To Put Out A Fire, You Use The Water You Can Get; New Mexico State Police Role In “Metro Surge Operation” Questioned

The New Mexico American Civil Liberties (ACLU) is questioning the wisdom of “Metro Surge Operation” involving the 50 New Mexico State Police sent to Albuquerque to help the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) to deal with the City’s violent crime rates. The ACLU essentially argues that the New Mexico State Police sent here to help APD in the metro surge need to follow the identical requirements, training and procedures as the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is required to follow under the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The ACLU ignores the big picture as to why the surge is needed and ignores that the New Mexico State Police are not under a consent decree. There has been no finding of a “culture of aggression” within the New Mexico State Police as APD. There has been no finding that the New Mexico State Police have engaged in unconstitutional policing practices.

THE METRO SURGE OPERATION

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of a 21-year-old college student, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor. The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference included assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM Sate police officers already work here which brought the number up to 57 State Police.

According to APD Chief Michael Geier, a couple of days of planning led up to the Metro Surge Operation involving the 50 State Police to patrol mainly along Central. State Police officers have statewide jurisdiction in virtually every city and small community in New Mexico. According to Geier the initial plan is to keep the 50 officers in Albuquerque for about 45 days through the Fourth of July. Chief Geier noted:

“State Police is in our city all the time. … Most of their emphasis is in traffic enforcement, but they also are with the auto theft unit. … This is just a continuation of the assistance they give us at times. This one just happens to be a little greater magnitude.”

Six days after the governor sent 50 additional New Mexico State Police officers to Albuquerque, two of those state police officers fired their weapons in separate incidents in Albuquerque. The shootings were unrelated. Both shootings started with attempted traffic stops in different areas of Albuquerque, one in the southwest part of the city and the other in the northeast.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1316731/state-police-involved-in-shooting-in-sw-abq.html

REASON FOR THE “Metro Surge Operation”

Since May 4, 2019, there have been 26 homicides in Albuquerque. Thus far, 15 of the homicides remain unsolved. Law enforcement authorities report that there have been 114 people shot in 112 days in Bernalillo County including the city of Albuquerque through April 23, which is a 36% increase over last year during the same time period.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a data collection program called “Ceasefire”. Ceasefire is supposedly a data-driven approach to combat gun violence. According to the DA’s office a breakdown of data from January 1, 2019, to April 23, 2019 is as follows:

There were 101 shootings in which individuals were injured or killed, several of which had multiple victims
114 people were shot, 17 of whom were killed.
95 incidents happened in the city.
6 incidents happened outside the city but within the county.
2 people were shot by law enforcement.
10 cases were self-inflicted shootings.
The shortest time between shootings was 16 minutes.
The longest time was a five-and-a-half-day stretch in early January.
The average number of shootings was just over one shooting per day.
Suspects have been identified in 42 cases, although it’s unclear how many have resulted in an arrest.
There were 27 more shootings so far in 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018 when there were 74 shootings.
As a result of the increase in violent crime in Albuquerque, city and APD officials and businesses reach out and met with Governor Michell Luna Grisham for help.

TWO INCIDENTS EXAMINED

Both of the May 16 State Police officer-involved shootings occurred in the evening and an hour apart. No officers were injured in either shooting, but one officer hurt his shoulder when his vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle during a “hot pursuit”. State Police Officials said one suspect was shot in the shoulder and said they were still searching for others who escaped after the second shooting.

It was a New Mexico State Police officer from Gallup who was part of the Metro Surge Operation who pursued a suspect in a stolen vehicle and who ran a traffic stop. The State Police officer chased the vehicle into a cul-de-sac and shot at it after the driver did a U-Turn and drove toward him. The State Police Officer shot the suspect in the shoulder.

Both the pursuit and the shooting were in violation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) new standard operating procedure policies written for its use and part the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The CASA was agreed to in 2014 after a federal investigation found a “culture of aggression” within APD and a pattern of unconstitutional use of force. APD’s policy on use of force under the consent decree is very specific and prohibits shooting at a moving vehicle unless the occupant is using lethal force other than the vehicle itself or there is no other reasonable alternative.

The second incident also involved a pursuit, and a pursuit intervention technique maneuver, by a State Police officer before he fired at the vehicle. The driver, later identified as 40-year-old Daniel Franco, escaped capture when the State Police Officer crashed his vehicle into a bystander’s vehicle. An arrest warrant has been issued for Franco.

ACLU CHALLENGES STATE POLICE ROLE

The two shootings within one hour of each other, six days into the “Metro Surge Operation” and by the same law enforcement agency are now being questioned by APD Police reform advocates, police critics and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. Concerns are being raised about how the New Mexico State Police officers will be handling calls for service in Albuquerque during the surge operation while at the same time APD Officers are operating under separate mandated reforms of a federal court approved settlement agreement (CASA) .

Peter Simonsen, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU) is arguing that the Metro Surge Operation is proving problematic when it comes to the federal court approved settlement (CASA) agreement with APD. According to Simonson:

“I think we feel like the State Police need to be held to the exact same standard that APD officers are held to and that the governor and the city should be giving the people of Albuquerque some assurances that will be the case.” Simonson proclaims he does not want the city to return to the days when police shootings were happening “practically every month”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1317254/state-police-role-in-city-challenged.html

THE CASA REFORMS

In November, 2019, it will be a full 5 years has expired since the city entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ). New “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies were written and implemented with all APD sworn receiving training on the policies. All APD sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.

Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning chokeholds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and have been completed. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents. Personnel procedures have been implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated. APD has also revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.

