As Gomer Pyle use to say “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”
It has now been made official and Mayor Tim Keller has appointed Interim Chief Michael Geier as permanent APD Chief!
Keller’s Senior Advisor for Public Safety James Lewis and head of the search committee said this about the appointment:
“We followed a methodical and thoughtful process to help the Keller Administration select the top candidate for our city. … After gathering community input and conducting interviews, I’m confident that Mike Geier has the varied experience, the perspective from both within and outside of APD, and the skills and determination to transform the Department that the public is asking for.”
Mayor Tim Keller in announcing the Geier appointment had this to say:
“From day one, it was important for me to have a Chief with a combination of knowledge of our city, an outside leadership perspective to implement change, and the respect of both frontline officers and community stakeholders. … Chief Geier has already begun to make progress toward reforming APD and re-establishing community policing strategies. He also understands that there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
GEIER APPOINTMENT WAS EXPECTED
On May 1, 2018, the Keller Administration announced that a national search was underway to select a permanent APD Chief.
From day one, it was apparent that Mayor Tim Keller knew he was going to appoint Geier permanent when he said:
“We’ve got to have a chief that understands APD and Albuquerque. … That’s a general statement because I think that can come in numerous forms. I think that’s critical – they have to have some sort of experience with respect to our city, our state and the department. They also have to have some sort of outside perspective. We know that, coming in, we didn’t want someone that’s been solely in APD. They need to know a lot about community policing. It’s our administration’s priority and they’ve got to have expertise in that area.”
For his part, Geier announced immediately his intent to apply to be permanent giving him a front runner status
Chief Geier has over 40 years of law enforcement experience first in Chicago and after that with APD and then Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department.
Chief Michael Geier was well school in community-based policing when it was first instituted in Albuquerque back in the 1990’s.
He was also well schooled in the management practices of former Chief Ray Schultz having been appointed a commander by Schultz, which is a real problem.
Confidential sources have said then Rio Rancho Chief of Police Michael Geier met with candidate for Mayor Tim Keller back in late 2016 before Keller announced for Mayor in January, 2017 and before Geier retired as Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department on February 18, 2017.
Confidential sources have also said that it was during the election Keller made the commitment in private to appoint Geier Interim chief and to keep him for a while and to see how he performed before he was made permanent.
PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN
Keller announced the appointment of a 5-member selection committee for a permanent APD chief with the goal of hiring a chief by mid-June, 2017.
Sure enough, the appointment was made mid-June!
The city administration also paid a private company $10,000 to assist in the recruitment, selection and interview process.
The selection committee consisted of a former APD Captain, the Fraternal Order of Police President and 3 Keller Administration employees with no one from the general public nor affected groups.
There were no representatives on the chief’s selection committee from the American Civil Liberties Union, APD Forward, the District Attorney’s Office nor Public Defenders Office, nor any Hispanic, Native American or other minority groups nor communities affected by police actions.
There was no representation on the selection committee from any one of the stake holders in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating implementation of reforms and no representation from the Police Oversight Commission nor the Community Policing Counsels.
A Keller administration official defended the chief selection committee process saying that it had not ever been done before, public comments were taken on line, the selection committee agreed to attend the Community Policing Councils for input and the public was allowed to directly ask questions and express their opinions to the search committee.
NOT THE FIRST TIME APPOINTMENT PRE-DETERMINED
The first appointment made by Keller that appeared that the fix was in was his appointment of a City Attorney, who like the APD Chief, must be approved by the City Council.
The position of City Attorney was posted and advertised, applications were taken and interviews were conducted just like with the APD Chief.
Notwithstanding the selection process, the Keller Administration proceeded to solicit and then appoint a City Attorney who had not even applied nor was interviewed by the transition team.
The soliciting and appointing a city attorney after the closure date for applications and after all applicant interviews had been conducted resulted in the charge of political cronyism against Keller’s Chief Administrative Officer who knows and went to law school with the city attorney selected.
The city attorney appointment appearance that the “fix was in” could have been easily avoided by advertising the position further and expanding the application time to have more interviews and solicit more applicants, or Mayor Keller could have been honest about it and said he was not happy with any of the original applicants.
Mayor Keller made good on his campaign promise that he was committed to a national search for a new Chief of Police. But why bother?
It is apparent Keller had already made the decision and the “national search” was nothing more than a sham.
Sham selection processes to make a political appointment are how elected officials lose their credibility with the public.
So are appointments where the fix is in and where the public can see right through it.
The Chief Selection Committee making the rounds to hold listening sessions with the public and stake holders was nothing more than a series of public relations stunts to give the appearance of a “national search”.
To avoid the charge that the fix was in, Keller could have been appointed members to the selection committee from the affected stake holders.
No doubt Mayor Keller and Chief Geier “bonded” when Mayor Keller failed his first major test in dealing with APD in the evidence gathering of a child abuse case where the blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child was collected by the child’s teacher and the clothing was thrown out and not tag by APD.
Initially, both Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier insisted that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures and said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time, which was not the case.
What happened in the child abuse case is evidence that nothing has really changed with APD management.
APD is not seeing management changes but a reliance on past management of the department.
The current Deputy Chiefs are not outsiders at all but have been with APD for years.
The Deputy Chiefs of Police appointed by Mayor Keller include Harold Medina who retired from APD as commander after serving 20 years, Rogelio Banez who was the area commander in southwest Albuquerque, and Eric Garcia who was a Deputy Chief under APD Chief Gordon Eden.
The command staff under Chief Geier do not reflect a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing.
All the previous commanders under the previous administration have been shuffled around with a few retiring, with no firm commitment that they will be kept as commanders.
It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD.
APD needs a clean sweep in management and philosophy to remove anyone who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process during the last 3 years of the consent decree.
Appointing a new interim police chief who is a retired APD commander and former Rio Rancho Police Chief understandably was necessary given the two-week time frame Mayor Keller had from his election to his swearing in on December 1, 2017.
However, making that Interim Chief permanent is evidence nothing is going to change with APD management.
The “new” command staff is a reflection of APD’s past and all have been with APD for some time.
The current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing.
Mayor Keller did say one encouraging thing when he made the announcement making Geier permanent:
“The search process showed us that there are other strong candidates out there who might be able to help build the leadership bench and bring fresh perspectives to APD. … We are continuing to talk to talented professionals to see if others will be a good fit to join the team.”
Hope springs eternal that Keller, and for that matter Chief Geier, are truly committed to finding and hiring outside management to rebuild APD.
If Keller and Geier make the interim Deputy Chief’s permanent, the public will know the truth.
For other blog articles and commentary see: