A Person’s Life Is Greater Than Any Property Right

On July 28, 2018, U.S. District Judge James Browning’s filed his expected and highly anticipated ruling relating to the city’s 26-year-old DWI vehicle forfeiture ordinance where the city seizes vehicles used in DWI incidents.

The ruling should have come as no surprise to anyone given a prior ruling.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1202685/federal-judge-abqs-dwi-seizure-program-unconstitutional.html

The Judge found unconstitutional the city’s policy of making vehicle owners prove their innocence when their car was seized after being driven by someone else.

The court wrote: “The forfeiture program … violates procedural due process, because owners have to prove that their cars are not subject to civil forfeiture.”

The Court further ruled that it was improper that the money the city collected from the program was used to pay the salaries of employees who work in the program.

The federal lawsuit was brought by a woman whose car was seized by the city after her son was arrested for driving it while intoxicated.

On March 31, 2018, the same federal judge in the case found that the city’s 26-year-old civil vehicle forfeiture ordinance violated the woman’s right to due process of law and the state’s property forfeiture law requiring a criminal conviction before government seizure.

The federal court found the state’s 2015 amended forfeiture law “was strong evidence of the New Mexico Legislature’s intent to preclude municipalities from creating a civil forfeiture scheme.”

The Keller Administration issued the following press release in response to the recent court ruling:

“This ruling confirms our concerns with the past approach and the need to protect the constitutional rights of people in our community. … At the Mayor’s direction, the City’s Legal department has been working to update the program, including limiting it to cases where there has been a conviction based on the new state law. … The City’s legal team will analyze the impact the ruling will have … Meanwhile, APD is focusing efforts on effectively combating drunk driving by doubling the number of traffic stops and increasing DWI checkpoints and saturation patrols.”

POLICY CHANGES TO CITY’S VEHICLE FORFEITURE PROTOCOL

It is clear from the ruling that the city DWI vehicle forfeiture ordinance needs to be updated and modified to provide innocent owners a quick way to get their vehicles back if they were seized when being driven by somebody else and with no costs to the innocent owner.

On April 16, 2018, city attorney’s office temporarily suspended vehicle seizure program while it started to craft a new policy for dealing with people who have had their cars seized.

The Keller administration originally announced policy changes to the City’s DWI vehicle forfeiture program but changes to the ordinance have yet to be approved by the Albuquerque City Council.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1159270/cases-in-limbo-as-city-changes-auto-confiscation-policy.html

Under the new policy, more protections will be given those who were not driving when their vehicle was seized after a DWI incident.

The new policy is proposing to shift the burden of proof to the city to prove an owner knew the driver was going to break the law while driving the vehicle.

What the changes in the new policy means is that unless the actual owner is sitting in the front seat of their car drunk, the city will probably not be initiating vehicle forfeiture proceeding nor seeking boot agreements from the car owner.

A major change in policy is that the city will not seek to take ownership of the vehicle and sell it at auction unless the suspect is convicted.

NEW MEXICO NUISANCE ABATEMENT STATUTES

The New Mexico legislature has granted municipalities with broad powers including “the power to sue or be sued, protect generally the property of its municipality and it inhabitants and to preserve peace and order within the municipality.” (3-18-1, NMSA, 1978, General Powers of Municipality)

New Mexico statute defines a “public nuisance” as consisting “of knowingly creating, performing or maintaining anything affecting any number of citizens without lawful authority which is either:

A. Injurious to public health, safety and welfare; or
B. Interferes with the exercise and enjoyment of public rights, including the right to use public property. (30-8-1, NMSA 1978, Public Nuisance defined).”

New Mexico statutory law provides that any action for the abatement of a public nuisance shall be governed by the general rules of Civil Procedure. (30-8-8, NMSA 1978 Abatement of a public nuisance.)

Under New Mexico law, “a civil action to abate a public nuisance may be brought, by verified complaint by any public officer or private citizen, in state district court of the county where the public nuisance exists, against any person, corporation or association of persons who shall create, perform or maintain a public nuisance.” (30-8-8, B, NMSA 1978, Abatement of a public nuisance, emphasis added)

Assistant City Attorneys are public officials and are assigned to initiate administrative actions and enter into settlements agreements and boot agreements or file civil court actions in state district court.

A drunk driver behind the wheel of a car is clearly a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.

A drunk driver behind the wheel of a car interferes with the general public’s right to use public city streets free from any threat of great bodily harm or lethal bodily injury caused by a drunk driver.

CITY DEFINES DWI VEHICLES AS A NUISANCE

Under the city ordinance, a vehicle is subject to immediate seizure and forfeiture by the city if the vehicle is operated by a person in the commission of a DWI offense and has, on at least one prior occasion, been arrested or convicted of a previous DWI, or has a suspended or revoked driver’s license for DWI.

The “one prior conviction rule before seizure” will probably have to be changed to require a DWI conviction after the most recent arrest.

The New Mexico legislature has specifically empowered municipalities with broad authority when it comes to “nuisance abatement”.

Under New Mexico statutory law, a municipality may by ordinance “define a nuisance, abate a nuisance and impose penalties upon a person who creates or allows a nuisance to exist.” (3-18-17, NMSA, 1978, Nuisances and Offenses; Regulation or prohibition)

In 1993, the city council exercised its authority granted to it by the New Mexico legislature to define and abate a nuisance and impose penalties to abate a nuisance by declaring any motor vehicle to be a nuisance and subject to immediate seizure and forfeiture when an arrest is made for driving while intoxicated (DWI). (Article 6: Motor Vehicle Seizure; Forfeiture, section 7-6-1 City of Albuquerque Ordinances, 1992)

Under the existing ordinance, the city specifically defines vehicles used by arrested drunk drivers with prior convictions a nuisance endangering public health, safety and welfare and interfering with the public’s right to public rights of way. (Article 6: Motor Vehicle Seizure; Forfeiture, section 7-6-1 City of Albuquerque Ordinances, 1992)

The city has also enacted a nuisance abatement ordinance that allows civil actions to be filed for injunctive relief against owners of real property which is used to commit, conduct, promote, facilitate, or aide in the commission of crime. (City Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, Section 11-1-1-1 et seq.)

An option the city should consider is to amend the city’s existing nuisance abatement ordinance to add civil nuisance abatement actions against vehicles and owners who have a history of prior DWI convictions without relying on the conviction of a pending DWI charge.

The forfeiture of an asset by court order is a penalty when dealing with the abatement of a nuisance that is affecting public health, safety and welfare.

Penalties to abate a nuisance include the inherent authority to exercise civil forfeiture authority with court orders to eliminate a nuisance.

COMMENTARY

Robert Frommer an attorney for the Institute for Justice that brought the lawsuit said in a statement:

“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. … For decades, civil forfeiture has lured officials away from impartial enforcement of the law and toward policing for profit. Today’s ruling striking down Albuquerque’s forfeiture program is a major step towards ending forfeiture across not only New Mexico, but throughout the United States.”

Fair enough in light of the court ruling

A much bigger and far more serious assault occurs when a person who is seriously injured or killed by a drunk driver who is a danger to public safety.

The victim of any DWI is deprived of ultimate rights that overshadow property rights.

The media regularly reports about drunk drivers with 9, 10, 11 and 12 convictions who are still driving and then arrested again for DWI after killing someone and at times having killed entire families.

Albuquerque and New Mexico have some of the highest DWI rates and alcohol-related crash fatalities in the country.

In 2016, there were 171 alcohol-related crash fatalities in this state due to crashes involving alcohol with 51 of the fatalities occurring in Bernalillo County.

In 2017, there were 146 alcohol-related crash fatalities in New Mexico with 37 of the fatalities occurring in Bernalillo County.

Its painfully obvious that our DWI criminal penalties are having little effect.

Too many drunk drivers are not being held criminally or for that matter civilly responsible for their actions and all too often are cut free to offend or even kill.

The city needs to request the federal court to reconsider or appeal the ruling on the grounds that the court is denying the city of its authority given to it by the New Mexico legislature to define, abate, and impose penalties for nuisance abatement.

Another option is to work with the Plaintiffs attorneys and rewrite the ordinance subject to the Federal Court’s final approval.

The Albuquerque City Council should approve the proposed changes being made by the Keller Administration to the vehicle forfeiture ordinance.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1159353/theres-a-middle-ground-to-booting-dwi-seizures.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1203343/for-safetys-sake-abq-must-revamp-dwi-seizures.html

The city needs to amend the city’s existing nuisance abatement ordinance to add civil nuisance abatement actions against vehicles and owners who have a history of prior DWI convictions without relying on the conviction of a pending DWI charge.

The New Mexico legislature should grant statutory authority to District Courts, Metro Courts, magistrate courts and municipalities to take away from DWI defendants the very instrument they have used to violate the law and perhaps injure or even kill someone.

The message now is you drink, you drive, you walk away from being held accountable.

The message needs to be you drink, you drive, you lose your vehicle.

For more information on the ruling and DWI statistics see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/04/12/citys-dwi-vehicle-forfeiture-program-disarms-drunks-of-weapons/

Easy For District Attorney To Indict A Ham Sandwich For Murder

On July 10, 2018 Presiding District Court Judge Nan Nash sent a letter to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez notifying Torrez that the 2nd Judicial District Court would be reducing dramatically the number of days the grand juries will meet each month.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1202062/court-plans-major-cuts-to-grand-jury-system.html

Judge Nash notified Torrez that beginning October 21, 2018, a grand jury panel will be available only 6 days a month down from 5 days a week every week or down from 20 or more times a month.

Instead of using the grand jury, the District Court is requesting the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office to initiate new cases using preliminary hearings instead of grand juries to determine probable cause and to charge defendants with felonies.

Judge Nash said that it is an effort to save money and move toward criminal justice best practices.

According to Judge Nash, the District Court spent about $75,000 for a period of six months between July 1 and December 31, 2017 to conduct grand juries.

The $75,000 is only what the court spent and does not include lost wages, lost productivity and time and inconvenience to those who are selected to serve as grand jurors for 3 or 6 months at a time.

According to Judge Nash, the use of preliminary hearings will mean a case is vetted at the front end, and a defendant will face only charges that a judge deems appropriate, which creates a more efficient system.

Five of New Mexico’s 13 judicial districts have already done away with grand juries altogether and rely on preliminary hearings.

Two states have done away with reliance on grand juries and have gone to a preliminary hearing system.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY TORREZ OBJECTS

District Attorney Raul Torrez is strongly opposed to reducing the grand jury time available saying it will make launching new criminal cases far more challenging and far more resource intensive.

According to Second Judicial District Court data, in 2017 there were 2,551 cases indicted by the DA’s office and there were 650 preliminary hearings held by the court’s criminal division.

From January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 there were 418 preliminary hearing with 1,688 cases indicted.

According to Torrez, preliminary hearings are more financially and administratively burdensome for the District Attorney’s office.

Torrez argues that coordinating the appearance of a defendant, victims and multiple witnesses to the crime as well as law enforcement is complicated, and if one person doesn’t show up, the entire preliminary hearing must be rescheduled.

Currently, the cases that are routed through preliminary hearings are those involving lower-level charges and lower-risk defendants in cases with few witnesses.

According to Torrez far more procedural hurdles are associated with preliminary hearings, and the system doesn’t have the resources or personnel to channel more cases through the process.

Torrez worries the shift toward more preliminary hearings will mean more police officers will be waiting in courtroom hallways to testify in hearings that could ultimately be rescheduled

Torrez erroneously argues the shift toward more preliminary hearings will have an impact on APD when he says:

“This is going to have a dramatic impact on (the Albuquerque Police Department) specifically and their ability to engage in community policing. … You have to take multiple officers off the street for hours at a time to attend a full evidentiary hearing, when they could be out in the community answering calls for service and responding to public safety needs.”

The truth is that it is field service officers in patrol cars who respond to calls for service and involved with community-based policing, not non-uniformed detectives who investigate serious felonies.

It is non-uniform detectives that investigate major violent felonies such as homicides and rapes and they do not respond to standard calls for service.

Torrez has gone as far as to threaten to take the District Court to the Supreme Court to required the District Court to schedule more grand jury time.

PUBLIC DEFENDER CONCURS

No at all surprising, the States Chief Public Defender Bennet Baur strongly supports the move towards more preliminary hearings and believes it will lead to earlier resolution of cases.

According to Baur, although it’s more work up front for the prosecution and defense, it will lead to earlier dismissals and guilty pleas when appropriate, sending fewer cases on a path to trial and a way to “clear the underbrush. … It allows us to, I think, spend more time looking at the serious cases later on.”

On July 19, 2018, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), released a 117 page “Program Evaluation: Review of the Criminal Justice System in Bernalillo County.”

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/24/bernalillo-county-criminal-justice-system-evaluation/

The LFC report was a detailed review of Bernalillo County’s criminal justice system and cites the National Center for State Courts’ recommendation that the District Attorney’s Office should consider prosecuting more felony cases using preliminary hearings as opposed to grand juries.

The LFC reported that 310 of the 504 felony preliminary hearings that took place in 2017 resulted in a plea during the hearing, meaning the case was concluded without a costly trial.

GRAND JURY AND PRELIINARY HEARINGS BOTH “PROBABLE CAUSE” HEARINGS

The bedrock of our criminal justice system as guaranteed by the United States Constitution is that all are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to due process of law, no matter how horrendous the crime.

There are major differences between a grand jury and preliminary hearing but both are “probable cause” hearings.

In layman’s terms, probable cause is where the evidence presented shows that is it more likely than not that a crime was committed by the defendant charged.

A “grand jury” hearing is a probable cause hearing that decides to charge a defendant when 8 out of 12 jurors find probable cause to charge.

A “preliminary hearing” is a probable cause hearing and it is a District Judge, not a grand jury, who decides whether there is probable cause to support formal charges against a defendant.

A grand jury is a secret proceeding, defendants are not allowed to see and hear the evidence presented and a grand jury proceeding is not open to the public.

Preliminary hearings are “abbreviated trials” or “mini trials” which are open to the public and held before a judge and not in secrecy as is a grand jury.

The biggest advantage that a grand jury proceeding offers is that it is a usually a very short proceeding that is totally controlled by the prosecutor as to what is presented.

The biggest disadvantage of a grand jury is to the defendant who can not object to evidence presented and must waive all right of self-incrimination if they choose to testify.

Usually, at a minimum, investigating officers and the crime victim testify at both preliminary hearing or grand jury proceedings.

Unlike in a grand jury, in a preliminary hearing, a defendant must be present and represented by an attorney who is allowed to question witnesses and present evidence.

DA TORREZ NOW HAS RESOURCES TO DO MORE PRELIMINARY HEARINGS

In January 2018, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office was funded for and employed approximately 300 full time personnel which included 118 full time attorney positions.

During the 2018 legislative session, Torrez was able to secure a substantial increase in his budget to hire an additional attorneys and staff.

Torrez told the legislature a lack of resources was the reason his office could not even come close to prosecuting all the pending felony cases in his office.

According to Torrez, there were simply too many criminals and not enough staff.

DA Torrez during the 2018 legislative session had 45 vacant positions which included 18 vacant attorney positions that he was not able to fill during his first year in office.

During the 2018 legislative session, Torrez was able to secure a $4.2 million increase in the office budget.

Effective July 1, 2018, DA Torrez has a $21.5 million-dollar budget to run the Bernalillo County District Attorney Office, which should be more than enough to do more preliminary hearings.

Torrez indicated he wanted to hire upwards of 50 more prosecutors with the additional funding.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/11/senator-smith-tells-da-torrez-he-now-has-enough-rope-to-hang-himself/

APD’S MURDER CLEARANCE RATE

On April 18, 2018, APD released the city’s crime statistics for the first quarter of 2018 (January to March) comparing them to the first quarter of 2017, (January to March) and the statistics revealed that the property crime rates are down, but the homicide rate increased by an alarming 50%.

There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017, which is a 50% increase.

In March of this year, 5 homicides were reported in six days.

Albuquerque has had twenty (21) homicides reported in the first 4 months of this year.

There are 36 murder cases from last year that have yet to be cleared with upwards of 40 murders committed this year thus far.

APD’s “clearance rate” is currently in the mid 50%, if not lower.

According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%, in 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the projected clearance rate is 46% for mid-year.

Albuquerque is on track to exceeding the all-time number of 70 homicides in one year.

APD HOMICIDE UNIT’S LEAGACY OF SHAME

On July 2, 2018, ABQ Reports published a scathing article about the APD Homicide Unit.

Relevant portions of the article include:

“Over the past 13 years the [homicide] unit has amassed a legacy of shame that should shock, disgust and outrage everyone – liberals, conservatives, just everybody – who believes in one of the most basic tenets of human liberty: that innocent people should not be charged with crimes they didn’t commit and that they shouldn’t sit in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.

In those 13 years APD’s homicide unit has compiled a shameful legacy of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations dead wrong and letting innocent people rot in jail.

The latest bombshell … [reported was] Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said he was dropping murder charges against Fabian Gonzales and Michelle Martens in the horrific 2016 killing and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

… Torrez dropped an absolute nuke on the community and on APD: There is DNA from another person at the murder scene. DNA that does not match anyone in custody. …
Two years and just days before trial, before the DA thought to tell the citizens that APD Homicide had gone the wrong direction. Down a rabbit hole of their own making. Management of the APD Homicide Unit was completely absent.

APD has a history of ignoring basic human rights. Here are a few cases from not-so-distant past:

– 2005 to 2008 Robert Gonzales, a mentally retarded young man was arrested by APD and charged with the rape / murder of an 11 year old neighbor. Weeks after the arrest DNA evidence confirmed Gonzales was not the offender. Yet APD Homicide and the Bernalillo County DA never turned this evidence over to the court and defense attorneys. Only after Gonzales spent 965 days in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and only after he was released by the judge was the DNA evidence was exposed. Along with this came the announcement that Gonzales confession was simply him repeating facts that the APD homicide detectives had fed him during the interview. The NM State Supreme court fined the DA $45,000 and in a civil case Gonzales won over a million dollars from Albuquerque taxpayers.

– 2007 to 2011, Michael Lee and Travis Rowley, young men in Albuquerque working as a group of salesmen, were arrested and charged with the murders and rape of an elderly Korean couple. Both Lee and Rowley had below normal IQs. Lee confessed to the murders, Rowley did not. Shortly after the arrests, DNA evidence excluded both men and confirmed that Albuquerque serial killer, Clifton Bloomfield was the offender. Bloomfield subsequently confessed. Yet APD and the DA kept both men locked up for over a year, convinced that they had something to do with the murders even though DNA excluded them and even though the confession was once again found that Lee was just repeating what APD Homicide detectives were telling him. Yes, the city paid out $950,000 to settle with Lee.

– 2015 o 2016, Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maes are wrongly arrested for the murder of Jaydon Chavez Silver. They spent10 months in jail before the Bernalillo County DA reviewed the entire case sent to them by APD Homicide, finding that there was not evidence that Cruz and Maez were involved. APD Homicide is alleged to have fed witnesses information for them to repeat in interviews, threaten witnesses to provide false information.

– 2016 to 2018 Victoria Martens, APD Chief Gorden Eden, his PIO Celina Espinoza and APD Officer Fred Duran, knowingly lied to the public regarding a CYFD call five months before Victoria was murdered. The lies go so far as to put words in Victoria’s dead mouth, words she never spoke, simply to protect people at APD.

– 2017 to 2018. This on the heels of APD, at first defending, destruction of DNA-soaked underwear of a 7-year-old girl who was being used as a prostitute by her parents! Wouldn’t we have liked to have that DNA to compare to this unknown DNA from Victoria! But APD tossed it out and a ridiculous bullshit reason. Now Geier and Keller have said they were misled, but were they? We know the outcome of CYFD investigation into this event, but so far APD has only reluctantly started an investigation.

When DA Raul Torrez announced to Albuquerque citizens that “much of what has been reported about the brutal rape and murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens is simply not true!” he handed the defense attorney for Jessica Kelly their game plan.

… [T]he Martens case … slapped the citizens in the face with something those in local law enforcement have known for over ten years: The APD Homicide unit is ill-trained, too young, and poorly led.”

You can read the full ABQ Reports article here:

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2018/07/02/Injustice-For-All-APD-Homicide-Units-Legacy-of-Shame

COMMENTARY

There’s a saying in legal community about how easy it is for any prosecutor to secure indictments from a grand jury:

“You can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”

It was back in January, 1985, in an interview with the New York Daily News’, that Chief Judge Sol Wachtler coined the phrase that it is easy to indict a ham sandwich.

A the time, Chief Judge Sol Wachtler was proposing that the New York scrap the grand jury system of bringing criminal indictments.

Judge Wachtler, believed that district attorneys had so much influence on grand juries that “by and large” they could get them to “indict a ham sandwich.”

The New York Time reported that Wachtler believed grand juries “operate more often as the prosecutor’s pawn than the citizen’s shield.”

Based on review of the APD’s homicide record of botched cases, it becomes clear the District Attorney’s office has also engaged in a pattern of a “rush to indict” cases where investigations were inadequate and not complete with the District Attorneys office forced to do follow up work to complete the investigations.

The grand jury being a pawn of the District Attorney appears to be the case in Bernalillo County when it comes to murder cases and violent crimes.

A little over a year ago, District Attorney Raul Torrez accused the District Court for being the root cause for the dramatic increase in crime.

Torrez also accused criminal defense attorney’s of “gaming the system” to avoid trials and get cases dismissed.

Make no mistake, both the grand jury system and preliminary hearings do have their advantages and disadvantages.

Now that the District Court has stepped upped to the plate wanting to do more preliminary hearings, Torrez objects.

I suspect going from grand jury time scheduled 20 or more times in a month to only 6 days a month is probably way too drastic and should be phased in over a years’ time.

The District Court is being somewhat penny wise and pound foolish trying to save $75,000 to $150,00 a year in grand jury costs to gut a system that is proven to be effective to dispose of lower priority property crimes, drug cases and white collar crimes.

Notwithstanding, given APD’s shameful record with homicide investigations, preliminary hearings should be the mandatory approach to all homicide cases by the District Attorney and APD.

APD is more of the problem than the solution to getting convictions in homicide cases.

Preliminary hearings in all violent crime cases will require and insure that APD will complete investigations, gather evidence, do reports, do witness interviews and complete scientific evidence testing in order for the District Attorney to secure convictions.

“Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” Solution To Homelessness Proposed

A 20-acre complex on the far west side, way beyond city limits, to provide feeding, housing, health care, treatment for mental illnesses and drug and alcohol addictions, social services, medical care and job training, and job placement to Albuquerque’s homeless community is being proposed by a newly formed business coalition called the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance (GABA).

Media coverage can be reviewed here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200884/business-alliance-proposes-solution-to-citys-growing-homeless-problem.html

https://www.koat.com/article/downtown-abq-business-owners-propose-plan-to-address-homeless-population/22555568

The coalition so far consists of 30 Downtown business owners in areas where homeless service providers are located.

The ultimate goal is to create a single large “campus” or a complex for the homeless thereby eliminating the need for homeless providers concentrated in the downtown area or scattered throughout the city next to businesses or residential areas.

Sylvia Ortiz Spence, who operates Silverado Apparel and Home at 1318 Fourth NW, said businesses in the neighborhoods where the homeless service providers are located are negatively affected.

According to Spence: “What we want to create is one centralized facility in a safe place, somewhere that all the services can be located … so we can get these people introduced back into society.”

A suggested location for the campus is the far West Side near where the Metropolitan Detention Center is currently located.

The project is being called “Homeless Vision 2018”.

Connie Vigil, the President of GABA, is quoted as saying:

“The homeless [in Albuquerque] have not been seriously cared for the way they need to be. … There is homelessness and mental illness everywhere you look and crime is skyrocketing. The Downtown and surrounding areas are being seriously hurt. We need a real solution.”

Private attorney and member of the business coalition Gerald E. Bischoff said the current services provided to the homeless in the north Downtown area are inadequate.

According to Bischoff, a proposal by HopeWorks, formerly St. Martin’s, to build a 42-unit permanent housing site on its own campus as part of a multi-phase redesign project is a “band-aid” approach to solving Albuquerque’s homeless problem.

Bischoff gave the opinion that the 42-unit housing facility does not come close to addressing the housing needs for the estimated 1,400 to 2,000 homeless that can be found just in the Downtown neighborhoods alone.

The coalition is asking the city to slowdown the HopeWorks 42 unit project and analyze it along with the “Homeless Vision 2018” campus proposal.

The Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance (GABA) envisions that homeless service providers such as HopeWorks, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, as well as the City and County would become and be part of “Vision 2018” and all would be invited to enter into leases at the new campus facility.

GABA is asking the city to buy into the concept and assist with funding and identifying a location.

Ideally, the city or county would contribute land for the campus while the GABA business alliance would spearhead an initiative to find donors.

“Homeless Vision 2018” single-sight approach to provide services to the homeless is modeled after similar campuses in much larger cities such as San Antonio, Texas and as such are cost prohibitive for exclusive taxpayer city funding.

The GABA business coalition’s announced goal is to secure funding from large organizations such as Sandia National Laboratories, Intel and Kirtland Air Force Base, who might be inclined to provide funding, along with smaller businesses and individual donors.

ALBUQUERQUE HOMELESS COUNT

The City of Albuquerque ranks 32 in the country in population with a population of 545,852.

On January 23, 2017, the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey was conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs.

The 2017 survey found that 1,318 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count, which was an increase of 31 people over the 2015 PIT Count.

The 2015 survey count found 1, 287 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count.

For 2017, 379 people self-reported as chronically homeless, which is an increase of 119 people over the 2015 PIT Count.

PIT counted 39 more people that self-reported as chronically homeless who were sheltered and 80 more people that self-report as chronically homeless who were unsheltered in 2017.

The full PIT report for Albuquerque can be read here:

http://www.nmceh.org/pages/reports/2017%20ABQ/2017%20PIT%20Count%20Report.pdf

“HAVEN FOR HOPE”

The City of San Antonio ranks 7th in the country in population with a population of 1,382,852 people.

On March 27, 2017, the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless conducted a yearly “Point In Time” survey to track San Antonio’s homeless population.

The San Antonio, Texas survey found that at least 2,700 displaced persons living in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.

The “Haven For Hope” located in San Antonio, Texas is a “one-stop shop” campus that’s dedicated to helping a county’s homeless population.

There are 30 agencies on the Haven For Hope 22-acre campus and it can house upwards of 4,000.

The services include housing, food, job training, child care and even kennels for pets, among other services.

Mental health and addiction treatment is done across the street from the campus.

It cost $101 million to build the campus complex and 60% of that came from private donations.

The campus has an operating budget of nearly $20 million a year.

According to annual statistics, the number of the unsheltered homeless population has decreased about 15% since Haven for Hope started in 2010.

Haven for Hope reports it has had about 2,700 graduates move to permanent housing.

About 4,600 others have moved into temporary housing such as in-housing treatment programs.

The campus has not solved San Antonio’s homeless issue.

The last homeless count showed about 2,800 people who are still unsheltered and considered homeless in the greater San Antonio area.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/homeless/san-antonios-homeless-solution-used-as-national-model/281-197477103

A PROJECT ALREADY IN THE WORKS

In 2014, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County voters overwhelmingly voted to approve and impose a one-eighth percent gross receipts tax to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county and it was called the Mental Health Service Tax.

On May 24, 2018, it was announced that Albuquerque and Bernalillo County will be spending millions from the mental health service tax fund on a state-of-the-art project they hope will get the most chronically homeless people off the streets of Albuquerque for good.

The development is basically identical to GABA’s proposal, but obvioulsy on a smaller scale.

The idea is to build an all-in-one, 24-7 campus-like housing complex where people can live and get medical and social services on site.

A “request for proposal” (RFP) for the joint city and county homeless housing project was issued and if built, it would be a first of its kind in New Mexico.

According to the project RFP, the “priority population” will include individuals in four criteria including homelessness or severe housing instability, frequent admission to MDC’s psychiatric unit, frequent utilization of detox services, and frequent use of emergency medical service for behavioral health needs.

The project calls for developers to come up with a plan to build a 40-unit, apartment-style complex in Albuquerque that offers permanent housing alongside on-site professional medical and social help for its tenants.

According to one news report, the expectation is that the facility will be home for those who are chronically homeless and may deal with mental illness or substance abuse.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/city-county-partner-for-state-of-the-art-homeless-housing-treatment-complex/1197739863

Bernalillo County is also spending $1.3 million to develop and fully fund a Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Transition Planning and Re-entry Resource Center using funds from the Bernalillo County behavioral health tax fund.

The Re-entry Resource Center is designed to reach individuals who may have behavioral health challenges and a high need for resources, such as temporary shelter, food, and re-connecting with family members or community providers who can help former inmates gain footing after leaving jail.

CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE SERVICES TO THE HOMELESS

It is estimated that the City of Albuquerque has between 1,300 to 1,500 chronic homeless people.

The Family and Community Services Department is a key player in the City’s effort to end homelessness.

The Departments services include prevention, outreach, shelter and housing programs and supportive services.

The City of Albuquerque has at least 10 separate homeless service provider locations throughout the city.

The entire general fund budget for the Department of Family and Community Services is $39.9 million.

The $39.9 million is not just exclusive funding for services to the homeless.

The service offered by the Family and Community Services Department are directly provided by the city or by contract with nonprofit providers.

The services include social services, mental/behavioral health, homeless services, health care for the homeless, substance abuse treatment and prevention, multi-service centers, public housing, rent assistance, affordable housing development, and fair housing, just to mention a few.

The following homeless services are funded by the City of Albuquerque, HUD’s Continuum of Care grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, and other grants administered by the City of Albuquerque:

1. Emergency Shelters for short-term, immediate assistance for the homeless for men, women, families, emergency winter shelter and after hours shelter.

2. Transitional Housing assistance designed to transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

3. Permanent Supportive Housing for homeless individuals dealing with chronic mental illness or substance abuse issues

4. Childcare services for homeless families

5. Employment Services and job placement for homeless persons

6. Eviction Prevention or rental assistance and case management to prevent eviction and homelessness

7. Health Care services for homeless individuals and families

8. Meal program providing for homeless individuals and families in need

9. Motel Vouchers or temporary vouchers for homeless individuals with immediate medical issues and families with children, where emergency shelters cannot accommodate them.

10. The Albuquerque Heading Home program initiative which moves the most medically fragile and chronically homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing. Since its inception in 2011 to January, 2017, it has placed 650 people into housing that assists with housing and providing jobs.

COMMENTARY

As noble a goal as it is, the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance (GABA) should not hold their breath that the city or county will endorse or fund a project that creates a 20-acre homeless “campus” in a remote and desolete section on the far west-side of the city to provide housing, drug treatment and social services to the city’s 1,500 plus homeless.

The immediate perception of the “Vision 2018” 20-acre complex on the far west side in the middle of nowhere is that it is an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to the homeless issue for removal of the homeless from downtown area.

Based on the Haven For Hope model of San Antonio, Texas, the Albuquerque’s homeless issue will not be completely solved even with such a campus.

All too often, we tend to forget our humanity and resent or even condemn the homeless for what we think they represent.

We fear and even condemn the homeless whenever they interfere with our lives at whatever level such as pandering for money on street medians, begging for food, acting erratic, acting emotionally unstable, and yes even when they are found sleeping in doorways and defecating in public.

We easily forget that the homeless are indeed human beings who may have lost all hope and all respect for themselves and are imprisoned for life in their own minds condemn to fight their demons until the very day they die.

One thing we should never forget is that the homeless do indeed have human rights to live as they choose, not as any one says, and they cannot just be arrested and housed like criminals or animals.

The homeless cannot be forced or ever required to do anything for their own benefit, or against their own free will or change their life unless they want to do it themselves.

Many homeless do not want to ever be reintroduced into society.

Many homeless have committed no crimes and all to often are the victims of crimes themselves, even being bludgeoned to death for fun and pleasure as Albuquerque has seen in the past few years when teenagers killed two Native Americans sleeping in a vacant lot .

Charitable organizations such as Joy Junction, HopeWorks, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, all provide services to the homeless and do so by being where the homeless can be found and where the homeless can reach and seek out and have easy access to their services.

One argument GABA will be confronted with is that the City, the County and charitable organizations are already doing all they can with the programs they have to assist the homeless.

Further, many of the existing charitable organizations such as Joy Junction will not want to enter into any kind of lease arrangement or relocate to remote areas when they already own city facilities out right in Albuquerque or Bernalillo County.

A problem that can easily be identified is that it will not be self-sustaining in the long run with private donations and that it will eventually have to be fully funded and operated by a government entity such as the city or county.

Albuquerque and New Mexico are a very poor city and state not known for huge corporate or private donations with few wealthy citizens.

Intel for example will in all probably be gone within a few years.

Our business community as represented by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) have never been known to be big time supporters to find solutions to the homelessness in Albuquerque and are far more interested in their organization membership profit margins.

A legitimate concern is that such a facility will run the risk of Albuquerque becoming a destination city for the homeless and increasing the city’s homeless population.

From a strictly cynical standpoint, such an ambitious project will require considerable courage and commitment seldom seen from elected officials to help those in serious need and in crisis who do not or will not ever vote.

In the long term, GABA fund raising efforts would probably be better served helping the various existing charitable organization that assist the homeless and work on projects with the city targeting and tackling the homeless in the downtown area.

********************************************************************

POST SCRIPT

JOY JUNCTION AND DR. JEREMY REYNOLDS REMEMBERED

On July 11th, 2018 Dr. Jeremy Reynolds, the founder of Joy Junction passed away passed away from cancer.

Dr. Reynolds was an exceptional individual who for 30 years went above and beyond the call of duty in helping Albuquerque’s homeless and relying on private fundraising.

On February 2, 1017, Dr. Reynolds wrote:

“The mindset of wanting to do something myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it, was in part, what moved me to create a different type of homeless shelter in our community – one for the entire family — where, notwithstanding space limitations, no one is turned away, no matter the time of day or situation.

This means that when a family of four comes through the door, we take them all in, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion.

Over the past 30-plus years, Joy Junction has grown to serve more than 10,000 meals each month, not including the more than 6,000 meals served by our mobile feeding unit called The Lifeline of Hope.

This service was started in 2009 to provide food, beverages and hygiene products to those who have shelter but very little else, and to individuals who for a variety of reasons live on the streets, where their “pillow” is often a concrete sidewalk.

In addition, recognizing that overnights are some of the most need-saturated times of the day, Joy Junction staff drive a van through the streets of Albuquerque between about 1 and 5 a.m. in search of anyone who might need assistance with food, water and when available, a blanket or sleeping bag.

Those small acts of kindness do make a difference, as some have showed.

At Joy Junction, we’ve made it our mission to not only provide basic needs like food and shelter, but also emotional and spiritual assistance so individuals can get back on their feet. In addition, guests at Joy Junction are welcome to stay as long as they need, so they can become “whole” again.”

Dr. Reynolds entire guest commentary on my blog entitled “It Takes A Village To Help The Homeless” can be read here:

It Takes A Village to Help the Homeless

Keller Goes From “F” to “D-” For Economic Development Strategy

On July 20, 2018, after a near full 8 months in office, Mayor Tim Keller finally unveiled his administration’s economic development strategy for the city.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1198935/mayor-unveils-economic-development-strategy-for-abq.html

Mayor Keller held a press conference at the Glorieta Station development downtown.

The Keller Economic Development plan has six areas it will focus on:

INCREMENT OF ONE: supporting homegrown entrepreneurship and “game-changer” business already in the community.

COMMENTARY: The operative word is “already” in the community but little mention of newly locally created startup businesses. The suggestion that new businesses to add one more employee (“an increment of one”) for the sake of economic development does not make much sense to a business owner who does not need the additional staff nor who cannot afford the additional overhead.

SMART RECRUITMENT: recruiting business in a strategic way. Recruitment outside of the state will focus on businesses that align with the city’s priorities.

COMMENTARY: The extent of financial incentives to be offered to businesses to be recruited will determine the extent of success and a businesses own priorities may not align with the city’s.

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: capitalizing on “unique placement” along two interstates with an international airport and foreign trade zone. Keller cited the Railyards as an example of the “Placemaking” initiative. In 2007, the city purchased the Railyards for $8.5 million and it is now being used for weekend markets and other events

COMMENTARY: This is identical to what I proposed 4 years ago when I ran for Mayor. Further, the north-south runway of the airport has now been taken out of all service and no longer exists having been graded away with an industrial park being developed on the city land.

CREATIVE ECONOMY & FILM: emphasizing culture, cuisine, art music and film industries as key to economic development. The Keller Administration wants to establish a code of conduct for film productions here.

COMMENTARY: For the past 16 years, the City’s Economic Development Department has had a “Film Industry Division” that has assisted the film industry with support services and it has been very successful.

INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: The city will continue to market itself to businesses internationally, targeting Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany and Japan, and is exploring how to bring a direct flight to Guadalajara, Mexico, to the Albuquerque International Sunport.

COMMENTARY: Trying to market the city to the foreign countries listed may not make much sense in the age of Trump with the tariff wars and the Economic Development Department’s budget (see below: $199,000 for International Trade Program) is so meager as to be insignificant for international trade promotion. The word “international” referring to the Sunport is rather embarrassing seeing that in order to catch a plane for an international flight one must go to Chicago, Atlanta, New York or Washington, DC.

CITY BUYING LOCAL: Directing more government purchases to local businesses. City departments will be required to seek out local vendors with vendor registrations made available to all who want to register to do business with the city.

COMMENTARY: This is not new. City hall for at least the past 16 years has provided preferential treatment ratings or points to local venders wanting to bid on city business through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

KELLER’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT

The mission statement of the City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department states its purpose is to “develop a more diversified and vital economy through the expansion and retention of businesses; develop appropriate industry clusters and recruit target industries; and assist new business start-ups and promote the film and music industries.”

According to its mission statement, the department supports the tourism and hospitality industries through collaboration and oversight of the City’s contractors.

The department also fosters international trade efforts and increased international business opportunities for Albuquerque companies.

The Keller Economic Development Department employs 11 full time employees with an approved annual budget of $3.9 million.

The 2018-2019 city council approved budget for Keller’s Economic Development Department’s only includes funding for the department’s core programs.

Those programs include supporting local businesses, aligning expenditures to keep tax dollars in the local economy “instead of flowing out of state.”

The approved budget also contains funding for the recruiting new businesses.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1178797/mayor-signs-citys-1-billion-budget.html

The approved 2018-2019 budget for the Economic Development Department allocates $360,000 in funding for continued economic development investments and includes:

$125,000 for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) corridors investment. (TOD is a type of development that includes a mixture of housing, office, retail and/or other amenities within reach of public transportation.)

$55,000 thousand for small business development

$30,000 for Listen! ABQ. (Listen! Alb is a web site that promotes local music and music events which generate millions for the local economy.)

$150,000 for various local economic development investment projects.

The approved general fund budget for the Economic Development Department includes:

$1.6 million for “economic development” activities.

$199,000 for the International Trade Program.

$2.087 million for the convention center.

The Keller Administration approved budget of $3.9 million for the Economic Development is so a meager as to be an embarrassment given the fact that the city has a total operating revenue and approved budget of at almost a billion dollars at $955,300,000 for fiscal year 2018-2019.

AN EQUITY PROFILE OF ALBQUERQUE

On June 19, 2018, a report entitled “An Equity Profile of Albuquerque” was released by the Keller Administration.
You can read the entire report here:

http://nationalequityatlas.org/sites/default/files/ABQ_Profile_Final.pdf

The report is a racial profile of the city and the impact race has on the city economy.

The Equity Profile Report examined the indicators of economic and social inclusion and found that “equitable growth” leads to a stronger local economy.

