eden was a victim of circumstances beyond his control, which they were not and Chief Eden contributed to the problems.
Eden should have never been appointed police chief in the first place and he is a political operative that had absolutely no prior experience managing a municipal police department.
The leadership Chief Eden provided to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was to make sure his command staff did what it could to undermine the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms he agreed to and the reform process itself.
For three years, Chief Gordon Eden and his APD Command Staff had an extensive history of resisting civilian oversight not only to the Civilian Police Oversight Board, but also resisting the Community Policing Council’s (CPCs) and the Federal Court Appointed Monitor.
On November 12, 2016, the Albuquerque Journal published an article reporting that city Community Policing Councils were frustrated with Chief Eden not attending their meetings, the Police Oversight Board complaining that Chief Eden ignored its findings and discipline recommendations, and the city attorney, instead of Chief Eden, was often the person who publicly explained the reform efforts.
APD Forward, an APD oversight group, also said Eden had not been present for many settlement-agreement meetings.
(See November 12, 2106 Albuquerque Journal article “Police reform groups say APD Chief not involved” at https://www.abqjournal.com/887736/groups-where-is-eden.html)
FEDERAL CONSENT DECREE REFORMS
The truth has always been that Chief Gordon Eden and his command staff have never been committed to implementing the DOJ reforms as evidenced by their actions and the findings of the Federal Monitor in six scathing progress reports over the last three years.
The July 1, 2016 federal monitor’s third report states “Across the board … the components in APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force, for the most part, has failed … the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. … The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews. …”
The November 1, 2016 fourth federal monitor’s report states that when “excessive use of force” incidents are investigated by the APD Critical Incident Team, it“ [deploys] carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions” and “[uses] language and terminology apparently designed to absolve officers and supervisors of their responsibility to follow certain CASA (Court Approved Settlement Agreement) related provisions.
The most damning and disturbing findings were made by the Federal Monitor in his fifth report when he found hat APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.
The federal monitor laid direct blame on the APD command staff for the “deliberate non-compliance” with APD’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The report says “zero percent of the command personnel, who should have ordered additional investigation to resolve inconsistencies and improve reliability and credibility of supervisory personnel’s use-of-force investigations, did so! Few systems can survive such a failure rate.”
The Federal Monitor in the fifth report stated “There seems to be no one person, unit, or group with responsibility and command authority to make change happen”.
Three years ago, after the DOJ consent decree was signed, Chief Gordon Eden, Eden’s appointed Assistant Chief Huntsman and APD Deputies represented to the monitor and the City Council they were taking on the responsibility of implementing the reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
Chief Eden went as far as to say “we’re going to take the department well beyond any findings the DOJ has”.
Where Eden took APD was into the ditch.
ATTEMPT TO DISCREDIT THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Chief Gordon Eden also did his best to discredit the then District Attorney Kari Brandenburg when she decided to prosecute former police officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy in the killing of homeless camper James Boyd.
Eden initially called the killing of James Boyd “justified” but the City settled the wrongful death civil lawsuit by paying the Boyd family $5 million.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and her office were removed from the prosecution of former APD Police Officer Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy and a special prosecutor had to be appointed.
At the time of her removal from the prosecution of the case, Chief Eden made sure APD revived a very weak investigation and charges of Brandenburg that went nowhere for alleged witness tampering in a criminal case involving her son.
Chief Eden made sure the criminal report was forwarded to the Attorney General and he even wrote an opinion piece to the Albuquerque Journal saying his department was obligated to “follow the evidence”.
The New Mexico Attorney General reviewed the APD criminal investigation of Brandenburg, found no criminal conduct by her and issued an opinion that APD’s investigation of the Brandenburg was “politically motivated”.
Brandenburg and her office were removed from the Perez/Sandy prosecution because of allegations of conflict of interest made by the defense against her and related publicity and a special prosecutor had to be appointed by the District Attorney.
Ultimately, the trial of Perez/Sandy ended with a hung jury and the case was later dismissed by the special prosecutor.
APOA LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT TO DOJ REFORMS
The one comment that I must take strong exception to in the final Journal article on Eden was made by the Police Union President Shaun Willoughby when he said “[Chief Eden] basically told the public that in his assessment [of the killing of homeless camper James Boyd by two police officers] looked like a justified shooting. If you fast-forward years from that time, he’s proven right. Those officers were acquitted.”
Sorry Officer Willouby, Chief Eden was not proven right.
After a weeklong trial, the jury deadlocked and the special prosecutor decided not to retry the case.
The two police officers were never acquitted!
Many believe that the new District Attorney Raul Torrez should have gone forward with another prosecution, but the decision was made not to prosecute and to dismiss the case.
Officer Willoughby’s defense of Eden should not come as a surprise seeing as he felt that the police officers Perez and Sandy should never had been prosecuted.
Officer Willouby has never truly objected to Chief Eden’s handling of the implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms.
Officer Willouby’s commitment to the DOJ reforms is seriously lacking and the APOA police union leadership oppose many of the DOJ reforms.
During the November 16, 2017 status conference before Federal Judge Robert Brack on the Federal Monitor’s sixth report, Willouby told the court that the use of force and deadly force policies that he help draft are unworkable and that “his” officers were having difficulty with the mandated reforms.
With the election of new Mayor and the appointment of a new Chief, perhaps it is also time to have a change of leadership at the APOA so the City can have truly a fresh start with the DOJ mandated reforms.