Mayor Tim Keller and Interim Chief Geier announced at a press conference that they have ordered a formal internal affairs investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s encounters with relatives and teachers of a 7-year-old girl who prosecutors say was abused and trafficked.
The press conference was also used to announce a review of policies and procedures of APD when dealing with child sexual and physical abuse victims.
Keller’s appointed Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said at the press conference:
“We have sort of two different issues going on in this case. … One is whether specific people followed specific policies. And then the other is whether those policies are in fact designed to move investigations the way that they should be moved. And if those policies are too broad or too narrow to really accomplish the goal of protecting kids.”
During the press conference, Mayor Tim Keller made the stunning admission that he and Chief Geier were not initially given the full story of the police department’s handling of the case when he said:
“This administration will admit to mistakes that it makes. … We will admit we must improve, and we are now drawing a line in the sand and saying that the weaknesses in the system that let our kids down are not acceptable anymore” and said the Internal Affairs investigation will produce a report detailing “the handling or mishandling of this case.”
Elaborating on Mayor Keller’s comments, Interim Chief Geier said “things just didn’t sit right” and so “we started digging.”
For his part, Chief Geier said “This is not the old APD, we are not going to sweep this under the rug. We’re gonna embrace change.”
Mayor Tim Kellers’ bold pronouncement of “drawing a line in the sand” and Chief Geier saying “we started digging” was a stunning admission that both Mayor Keller he and Interim Chief Geier had their heads in the sand for the past few weeks defending the actions of APD.
The Internal Affairs investigation is to provide Mayor Keller and Chief Geier with the complete details and the steps taken or missed by officers and detectives during interviews with family and school personnel.
The Internal Affairs investigation will also explore any other actions by APD personnel who had a role, or should have had a role, before a determination was made about allegations of child neglect or abuse.
A 180 DEGREE REVERSAL BY MAYOR AND CHIEF
The truth is a major management mistake by Mayor Tim Keller and Interim Chief Michael Geier occurred when they both defended APD in the evidence gathering in a child abuse case where the blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child was collected by the child’s teacher.
The scrutiny of the case and the defense of APD by the Mayor Keller and Chief Geier came after a three-day detention hearing of the child’s parents.
Apparently, Mayor Keller and Chief Geier do not watch or listen to the news because the detention hearing of the parents was covered intensely by the media.
The boyfriend of the child is charged with human trafficking, promoting prostitution, criminal sexual contact of a minor and other crimes.
The mother is charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
A teacher testified in court under oath that she attempted to give the underwear to an APD officer who then refused to take the underwear and tag it into evidence for forensic evaluation and tossed the evidence in the trash.
What is regrettable is that this should not have happened given that the events occurred last year before Keller and Gier both assumed office, yet they both defended APD’s actions.
Both Mayor Keller and the Interim Chief Geier initially said no one with APD violated any policies or procedures even when an APD officer tossed out the evidence.
Both Keller and Geier then doubled down and said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time, which again was last year before they were in charge.
After Keller and Geier doubled down, it was reported that when two APD officers and two detectives with APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit looked into an allegation that the 7 year old child had blood on her underwear someone from APD in fact accessed the states Children Youth and Families law enforcement portal.
(May 29, 2018 Albuquerque Journal, front page, “APD likely aware of CYFD contacts with girl; Chief earlier said officers might have acted differently if they’d known the history)
It turns out that the past director of the Real Time Crime Center last year issued a directive to APD staff operators to look at a child’s contacts with CYFD sending out a procedural order laying out the center’s access to the CYFD’s law enforcement portal.
According to the city interoffice memorandum, APD Real Time Center operators were ordered to use the portal in all cases in which a juvenile has been injured or neglected, there is a history of violence and in “all cases where a juvenile call originated from a school.”
In other words, APD was aware or should have been aware of the family’s lengthy history with the Children, Youth and Families Department when and APD officer and a CYFD investigator met with the child’s teacher at the girl’s school.
On Friday, May 25, 2018, and only after intense media coverage, Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier ordered the Internal Affairs investigation to provide a more complete accounting of the department’s interactions related to a November 2017 incident involving the parents of the child.
INEPT MANAGERMENT REVEALED
It was inept management and a failed oversight mistake for the Chief and the Mayor not order the Internal Affairs Investigation in the first place seeing as the events occurred last year, before they took office and something they could not do anything about other than get to the truth about what actually happened.
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier defending the actions of APD they knew absolutely nothing about, even after courtroom testimony of the teacher, speaks volumes of their management ineptness and worse their reluctance to hold APD accountable.
Keller’s mistake in this case can be understood given his lack of understanding of law enforcement procedures and ignorance of the law of evidence.
However, Interim Chief Geier should have known better given his 40+ years as a cop and given his reluctance to act.
What happened is evidence that nothing has changed with APD management practices of the past despite Geier’s denial to the contrary and his pronouncement.
Mayor Tim Keller should have learned a valuable lesson the hard way from this mishap: not to presume and believe everything you are told to be true by law enforcement, a lesson many juries learn quickly only after all the evidence is gather and presented to them in a trial and court of law.
Hopefully Keller and Geier can learn from their mistakes in handling a public relations nightmare of their own creation.
In the meantime, both Mayor Keller and Chief Geier need to wash the sand out of their hair.