In the report, and “equitable city” is defined as “when all residents – regardless of their race/ethnicity, nativity, gender, income, neighborhood of residence, or other characteristics – are fully able to participate in the city’s economic vitality, contribute to the region’s readiness for the future, and connect to the region’s assets and resources.”

(See “An Equity Profile of Albuquerque”, page 11).

Not surprising, the report found persistent inequities by race and gender are holding the city back from having a stronger local economy.

The report identifies 22 industries that are expected to grow over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024.

The report also identified 22 specific occupations that are expected to grow over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024.

When the report was release, Mayor Keller said the report would serve as a guide for the city’s newly reorganized Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Based on the economic development plan Keller announced, you can only wonder if the Equity Profile of Albuquerque was even read by Keller or Keller’s Economic Development Department given the fact there is no concentration on the cities job growth industries with no real investment by the city other than public encouragement.

COMMENTARY

Candidate for Mayor Tim Keller proposed as a “big idea” creating personal or individual Tax Increment Districts (TIDS), more use of industrial revenue bonds and tax incentives to attract new industry to Albuquerque and create jobs.

After 8 months in office, you would think the Keller Economic Development Department could do better than the “none existent” economic development plan announced by Mayor Tim Keller.

Albuquerque can and must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds, and even fund economic development investment programs such as initial startup funding with claw back provisions.

A good start would be funding a $20 million initial startup fund for new local businesses with claw back provisions with the program administered by the Economic Development Department.

Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industry like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, and especially the film industry to diversify our economy, and the recreational industry.

Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed.

Albuquerque’s taxpayers must be convinced by Mayor Keller and the City Council of the importance of economic development in the growth industries and not the service industries.

Our elected officials and the business community, including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Economic Development (AED), the Economic Forum, NAIOP and the banking, finance and development industries, need to think long and hard about finally doing something to attract new industry instead of just being satisfied with protecting their own financial interests and bottom lines.

Mayor Keller in announcing his economic development said:

“This is not a silver bullet, not a single idea. … It’s sort of the opposite of that … It’s about creating an inclusive and safe city for all of us.”

Noble words about “creating an inclusive and safe city for all of us”, but words do not make you safe and do not put food on the table when you have no job and in debt.

On June 8, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published my guest editorial commentary where I gave a “report card” regarding Mayor Tim Keller’s job performance for his first 6 months in office giving him a “C” average for all around job performance.

You can read the entire editorial comment here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1183092/keller-earns-a-c-in-his-1st-semester.html

The grades given were “A” for Public Relations, “B” for Political Appointments, “C” for Public Safety, “D” for DOJ Reforms and “F” for Economic Development.

A blog article listing grades, accomplishments and missteps of Keller’s first 6 months in office can also be read here:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/08/mayor-tim-kellers-first-semester-report-card-and-low-test-scores/

Originally, Mayor Keller was given an “F” in Economic Development for his failure to outline or propose any economic development plan or strategy during his first 6 months in office to bring new industry and jobs to Albuquerque.

Mayor Keller now has gone from an “F” to a “D-”for Economic Development.

Police Union At Odds With DOJ Reforms

The City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) union are at odds over new rules for promoting police officers.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-and-union-at-odds-over-policy-for-promoting-employees/1318547719

Rules for promoting sworn officers were part of the Department of Justice federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and the mandated and agreed to reforms.

The police the union now sees the opportunity to change them to their liking.

The personnel rules keep some police officers with checkered pasts from promotions.

The City, APD and the police union in 2016 agreed to the promotional policy.

The parties are now in court over two points in the promotional policy.

In the policy, the City and APD want candidates for promotion to undergo testing every 2 years to continue the application process.

The police union wants a candidate’s test scores to stand beyond 2 years.

The promotion rules now provide that the City and APD can deny a promotion to any officer who’s been suspended more than a day.

The police union claims the rule gives the City and APD way too much discretion to deny promotions.

The union believes that the City’s and APD’s power to deny a promotion because of a suspension should only apply to police officers who’ve been suspended for at least 6 weeks.

Former APD Chief Gordon Eden staunchly supported the existing rule saying “It gives me the ability to remove them for cause and I think that’s what’s really important”.

Current APD Chief Michael Geier has not publicly given his position on the issue.

The City and the Police Union both agree that certain officers should be barred from promotions such as police officers involved in pending lawsuits.

The existing policy also provides that APD and the City can deny an officer a promotion under three specific circumstances:

1. If a court rules they violated constitutional rights of another person
2. If they’re under internal affairs investigation, or
3. If they are under felony indictment.

What is not clear in the existing policy is what happens to promotion applicants who were sued for use of force or deadly force where the city settles before a judge could rule if their actions were justified or not.

Two cases where the city settled for millions of dollars for deadly use of force before there was ever an adjudication that the actions the police officers were justified include:

1. The city paid $5 million dollars to settle with the family of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes who was killed by APD officer Jeremy Dear. Dear was fired and attempted to return to work for APD and was denied returning to work. Dear filed a libel and slander lawsuit against former Chief Gordon Eden with the case pending.

2. The city paid $5 million to settle with the family of homeless camper and mentally ill James Boyd who was shot and killed by APD SWAT Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, both who were charged and tried with murder and with the trial ending in a deadlocked jury and no conviction and no acquittal. Sandy has retired from APD and Perez has returned to work for APD.

BENEFITS OF A POLICE UNION ENDORSMENT

On September 28, 2017, it was widely reported that the Albuquerque Police Officers Association endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1067209/albuquerque-police-union-endorses-keller.html

The rising crime rates, Albuquerque Police Department personnel levels as well as the Department of Justice mandated reforms were major issues in the Mayor’s race.

It was not at all surprising that the APOA endorsed a candidate for Mayor given that it was at repeated impasse with the previous administration during contract negotiations.

The previous administration unilaterally decided not to pay 5% pay raises negotiated in good faith by the police union and eliminated longevity pay for rank and file.

To be perfectly blunt, no political endorsement is ever given by an organization unless a candidate makes concessions or falls in line with an organization’s philosophy, wants, needs or even demands.

In making the endorsement of Keller, the police union no doubt wanted to have some influence over the next Mayor and Keller as a candidate wanted the votes of rank and file police officers.

The advantage of a police union endorsement to a candidate is to be able to say law enforcement has your back and you have theirs.

On December 7, 2017, union leadership, one week after being sworn in, accused Mayor Tim Keller of being “dishonorable for apologizing” to the people of Albuquerque for the past actions APD police officers who had used excessive force or deadly force and the “culture of excessive use of force” found by the Department of Justice, with the union falsely claiming it was a universal apology for all police actions.

www.abqjournal.com/1104351/keller-misstep-irks-apd-officers.html

The message to Keller was loud and clear: support the rank and file without question or the police union will oppose your efforts with the reform process.

On March 5, 2018 the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths of a percent on an 8-1 vote without putting it to a public vote.

The tax increase went into effect July 1, 2018 and is expected to bring in a $55 million annually.

At the time the tax was enacted, APOA union president Shaun Willoughby demanded the city councilors to amend the legislation to “guarantee” that 60 percent of all the revenue generated from the new tax be dedicated to the police department to recruit more officers and increase pay, despite the fact the city was faced with a $40 million-dollar deficit requiring the tax.

On May 21, 2018 the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved the 2018- 2019 Keller Administration operating budget of $577 million in general fund appropriations.

The approved budget included an APD expansion plan to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing.

The approved budget also included $2.3 million for compliance with the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) reached between the city and the Department of Justice in November, 2014 regarding police use of excessive force and deadly use of force.

The biggest benefit of the Union endorsement of Tim Keller was when on May 21, 2018 rank-and-file Albuquerque police officers overwhelmingly approved by a 501 to 40 vote a new two-year contract negotiated by the Keller Administration that gave sworn police officers between $1.50 to $3.50 per hour pay raises, or $12.1 million more in annual pay, with longevity pay increases of between $2,600 to $15,000 a year.

After 8 years of no substantive raises to APD rank and file, the raises were justified.

The police union when announcing approval of the contract by rank and file took a back handed swipe at the Keller administration when it said the downside to the contract is that it is a two-year deal.

The police union claimed it wanted a one-year contract because many officers “don’t trust the city to keep its word on a multi-year deal.”

Make no mistake, the APOA Union leadership was within it rights and did its job in getting any and all concession it could from the city when it comes to raises, incentive pay and increasing personnel numbers and securing more resources.

COMMENTARY

Almost four (4) years ago, a Department of Justice investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

In the last eight (8) years, there has been 41 police officer involved shootings, and the city has paid out $61 million dollars in settlements for police misconduct cases.

The single biggest crisis Mayor Tim Keller was confronted with on the day he was sworn into office was reforming the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and keeping his commitment to implement the mandated reforms for constitutional policing.

Mayor Keller appointed Chief Michael Geier and both have repeatedly committed in court and in public to the DOJ mandated reforms.

Under normal circumstances, union endorsements are common place in municipal elections.

However, when it comes to the Albuquerque Police Department, it is a department still in crisis and for the first time in its history is under a Department of Justice consent decree.

The union endorsement of Keller and the DOJ consent decree complicates things with the Keller Administration because the police union opposes many of the reforms and opposes any form of civilian oversight.

Based on the union’s actions over the last 8 months with the Keller Administration, it is clear the relationship the police union has with the city is very one sided and only benefits the union and its membership and not necessarily the citizens of Albuquerque.

The police union has never fully embraced the consent decree, the mandated reforms and it resists citizen oversight.

The police union is often at odds with the city’s Civilian Oversight Board.

The APOA Union understands full well the consent decree in that the police union made sure they intervened and became a party to the federal lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against the city and APD.

Any Mayoral administration has the equal responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the general public and the responsible spending of taxpayer dollars for public safety.

The past administration and the present Keller administration both have made a major concession consenting to the APOA Union to be a party to the federal lawsuit and the Court Approved Settlement Agreement.

The union leadership was at the negotiating table for a full year involved in the drafting of the “use of force” and “deadly use of force” policy and contributed significantly to the one-year delay in writing the policy repeatedly objecting to language of the policy asserting the policy was unreasonable.

The union leadership has attended and has sat at counsel table during court hearings and Federal Monitor presentations.

During all the Court proceeding where the federal monitor has made his presentation to the federal court, the APOA union has made its opposition and objections known to the federal court.

All six of the Federal Monitor’s status reports were scathing against the city accusing the APD chain of command of delaying and obstructing the DOJ reform process, yet the police union had no comment and took no position.

When the previous administration accused the federal monitor of biasness and attempted to have the monitor remove, the police union remained totally silent implying its support to have the federal monitor removed.

The police union and its leadership have said in open court that the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to perform their job duties.

The changes the police union to the promotion rules and testing requirement amounts to nothing more than the union dictating to the City and APD command staff personnel policy as to who should be hired, fired, disciplined, suspended and promoted by management.

There is a definite chain of command and a clear line of authority that needs separate management from rank and file sworn police officers that must be preserved and honored.

Included in the union’s bargaining unit are all APD police Sergeants and Lieutenants who are clearly part of police management.

Lieutenants, Commanders, Deputy Chief and the Chief are at will positions that serve at the pleasure of the Administration, either the Chief or Mayor.

Including APD police Sergeants and Lieutenants who are part of management in the union bargaining unit creates a clear conflict of interest when they are the ones on the frontline to enforce personnel rules and regulations, standard operating procedures, approve and review work performed and assist in implementing DOJ consent decree mandates and standard operating procedures policies that the APOA Union opposes.

Law enforcement command staff and management must be able to make decisions to protect public safety and maintain credibility with the public and be able to immediately remove and even replace police officers who tarnish the badge with unethical, questionable, and at times illegal conduct in violation of standard operating procedures and the law.

The Keller Administration needs to decide between if it is more important to manage the police department and APD personnel free from union obstruction tactics and control over management decisions in order to implement the Department of Justice mandated reforms.

In the long run, what the police union now wants in court with respect to promotions will breed contempt by management and hamstring command staff abilities to make effective personnel decisions and hold employees accountable for misconduct.

The Keller Administration must decide if it was worth the expense of giving up management authority of the department to conform with police union demands and expectations.

The Keller Administration should consider seeking to having the APOA Union removed as a party to the federal lawsuit, consent decree and CASA negotiations.

The City should oppose the unions attempt to reduce managements authority over promotion practices by opposing the unions attempt change rules they agreed to two years ago.

During the next round of union contract negotiations, the city should demand that the management positions of APD Sergeants and Lieutenants be removed from the APOA Union bargaining unit.

The clear line of separation between command staff management and rank and file needs to be preserved in order to achieve effective implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms.

FOLLOWING ARE LINKS TO OTHER BLOG ARTICLES

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/31/police-union-president-pops-off-about-a-so-called-culture-of-aggression/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/24/police-union-back-handed-swipes-at-keller-wage-increase-will-not-to-solve-officer-shortage/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/04/13/the-annual-police-union-bitch-and-moan-survey/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/20/apd-police-union-needs-to-stop-thinking-only-of-themselves/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2017/12/09/apoa-union-president-is-the-one-acting-dishonorably/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2017/09/24/police-union-endorsement-should-have-been-declined/

Bernalillo County Criminal Justice System Evaluation

On July 19, 2018, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), released a 117 page “Program Evaluation: Review of the Criminal Justice System in Bernalillo County.”

The LFC is chaired by NM State Senator John Author Smith the highly respected State Senator in all things involving legislative funding.

A three-hour presentation was made to the LFC in Santa Fe by the LFC’s Program Evaluation manager Jon Courtney where lawmakers asked questions about the 8-year spike in Albuquerque’s crime rates.

Nonpartisan legislative analyst’s examining Albuquerque’s crime rates came to the conclusion that there are “critical gaps” in the three pillars of the criminal justice system.

The three pillars of the criminal justice system were identified as law enforcement, the courts and the correctional or jail system.

Notwithstanding the “critical gaps” in the criminal justice system, the report gave reasons for optimism.

Reasons for optimism include increased cooperation among law enforcement public agencies, more traffic stops initiated by police and a new re-entry center to help inmates released back into society from jail.

Economic conditions are also improving and the State’s unemployment rate is declining.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/29/good-news-unemployment-down-bad-news-nm-last-in-child-well-being/

ALBUQUERQUE’S DECLINING CRIME RATES

Adding to the optimism is that 2018 is becoming the first time in 8 years that Albuquerque’s property crime rates are falling.

On the same day of the Legislative hearing releasing the Criminal Justice in Bernalillo County Review report, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce that auto theft and robberies for the first half of 2018 are down significantly from 2017 the same time last year.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/19/kudos-to-keller-apd-for-bringing-property-crime-down-but-still-carry-your-gun

Chief Geier credited APD officers for a 35 percent increase in traffic stops and progress in reducing auto burglary by 31 percent, auto theft by 16 percent, commercial burglary by 16 percent, residential burglary by 7 percent, robbery by 31 percent, rape by 4 percent and aggravated assault by 5 percent.

The bad news was that according to the FBI statistics released by Keller and Geier, nonfatal shootings increased by 5% and homicides increased by 18.2% the first 6 months of 2018 over 2017.

The city’s crime rate has been decreasing since November, 2017.

DISCREDITING DISTRICT ATTORNEY RAUL TORREZ

One thing that happened worth noting during the presentation to lawmaker’s is that the 2010-17 spike in crime was not caused by New Mexico’s new rules on bail, a Supreme Court order imposing deadline for handling criminal cases or the new “risk assessment tool” used by the courts to determine which defendants should be released while they await trial.

Least anyone forget, it was Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez who made front page headlines last year that it was the Courts that caused the spike in crime.

Torrez made false claims that because of lenient Judge’s sentencings, the crime rate increased and was caused by New Mexico’s new rules on bail and the Courts were demanding too much evidence to hold violent criminals.

Torrez was highly critical of a Supreme Court order imposing deadline for handling criminal cases and the new “risk assessment tool” used by the courts.

DA Torrez went so far as to say that the criminal justice system was broken and that defense lawyers were “gaming the system” to get their client’s off on technicalities.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/11/senator-smith-tells-da-torrez-he-now-has-enough-rope-to-hang-himself/

The Review of the Criminal Justice System Report found that the increase in crime started years before many of the court rule changes were even implemented, thereby discrediting many if not all of DA Torrez’s arguments.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS INCREASING CRIME RATES

The study found that in 2010, Albuquerque had its lowest crime rates in modern history.

The report focused on the link between broader social problems and crime rates.

Albuquerque’s downtown area is the highest-crime area in the state.

The Downtown area of Albuquerque from Broadway Boulevard to 8th Street and Lomas Boulevard to Coal Avenue experienced a 46 percent increase in the number of families in poverty between 2010 and 2016.

Families living in poverty was cited as part of the reason why crime is five times the national average in that area.

According to the study, by 2016, more than 20 percent of people in Albuquerque lived in high-poverty neighborhoods.

That number was less than 3 percent in 2010.

Further, 21 percent of all felony arrests involve people who had been arrested five or more times before.

http://www.koat.com/article/new-report-details-how-crime-rates-skyrocketed-in-abq/22504676

DETERIORATING SOCIAL CONDITIONS

The LFC report notes that deteriorating social conditions and other flaws in the criminal justice system outlined coincided with the Bernalillo County’s crime wave.

The LFC study found that while crime increased, arrests and convictions were down.

It was in 2010 that the number of sworn APD police officers began to seriously decline.

At the beginning of 2010, APD had 1,100 sworn police officers and over the following 8 years, the department bottomed out to as few as 830 sworn officers at one time, with less than have in field services taking calls for service.

Based on data reviewed, at the beginning of the crime wave in 2011, Albuquerque endured worsening poverty, homelessness and drug use, and at the same time Albuquerque had fewer police patrolling the streets to make arrests.

According to the LFC report:

“As social conditions deteriorated, the criminal justice system held fewer and fewer people accountable while crimes continued to increase.”

THE DOJ CONSENT DECREE AND REFORMS

The Review of the Criminal Justice System Report makes a specific finding that from 2010 to 2017 “the Albuquerque Police Department, the judicial system, and the Metropolitan Detention Center all suffered from problematic – and in some cases unconstitutional – practices.”

The “unconstitutional practices” referred to no doubt is the “culture of aggression” found within APD by the US Department of Justice.

It was in early 2013 that the Department of Justice began its investigation of APD for excessive use of force and deadly force cases after 18 people were shot and killed by APD.

In April, 2014 the US Department of Justice issued its final report finding a “culture of aggression” within APD.

It was in November, 2014 that the City of Albuquerque entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and agreed to sweeping reforms of APD mandating constitutional policing practices and major changes in standard operating procedures dealing with the use of force and deadly force.

According to the Criminal Justice System Report, the U.S. Department of Justice settlement with the city requiring a series of reforms aimed at ending a pattern of violating people’s rights by APD may have contributed in part to increases in crime rates.

The Criminal Justice System Report did review other cities across the country that have entered into similar consent decrees and it was found that crime increased for a year or two before returning to typical levels.

The report found that Albuquerque is experiencing a similar pattern of crime rate deduction but it isn’t clear whether changes in police tactics, increased reporting of crime or other factors drive the change.

The federal consent decree was negotiated by the previous administration over 3 years ago.

It was found repeatedly by the federal court appointed monitor that the previous administration did everything it could to subvert, delay and deflect implementation of the mandatory reforms.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2017/08/22/fault-with-apd-command-staff-found-again/

Eight months after a new Mayor is elected and he appoints a Chief of Police and both who are committed to the DOJ reforms, property crime rates are indeed going down.

REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS

The Legislative Finance Report and review found “a system that suffers from critical gaps between reality and the best practices of law enforcement, jurisprudence, and incarceration.”

The Criminal Justice System Report makes a number of recommendations including:

1. Establishing statewide requirements for how defendants are handled before trial and removing legal barriers that prevent criminal justice agencies from sharing data with one another.

2. Bernalillo County should also continue efforts at connecting inmates leaving jail with services. Inmates were sometimes released late at night in the heart of Downtown.

3. Albuquerque police should make better use of their Real Time Crime Center to analyze trends and engage in proactive policing strategies.

4. The number of people graduating from specialty courts like the drug court and veterans court aimed at reducing recidivism among people struggling with addiction has fallen and the state should try to reverse the trend.

COMMENTARY

There are three main takeaways that appear very clear when you read the report:

FIRST: The City of Albuquerque and APD would be further down the road in decreasing crime rates had it not been for the tactics by the previous administration to subvert, delay and deflect implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms.

SECOND: District Attorney Raul Torrez was totally wrong when he blamed the Second Judicial District Court and the Supreme Courts Case Management Order (CMO) for the spike in crime in Albuquerque.

THREE: The “Program Evaluation: Review of the Criminal Justice System in Bernalillo County” needs to be read by New Mexico State Auditor Wayne Johnson so he can save face and abandon his efforts for a “Special Audit” of the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice system and before he is embarrassed by Attorney General Hector Balderas. Johnson’s special audit includes seven state agencies: the District Court, Metro Court, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Public Defender’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office. Balderas has been asked by the District Court to issue an opinion if Johnson has the legal authority to do his audit and the legislative report seems to render moot the need for the audit.

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POSTSCRIPT: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Following are the key recommendations contained in the executive summary of the Program Evaluation: Review of the Criminal Justice System in Bernalillo County report (pages 2 and 3):

“The Legislature should consider legislation:

To minimize financial burden for specialty court participants;
The Legislature should consider legislation establishing basic requirements around the use of pretrial services statewide including best practices recommended by agencies cited in this report;
The Legislature should consider legislation that encourages sharing and removes barriers around criminal justice data while still complying with data protections put in place by the Federal government.

APD and BCSO should:

Direct officers to spend uncommitted time using tactics from evidence-based policing strategies focusing on people, hot spots, and problems identified through use of analytical tools such as the Real Time Crime Center. Tool kits for selection of which practices and programs to use in certain tactical environments can be found at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy

http://cebcp.org/evidence-based-policing/.

APD and BCSO should implement up to date police staffing studies and APD should put tracking systems to monitor progress to meeting staffing goals.
Priority should be given to staffing field services and specific specialized units of detectives to work towards improving clearance rates of key crimes and decrease drug trafficking. Bernalillo County, 2nd Judicial District Court, and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court should implement pretrial services universal screening, performance management system, and quarterly reporting to BCCJCC to guide policy and management decisions.

The Administrative Office of the Courts should increase current oversight efforts to include adopting and reporting on evaluation requirements for all specialty courts.
The Administrative Office of the Courts, the Law Office of the Public Defender, the SJDA’s Office, the 2nd Judicial District Court, and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court should explore specialty court options that could increase utilization of these courts. Bernalillo County should work to implement procedures that facilitate successful release of inmates into the community including the following components:

• Amend their contract with their behavioral health service provider to include requirements to implement a valid and reliable risk needs assessment and screening to be universally administered to inmates at intake. The requirement should also include transmission of this information to staff at the resource reentry center for use upon release;
• Work to increase the number of inmates released during business hours;
• Making key staff at the resource reentry center and MDC available on a 24 hour basis to facilitate connection of former inmates to resources including prescription medication and transportation;
• Defining, measuring and promoting use of evidence-based (and promising) programming in jails, prisons, and the community while still allowing room for home grown innovative and effective programs.
• Develop improved performance measures for the Metropolitan Detention Center including recidivism, percent of inmates signed up for Medicaid, and percent of inmates connected to services upon reentry.

The Bernalillo Health Science Department (BHSD) should continually work with stakeholders to identify and address Medicaid reimbursement needs for evidence-based behavioral health treatment programs. Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque should consider permanently staffing the BCCJCC, including data analysts, in order to provide additional support to criminal justice partners. The BCCJCC should

• Develop a set of performance metrics to better track the Bernalillo County criminal justice system performance;
• Foster the use of evidence-based practices throughout the Bernalillo County criminal justice system;
• Coordinate unified use of resources including the real time crime center at APD to work toward common goals of focusing on people and places through evidence-based practices