According to ACLU Executive Director Simonson:

“APD officers have found that [the CASA reforms] to be quite challenging, and using force appropriately obviously has been a focus over the past four years. To expect State Police officers to respond appropriately under those conditions – when they haven’t been given the kinds of training and aren’t held to all the policies APD is now held to – only sets them up to fail and only creates an explosive situation where we well could see many more police shootings in the future.”

New Mexico State Police Spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn in response to the ACLU had this to say:

“Other agencies policing within the city, including Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police, are subject to their own policies and procedures. … While the NMSP already has jurisdiction in the city, the additional officers are helping boost the number of uniformed law enforcement personnel on our streets while we continue to recruit and hire more officers. We hold our personnel to high standards and are working closely with NMSP to make sure they are working in ways that contribute to our ultimate goal: reducing violent crime in our community.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1317254/state-police-role-in-city-challenged.html

NOT ALL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND POLICIES ARE THE SAME

There are numerous law enforcement agencies that work within Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque. Those law enforcement agencies include the New Mexico State Police, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Customs and even a few Indian Tribal law enforcement agencies.

All the law enforcement agencies have their own minimum qualifications to be hired, policies, procedures and have different standards. Virtually every single federal, state, county law enforcement agency that work within the city and county boundaries have jurisdiction and authority. City, County and State Law enforcement agencies have overlapping authority and co-equal authority to arrest and enforce state and local laws.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The ACLU proclaims it does not want the city to return to the days when police shootings were happening “practically every month”. Citizens of Albuquerque want to get away with the shooting of people every day by violent felons. The City of Albuquerque is facing a serious violent crime problem with an overwhelmed and understaffed police department. One thing that is all too often voiced about the CASA reforms is that they have gone too far and APD sworn police are hamstrung by the reforms to the point they are reluctant to be proactive as other law enforcement agencies can be in the city. Notwithstanding, the Federal Monitor has reported that APD has in fact made significant progress during the past 18 months in the implementation of the reforms. The ACLU argument that APD officers have found that the CASA reforms to be quite challenging seems to be inflated or now unfounded given the Ninth Federal Monitors Report filed on May, 8 2019. You can read the report in the below blog article link.

It is understandable that the ACLU as well as APD police oversight advocates would raise concerns about the State Police officer involved shootings given the history of APD, the Department of Justice investigation of APD and the finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD resulting in federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement. However, the CASA and the reforms are APD and the City’s problem, not the problem of other law enforcement agencies. There is no legitimate reason for any law enforcement agency to agree to the CASA requirements imposed on APD because of APD’s history of a “culture of aggression.” It is likely those agencies would not even bother to help APD under such demands.

APD is the only law enforcement agency in the State of New Mexico that is operating under a federal court approved settlement agreement. It is not reasonable to infer that that those agencies are not properly trained in following sound constitutional policing practices. It is ludicrous and not at all realistic to demand that any and all law enforcement agencies that assist or participate in law enforcement initiatives to help APD, such as the metro surge operation, to follow the requirement and training mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. In other words, you need to use what ever water you can get to put out a fire.

Coordinated and targeted law enforcement initiatives such as the “Metro Surge Operation” are a very common practice for any number of law enforcement agencies, including APD. Such initiatives are very common against repeat violent offenders and the illicit drug trade. The “Metro Surge Operation” is the very type of law enforcement practices needed in Albuquerque in an attempt to bring down our out of control violent crime rates. With a little luck, the New Mexico State Police Officers will not be needed come July 5, 2019 when the surge is supposed to end.

Ninth APD Federal Monitor’s Report Filed; Negotiate Dismissal of CASA

The Charge To Extract You From Your Car Crash Will Be $1,305; Hopefully, It’s A Flat Fee That Won’t Be Charged Per Body Part Extracted

“Our resources are incredibly drained, and we’re trying to recover from a decade-long shortage of investments in first responders. … Anything we can do for public safety, we need to do right now without question” so said Mayor Tim Keller in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal regarding his plans to have the Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department (AFRD) to start billing taxpayers when it is dispatched to the scene of a car crash or vehicle fires to raise $1 million to fund 12 firefighter positions.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1317594/mayor-proposes-fees-for-accidents-using-excessive-fire-rescue-services.html

ALBUQUERQUE FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT(AFRD) BUDGET

On April 1, 2019, the Keller Administration submitted its 2019-2020 fiscal year operating city budget to the Albuquerque City Council for review and budget hearings. The Keller Administration wanting to charge for AFRD responses for car crashes and fires is contained in the 2019-2020 proposed budget. You can review the entire proposed budget for AFRD here at page 110 of the budget:

http://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-20-proposed-budget.pdf

The operating budget submitted by the Keller Administration is for $1.1 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. Last year, the operating budget was $997 million. The Albuquerque City Council raised the gross receipts tax last year by three-eighths of 1% before the budget was even submitted. Mayor Tim Keller signed off on the tax increase breaking his campaign promise to get elected Mayor not to raise taxes without a public vote. Last year’s tax increase was implemented in order to deal with a projected deficit of $40 million, a deficit that never materialized.

Last year’s gross receipts tax increase generates $58 million per year and more than half of the tax increase revenue is going into public safety initiatives. The 2019-2020 budget represents an overall 11% increase in spending over the current year. The proposed 2019-2020 budget is the first time in city history that the city operating budget will exceed the $1 Billion figure. A whopping 47% of the General Fund budget expenditures is dedicated to fund the Police and Fire departments. The Albuquerque Police Departments (APD) proposed budget is for $209,852,000. The AFRD proposed budget is for $97,894,000. AFRD received a budget increase to cover 19 new positions, including seven in the field.

Under the proposed budget, the AFRD will go from 731 full time positions to 766 positions. (Page 110 of Proposed 2019-2020 Budget) In the proposed budget, it states that a new “emergency incident cost” recovery fee for AFRD will be billed to a taxpayer’s auto insurance company when it is dispatched to a call for service to the scene of a car crash or vehicle fire. If approved by the City Council, this will be the first time AFRD will be billing for services to the scene of a car crash or vehicle fire. The billing is projected to yield $1 million to fund 12 new firefighting positions out of a department total budget of close to $98 million dollars.

The AFRD has outlined the new “cost recovery” system for AFRD’s responses to automobile fires and to car crashes that require hazardous material cleanup or extractions. The proposed fees as set out in the city’s fire code ordinance will be $400 for “hazard mitigation and cleanup” and another $1,305 for use of “heavy rescue tools and other equipment” to remove someone from a crash vehicle. Under the proposal, the department could also bill $400 per hour for any additional time on the scene under the plan.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Police and Fire protection are basic essential services that virtually every citizen in the city pays for with their taxes. The providing of an essential service, when it comes to police and fire protection, should be free of charge and such services should not be for profit, period. Both the police department and the fire department are not “enterprise funds” such as the aviation department that runs the airport, that operates very much like a private business when it charges “user fees” to airlines to operate and maintain the airport facilities but without a profit and with the goal of breaking even. Taxpayers have the right to demand that they not be forced to pay for basic essential services twice. The Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department (AFRD) billing a taxpayer’s auto insurance company when it is dispatched to the scene of a car crash or vehicle fires to raise $1 million to fund 12 firefighter positions borders on the grotesque on so many levels.

Car insurance coverage contracts, other than the premiums and coverage amounts, are basically not negotiable and if the city bills an insurance company it will probably claim it’s not covered and just forward it on to the insured or the party who was at fault. A very large percentage of people do not carry car insurance, and those who do, the insurance carrier will likely deduct the city charge for AFRD accident scene clean up from any insurance claim paid.

Another foreseeable problem is when the accident is the result of the city’s negligence in highway maintenance or caused by a city vehicle, say a cop running a light and t-boning someone, which has happened more than once over the past few years. If multiple cars are involved, and liability not determined, it will be difficult for the city to send the bill to the party who is truly liable. The city maintains a contract with numerous private wrecking companies that are on a rotating schedule, when the city could easily purchase “tow-trucks” and do the job to clean up crash scenes. And if there is a car crash fatality, and no insurance, the City will probably want to charge the decedent’s family for the call for service which can easily be in the thousands of dollars given the proposed fee schedule.

The proposed fee to extract someone from a car crash will be $1,305 and hopefully, it’s a flat fee that won’t be charged per body part extracted by AFRD. Next thing you know, the Keller Administration will want the police department to charge for their calls for service because APD is consistently going over its overtime budget by the millions of dollars. It is not at all difficult to imagine the AFRD or APD generating a bill for a call for service at a scene of a fatality, give it to a decedent’s relatives and telling them “Sorry for your loss. Please give this bill to your insurance carrier, and if there is no insurance, please call to make payment arraignments”.

It is pathetice how Mayor Tim Keller cannot find $1 million in a $1.1 Billion-dollar budget after last year’s tax increase to deliver a basic essential service for the fire department to be dispatched to a car crash or vehicle fire to assist. Mayor Tim Keller wanting Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department (AFRD) to bill a taxpayer when it is dispatched to the scene of a car crash or vehicle fires to raise $1 million to fund 12 firefighter positions borders on the grotesque. It is also ill advised when he says “Anything we can do for public safety, we need to do right now without question.” The providing of an essential service, when it comes to police and fire protection, should be free of charge, period. Such services should not be for profit. Next thing you know, the Keller Administration will want APD to charge for their calls for service because it is consistently going over its overtime budget by the millions of dollars. It is not at all difficult to imagine the AFRD or APD generating a bill for a call for service at a scene of a fatality, give it to a decedent’s relatives and telling them “Sorry for your loss. Please give this bill to your insurance carrier, and if you do not have insurance, call the city and payment arraignments.”

Over the next few weeks, the Albuquerque City Council “Committee of the Whole”, consisting of all 9 city councilors, will hold budget hearings on each department budget and alter or amend the budget as they see fit, vote to approve and the budget will take effect July 1, 2019. The City Council needs to put the brakes on this grotesque idea to have AFRD to charge for car crash or vehicle fire calls for service and find the $1 million in the $1.1 Billion budget, especially after Mayor Tim Keller agreed with them to raise taxes last year without a public vote. The City Council needs to tell Mayor Keller, that despite his own opinion, everything does not need to be done for public safety without question.

“So Very Sorry For Your loss. Please Give This Bill To Your Relative’s Insurance Carrier.”

When Pat Davis Does Not Speak At Press Conference, He Has His Own; Bike Patrols Ineffective To Deal With Violent Crime

On Thursday, May 16, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis held a press conference. Councilor Davis was photo graphed behind a podium in front of the Triangle Substation, he was all alone at the podium with two cops standing 5 feet or more away from him with new bicycles and helmets. No other city official was in attendance to announce spending of $6,000 to purchase 6 new bikes for five APD bike officers, a sergeant and a lieutenant so they can patrol Nob Hill on bikes.

According to Pat Davis, the “bike patrol” is a new crime-fighting tool for the southeast area of town and the initiative includes an increase in bike patrols to Albuquerque Police’s Southeast Area Command Problem Response Team. Davis proclaimed during his press conference:

“I’m proud to help our officers put their community policing training to work for our neighborhoods. … Having Officers with the ability to get out of their cars and closer to residents and businesses makes APD more visible and reinforces our community policing vision.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/city-councilor-announces-bike-patrol-expansion-in-southeast-albuquerque/5356121/?cat=500

TWO WEEKS EARLIER

On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez held a press conference to announce public safety initiatives for Nob Hill. The 4 City Councilors announced their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for fiscal year 2020. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the central corridor.

Many business owners along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area, break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and even security measures. Other Nob Hill business owners have expressed mounting frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) construction.

ONE WEEK EARLIER

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Jackson Weller, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor. City Councilor Pat Davis attended the press conference held in his City Council District, but he did not speak.

The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference include:

1. Assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM sate police officers already work here which will bring the number up to 57. 2. Giving UNM police access to the substation and having them coordinate patrols with Albuquerque Police Department officers.
3. Expanding the hours of the Triangle Community Substation on Central and Dartmouth until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after bars close.
4. Stationing three bike patrol teams to work in Nob Hill during the day and three or four additional officers to patrol on Friday and Saturday nights.
5. Working with the Fire Marshal and the New Mexico Registration and Licensing Department to crack down on issues relating to overcrowding and over-serving in bars that could contribute to late night violence.
6. Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to match casings to guns used in shootings throughout the state.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/gov-assigns-50-nmsp-officers-to-patrol-albuquerque-to-crack-down-on-violent-crime/5348521/?cat=500

A FEW HOURS LATER

Within a matter of hours after Pat Davis’ May 16, 2019 press conference, and 6 days after the governor sent 50 additional New Mexico State Police officers to Albuquerque to help local police fight crime, two of those state police officers fired their weapons in separate incidents in Albuquerque. The shootings were unrelated, but both started with attempted traffic stops in different areas of Albuquerque, one in the southwest part of the city and the other in the northeast.

Both officer-involved shootings occurred in the evening an hour apart. No officers were injured in either shooting, but one officer hurt his shoulder when his vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle during a “hot pursuit”. State Police Officials said one suspect was shot in the shoulder and said they were still searching for others who escaped after the second shooting.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1316731/state-police-involved-in-shooting-in-sw-abq.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

What is clear from the two officer involved shootings the same day as the Pat Davis press conference, bike patrols are not going to cut it when your dealing with Albuquerque’s violent crime and murder rates. Bike patrols are effective when you want some extent of police presence for community-based policing, but bike patrols are a serious waste of resources when dealing with violent crimes and criminal investigations.

Every APD sworn police officer is given a fully equipped $45,000 plus take-home vehicle with a secured back area to transport arrested suspects.

Pat Davis is not one to ever shy away from a TV news camera to take credit for any action in his City Council District. Pat Davis did not announce his Nob Hill Bike Patrols at the May 10, 2019 press conference with Mayor Keller and DA Torrez even though it would have been totally appropriate and timely to do so, but he no doubt knew that he was going to have his own press conference six days later so he could take all the credit for the Nob Hill Bike patrols.

Hopefully the bikes Pat Davis had purchased come equipped with “bungy cords” to strap arrested defendants to take them to jail after a “hot pursuit”.

Pat Davis is running to get elected again to the Albuquerque City Council. Davis has only one opponent: Gina Naomi Dennis, a progressive Democrat and a Bernie Sanders delegate two years ago.

You can contact City Clerk Katy Duhigg at (505) 924-3650 or at cityclerk@cabq.gov for further information on the November 5, 2019 municipal election.

ALB City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis Both Need To Voted Out Of Office And Thanked For Their Service

Pat Davis Not Worthy To Be Elected To City Council A Second Term; Congresswoman Debra Haaland Needs To Distance Herself from Davis.

Accused Murderer Darian Bashir To Be Held Without Bond Pending Trial; Deep Dive Analysis On Bail Bond Reform Labeled “Catch And Release”

On May 4, 2019, 23-year-old University of New Mexico student Jackson Weller was shot and killed outside a crowded “Imbibe Night Club” in the heart of Nob Hill making him the 26th person killed by gun violence in Albuquerque this year. Thus far, 15 of the homicides remain unsolved. Law enforcement authorities reported that there have been 114 people shot in 112 days in Bernalillo County including the city of Albuquerque through April 23, which is a 36% increase over last year during the same time period.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced detectives had arrested Darian Bashir, 23, for the killing of Weller. News reports revealed that in November 2017, Darian Bashir was charged with aggravated battery after he allegedly walked up to another young man in Downtown Albuquerque and shot him at point-blank range in the chest. The case was dismissed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office because the victim, who survived being shot, did not testify. The case was dismissed in January 2018 after the DA’s Office failed to comply with court mandated hearing deadlines, including not arranging witness interviews.

According to Court records, it was District Court Judge Richard Brown that released Bashir back in January pending trial because he had a “minimal criminal history” and “no felony convictions” and noted “He was charged with a violent felony in 2017, but the charges were dismissed.” Transcripts of the previous hearing revealed the judge “was troubled by some inferences,” including the idea that Defendant Bashir and the others he was with, had been shooting at police officers an allegation the APD police officers did not include in the criminal complaint they filed with the court. Ultimately, Judge Brown found that although Bashir posed a safety risk to the community, that risk could “be reasonably addressed with appropriate conditions of release” which ostensibly was not objected to by the DA’s office.

DEFENDANT DARIAN BASHIR TO BE HELD WITHOUT BOND PENDING TRIAL

On May 15, 2019, District Judge Brett Loveless in a pre-trial detention hearing ordered Darian Bashir the accused of killer of Jackson Weller to be held without bond pending trial. Defendant Darian Bashir faces an open count of murder.

During the detention hearing, the defense attorney pointed out that Darain Bashir, 23, has never been convicted of a crime, he has no history of failure to appear, and a public safety assessment that takes those and other factors into consideration recommended he be released from custody. Bashir’s attorney also argued that police arrested the wrong man because the arrest warrant had the wrong date listed on the police offense report.

In response, District Judge Brett Loveless pointed out that Bashir had been released in a pending February case and was under court supervision at the time of Jackson Weller’s death and said:

“The defendant was already on conditions of release, where he was being supervised by Pretrial Services at a Level 3, which is only one level lower than the greatest level, and in spite of that … he is alleged to have committed a murder. ”

Ultimately, Judge Lovelace agreed with the prosecution and ordered Bashir to be held pending trial.

You can review all the news coverage at the below links:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/man-accused-of-killing-unm-baseball-player-to-be-held-pending-trial/5354787/?cat=500

https://www.koat.com/article/man-charged-with-killing-unm-baseball-player-will-be-held-without-bond/27484977

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/man-accused-of-killing-unm-baseball-player-will-remain-locked-up-until-trial/2004496653

https://www.abqjournal.com/1316232/judge-detains-man-accused-in-unm-baseball-players-death.html

CONSTITUTIONAL BAIL BOND AMENDMENT EXPLAINED

Albuquerque’s crime wave and its violent and murder rate coupled with the killing of Jackson Weller and the release of accused defendant Darian Bashir has again reignited calls for repeal of New Mexico’s Denial of Bail Measure with accusations of “catch and release” of violent felons by Judges.

On November 8, 2016, the “New Mexico Denial of Bail Measure” was approved by New Mexico voters by a landslide vote.

The Constitutional Amendment amended the New Mexico Constitution to change the conditions under which a defendant can be denied bail and not released from custody pending trial. The Constitutional Amendment was designed to retain the right to pretrial release for “non-dangerous” defendants.

Before passage of the amendment, a defendant’ s bail and release from jail pending trial on charges could be denied:

1. Only for a defendant charged with a capital felony, or
2. A defendant has two or more felony convictions or
3. A defendant is accused of a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon if the defendant has a felony conviction in New Mexico.

The adopted amendment changed these requirements, allowing bail to be denied to a defendant who has been charged with a felony only if the prosecutor can prove to a judge that the defendant poses “a threat to the public.”

The adopted amendment also provides that a defendant who is not a danger to the community or a flight risk cannot be denied bail solely because of the defendant’s financial inability to post a money or property bond.

https://votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measure/2076/a-joint-resolution-proposing-an-amendment-to-article-2-section#.XNyEJo5KiUk

A “YES” vote supported allowing courts to deny bail to a defendant charged with a felony if a prosecutor shows evidence that the defendant poses a threat to the public, while also providing that a defendant cannot be denied bail because of a financial inability to post a bond.

A “NO” vote opposed the changes in bail thereby keeping the state’s specific requirements that bail could be denied to a defendant charged with a felony if the defendant also had prior felony convictions in the state.

https://ballotpedia.org/New_Mexico_Changes_in_Regulations_Governing_Bail,_Constitutional_Amendment_1_(2016)

The final vote was 87.23%, with 616,887 voting YES and 12.77%, with 90,293 voting NO.

District Attorneys throughout the state argue the changes to the bail bond laws, as well as rules imposed by the New Mexico Supreme Court, have made it way too difficult for them to prove to a judge that a defendant poses a threat to the public justifying that a violent felon be denied bail and be held in custody pending trial.

The argument is now being made that judges are allowing “catch and release of violent felons”.

THE DEBATE RAGES ON BAIL BOND REFORM

On Tuesday May 14, 2019, “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” published the article “Judge Seats Get Hotter As Crime Wave Stokes Anger. … ”

Political blogger Joe Monahan began his news story covering the debate by quoting an attorney who wanted to remain anonymous and who said:

“What is not being discussed is the real story behind the “reform” of the bail system by a couple of legislative leaders and a Supreme Court justice. Well intended perhaps, but in application has created the catch and release system that criminals exploit and brings crime to us and backlogs the courts and prosecutors. Someday, somebody has to discuss how voters were led to passing a constitutional amendment that voters and the press were told was a crackdown on crime. It was the opposite, but progressive proponents cloaked the agenda by creating a fictitious diversion and the appearance of being tougher on crime.”

On Wednesday May 15, 2019, Albuquerque criminal defense attorney Jody Neal-Post provided to Joe Monahan the following informative analysis on why the public may be confused as to whether the bail amendment is working for them or against them:

“I am the attorney, along with co-counsel, Jeff Rein (currently the Albuquerque District Defender), who litigated State v. Walter Brown, which led to the ‘”bail amendment.” I was also the House Judiciary Committee attorney who did the legal analysis on the amendment at the legislative session following the Supreme Court decision in Brown.”

“I can tell you what is going on. The judges are following the law to require clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain. The prosecutors in Albuquerque are simply dug in, refusing to bring that evidence before the court in an ill-advised power struggle with our judges.”

“. . . Take the tragic case of the slain UNM baseball player. The alleged suspect in that case is reported to have been indicted for shooting someone in the stomach before this newest allegation. Then the alleged suspect was arraigned in a shooting where no one was injured. Now the allegations in the latest tragedy, a third set of allegations.”

“In the alleged stomach shooting, the case was dismissed without prejudice for the District Attorney’s failure to meet court deadlines. The District Attorney could have re-indicted the very next day. He did not. Prosecutorial discretion as to what charges to bring and when is absolute. No judge or defense counsel can affect that decision-making. So, the District Attorney made his lawful decision not to prioritize that first shooting case via prosecution.”

“Then the second set of allegations. The State tries to detain the defendant but because they failed to maintain the first prosecution, the defendant on the 2nd set of charges has no ongoing conditions of release he can be alleged to have violated because he is not on any conditions, thanks to the dismissed initial case. . . Then, in the detention hearing on the second case, the District Attorney continued his pattern since the bail amendment went into effect–that he almost categorically refuses to put on live witness testimony in a detention hearing.”

“What the District Attorney does put on is the criminal complaint or indictment on paper. Both of those documents establish probable cause for the state to proceed to prosecute. Probable cause is akin to a 35% certainty of criminal wrongdoing. Our bail amendment requires clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain, akin to a 75% or so certainty. Thirty-five percent simply never equals 75 percent. Period. The District Attorney must put on more proof, and in our present example, a significant part of that proof would have come from either a conviction on the first case or violation of conditions of release on the first case, which the District Attorney did not have because he failed to meet his deadlines and successfully prosecute that first case or failed to immediately re-indict it.”

“The Second Judicial District Attorney litigated whether live witness testimony is required to succeed in a detention hearing. Our Supreme Court said “no,” in a trilogy of cases decided in January 2018. But the Court also said the clear and convincing evidentiary standard is high. The court let practitioners know that merely reiterating the indictment is 35% certainty and will rarely ever meet the clear and convincing standard of 75% certainty. The prosecutor proceeds at their own risk, hence the risk to the public every time prosecutors ignore the directives of the Supreme Court in detention hearings. . ..”

“Our judges are doing their jobs. Criminal defense attorneys have almost no role in detention hearings, other than to say the District Attorney has not put on clear and convincing evidence when that is the case. Complete control of what evidence is put on in detention hearings rests in the absolute discretion of the prosecutor and the prosecutors are refusing to put the required evidence in their possession before the courts to establish clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness.”

“The bail amendment has never been tested to gauge its impact on public safety because of the power struggle the District Attorneys have taken against the judges in refusing to just put on the evidence and see what results. When the public demands the prosecutors participate as partners in the criminal justice system’s role in public safety, and the prosecutors give in and bring the courts the necessary evidence, then we will know if the bail amendment can meet the voters’ expectations in the detentions of the most dangerous defendants. Only then.”

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/

BAIL BOND INDUSTRY ATTORNEY A. BLAIR DUNN’S TAKE

Attorney A. Blair Dunn is in the private practice of law and currently focuses on constitutional law, civil rights, government transparency and natural resource litigation. Mr. Dunn also represents the New Mexico Bail Bond Industry as plaintiffs in a case file against the New Mexico Supreme Court regarding the court rules promulgated to enforce the bail bond amendment.

Following is Mr. Dunn’s analysis:

“Judges are told by the [NM Supreme Court] rules that they ‘shall’ release a person accused of a crime on their own recognizance unless the very high standard of “no set of non-monetary conditions” will ensure that persons return to court. On one hand the public was told that the 2016 Constitutional Amendment would help the District Attorneys keep dangerous people locked up before trial … and then on the other the Supreme Court [ rules force lower courts] … to let men like Bashir walk free repeatedly with nothing more than a promise to behave while they wait for a trial that they will never attend.”

“[An] explanation of what happened, how and why would be helpful for understanding why this mess is such a mess. First, a basic premise that we can all agree on – our system of criminal justice was founded upon the idea that there was a delicate balance of maintaining a person’s presumption of innocence versus the government interest in making sure that person accused of a crime returned to stand trial following the time between arrest and trial. This was historically done by the offering of assurances or by a person acting as a surety that the person would return.”

Fast forwarding through history to our Constitution and 8th Amendment in the Bill of Rights we as country recognized this right to bail and limited that bail cannot be excessive because excessive bail that a person cannot afford to ensure their liberties and presumption of innocence remain intact pending trial is really denying them bail. Our own New Mexico Constitution states the following … :

“All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great and in situations in which bail is specifically prohibited by this section. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” (N.M. Const. art. II, § 13.)

“In 2014 the Walter Brown case happened. In effect, Mr. Brown was denied the right to bail because the judge set bail in an amount in excessive of what the indigent Mr. Brown could afford and he was trapped in jail. I think most lawyers recognize that the US and NM Constitutions already prohibit what happened to Mr. Brown from happening, but … [many blamed the bail bond industry and a move began] … to adopt a new set of laws. … In order to convince the public that this was a good idea, … language was included that was designed to provide an avenue to keep dangerous people in detention pending trial. Ultimately, legislation was not adopted [but] … a constitutional amendment was [written] by the Legislature to present to the voters as a compromise.”

“That compromise that was adopted by the voters in 2016 adds the following language to Section 13:

Bail may be denied by a court of record pending trial for a defendant charged with a felony if the prosecuting authority requests a hearing and proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community. An appeal from an order denying bail shall be given preference over all other matters.”

“A person who is not detain able on grounds of dangerousness nor a flight risk in the absence of bond and is otherwise eligible for bail shall not be detained solely because of financial inability to post a money or property bond. A defendant who is neither a danger nor a flight risk and who has a financial inability to post a money or property bond may file a motion with the court requesting relief from the requirement to post bond. The court shall rule on the motion in an expedited manner.”

“This compromise remains within the boundaries of the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution by providing that if the state decides a person is a danger to the community that they must convince a judge by clear and convincing evidence (remember our system of justice regards pretrial release and presumption of innocence as a fundamental liberty that should be taken away lightly) that the person is a danger to the community and that if the person lack financial ability that they can make a motion to the court to be excused from the requirements of posting sufficient sureties. And with that everything should have been okay! [After the constitutional amendment was enacted] … the New Mexico Supreme Court convened a committee to change the [lower court] rules [to implement the new law]. … [T]hose rules [went into effect] in 2017.”

“Now this is the crux of where things went awry. The changes to the rules require the judges to release virtually everybody on their own recognizance with conditions every time. This takes what is essentially already a tough burden on clear and convincing and put a thumb on the scale [of justice] towards releasing everyone without regard for whether they will show back up for trial or whether they are dangerous to the community such that they should be financially incentivized not to commit any more crimes while they are awaiting trial.”

“The rules also got rid of the decades if not century old system of jail house bonds which allowed people to avoid full incarceration before arraignment by posting a bond – for instance you get picked up for felony DWI Friday night, you post the jail house bond and you don’t have to sit in jail and wait for your arraignment on Wednesday when they finally get to you.”

“Instead now what happens, continuing with the felony DWI example, you get arrested you sit in jail for several days and then you are arraigned, the judge won’t let you post a bond and be treated like you are innocent until you are proven guilty, rather you are forced to wear an ankle bracelet 24 hours a day, you can’t go visit your grandmother in Santa Fe, you have to surrender your weapons (leaving you without the protections of the 2nd Amendment in Albuquerque), you must submit to drug and alcohol testing and mental health screening with counseling and you must constantly check in with a probation officer.”

“Essentially what the rules do is require that everybody is treated like they are poor and everybody has to suffer much greater intrusions into their life because everybody is now presumed guilty until they prove their innocence. … [T]he rules took what was a constitutionally sound system and turned it on its head, essentially forcing the judges to treat the dangerous criminals like the innocent persons charged with a crime and treated the presumed innocent persons like they were guilty until their trial.”

“What the Supreme Court did … was unconstitutional in two major ways. First, the Supreme Court is not supposed to legislate. The legislature makes policy into law and the courts are only supposed to interpret the laws. Instead the Supreme Court violated the Separation of Powers in our NM Constitution and exceeded the authority to make rules that had been delegated to them by the New Mexico Legislature in statute. Second, their actions infringed upon the rights of all of us as Americans that are protected by the 4th 8th and 14th Amendments.”

“So while right now many people are mad at Judge Brown and blame the judges for this catch and release system or want to blame the district attorneys for not keeping people in jail before trial … the real damage that destroyed the system was the rules that were [promulgated by the New Mexico Supreme Court to implement the new constitutional amendment].”

“Either the Supreme Court needs to fix their rules or the Legislature [needs to] change the laws to take this away from the Court. The Legislature has had an opportunity 2 years in a row to ask the Court to fix their rules and the Legislature wouldn’t even pass the memorial asking nicely for the Supreme Court to do that.
…”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Under the United States and the New Mexico Constitutions, all are guaranteed the right of due process of law no matter how heinous or violent the crime. In criminal trials, with no exceptions, any defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. A person is also entitled to post bond.

What is always ignored or forgotten whenever bond reform is discussed are some of the main reasons for the changes in the law: jail overcrowding and people held for crimes they did not commit or held on low level criminal charges, such as drugs, felony thefts and credit card fraud charges, for months and at times years only to be released. Those that could afford or had the resources to pay a bond, cash or surety, were released while those who were indigent sat in jail days, weeks or even months awaiting a trial, no matter the charges.

Prior to the bond reform, the Bernalillo County Detention Center was chronically overcrowded. Years ago, the downtown jail could house up to 800 and it often would house up to 1,200 forcing the doubling up on individual cell space. The overcrowding resulted in a Federal Lawsuit that was finally settled after almost 30 years of litigation. The West side facility after it was built can house up to 2,000, and sure enough overcrowding occurred again within a matter of months.

New Mexico’s criminal justice system is re-pleat with many cases where criminal defendants are arrested for violent crimes, including murder and rape, sit in jail pending trial for months on end, only to be released when it is found out a murder was committed by another, admitted to by another or DNA testing and forensics identified another who committed the rape.

The new court rules on bond hearings and the degree of proof needed to detain an accused are a “work in progress” as was pointed out by State Representative Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, an attorney and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee when she said:

“I think we need to give the court some time to figure this out.”

Going after and complaining about judges for their release rulings is a red flag of ignorance of our criminal justice system. All judge’s take an oath of office to preserve, defend and protect our constitution.

Judges are strictly prohibited by the Supreme Court Rules and the Code of Judicial Conduct from commenting on pending cases and voicing opinions that call into question their fairness and impartiality, especially in criminal cases. Judges are prohibited from defending their decisions and sentencing in a public forum outside of their courtroom so criticizing judges is like “shooting fish” in a barrel.

The New Mexico Supreme Court needs to revisit the bond rules, change them and find a permanent solution that will give the lower court’s far more latitude and discretionary authority when it comes to the bond hearings and holding violent criminals in jail until trial. Common sense guidelines, not hard set mathematical formulas allowing no discretion, need to be given the Judges to allow them to make decisions that they believe are in the best interest to protect the public as well as the defendant’s rights to due process of law. Otherwise, the New Mexico legislature may act on its own and seek repeal of the constitutional amendment.

Notwithstanding, in the case of Defendant Darian Bashir, the 2016 Constitutional Amendment approved by voters worked, as did the rules promulgated by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Bashir will sit in jail until his trial, be given due process of law and if convicted sentenced once found guilty by a jury. Whatever sentence Bashir receives will be reduced by the amount of time served in jail pending trial.

Murderers, Thieves and Crooks Do Not Watch The News

On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez held their own press conference to announce public safety initiatives for Nob Hill. The 4 City Councilors announced their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for fiscal year 2020. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the central corridor.

Many business owners along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area, break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and even security measures. Other Nob Hill business owners have expressed mounting frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) construction.

The business owners in Nob Hill asked for 12 bike officers and six dedicated motorized police units every night in the Nob Hill business district. This may sound familiar because that is what happened in downtown central, but on a much larger scale. The proposed $1.5 million investment supposedly will help lure customers back to the area because many businesses had to close during the disastrous ART Bus project down central.

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Jackson Weller, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not attend the news conference but it was revealed that there were a series of meetings throughout the week where she pledged the assistance of her administration, including State Police, the state Probation and Parole Division, and the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference include:

1. Assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM sate police officers already work here which will bring the number up to 57.
2. Giving UNM police access to the substation and having them coordinate patrols with Albuquerque Police Department officers.
3. Expanding the hours of the Triangle Community Substation on Central and Dartmouth until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after bars close.
4. Stationing three bike patrol teams to work in Nob Hill during the day and three or four additional officers to patrol on Friday and Saturday nights.
5. Working with the Fire Marshal and the New Mexico Registration and Licensing Department to crack down on issues relating to overcrowding and over-serving in bars that could contribute to late night violence.
6. Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to match casings to guns used in shootings throughout the state.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/gov-assigns-50-nmsp-officers-to-patrol-albuquerque-to-crack-down-on-violent-crime/5348521/?cat=500

During the May 10, 2019 press conference, APD Chief Geier said:

“The whole southeast is part of the initiative … The Nob Hill area right now is the most visible because of the recent homicide, the business owners and their concerns.”
APD to increase the presence of police throughout the area and in the Southwest Area Command, where gun violence is the most prevalent. The 57 State Police officers will be stationed along Central, from UNM to Wyoming.”

On May 14, 2019, 4 days after the press conference, the Lilly Barrack jewelry store in Nob Hill reported a break-in. Lilly Barrack Jewelry store is within walking distance of where the May 10, 2019 press conference was held as is the Triangle substation. The owner of Lilly Barack reported losing at least $30,000 worth of jewelry.

Cell phone video of the shop taken after the break-in revealed the aftermath of a burglary at the Lilly Barrack jewelry store in Nob Hill. Thieves broke a window to get into a vacant shop that shares a wall with the jewelry store and the thieves then broke through that wall.

Jamie Leeds, one of the store owners, reported:

“They had stolen every single layaway, every customer’s pieces of jewelry that was dropped off to be repaired, fixed or polished. … They had stolen all jewelry out of the cases. … Every single piece of Lilly Barrack jewelry is handmade. … There’s no two pieces that ever look exactly the same.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/thieves-steal-30000-worth-of-jewelry-from-nob-hill-shop/5353346/?cat=500

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

One thing is for certain, murders, thieves and crooks do not watch the news. Another thing certain, they apparently like Nob Hill.

Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and the Albuquerque City Council should be realizing that law enforcement takes more than just press conferences for a photo op to announce new initiatives to get results. There must be aggressive follow up by their subordinates which is the heavy lifting.

If you are being given everything you want and have asked for, and then some, sooner or later people demand results. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and the creations of new programs and initiatives at APD are not having any effect on bringing down our crime.

What is really unfortunate is that during the last year and a half, Mayor Tim Keller has had press conference after press conference to announce new APD law enforcement initiative and changes in APD policy, and nothing seems to be working. Patience is now running thin and public relations is not cutting it.

It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now an issue of management, or mismanagement of resources, by Mayor Tim Keller, and APD Chief Michael. If the people Mayor Keller has hired are not following through on his announced initiatives and not getting the job done, personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations.

Otherwise voters will be making their own changes.

Mayor Tim Keller Gives Thousands Of Raises To His Political Appointees While Average City Employee Gets 2% Pay Increase

KOAT TV Target 7 reported that Mayor Tim Keller has given his appointed, highest paid city hall administrators literally thousands of dollars in raises.

The raises were given without informing the City Council and giving an after the fact justifications to the media for the raises.

You can view the entire Target 7 report at this link:

https://www.koat.com/article/top-city-officials-get-big-raises/27459126

CLASSIFIED VERSUS UNCLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES

The Albuquerque City Council is in the process of reviewing the 2019-2019 $1.2 Billion dollar proposed budget that goes into effect July 1, 2019. The City of Albuquerque employs approximately 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees with 26 separate departments. The City of Albuquerque pays an average of $17.61 an hour to City Hall employees or $36,628.80 a year depending on the positions held and required education level and training levels. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $17.61 paid hourly = $36,628.80) Roughly 4,500 City Hall employees are considered “classified employees” who are covered by the city’s personnel rules and regulations.

There are 223 full time “ungraded” positions at City Hall, who are in unclassified positions and “at-will” employees who can be terminated “without cause” and who work at the pleasure of the Mayor or the City Council. All of the Mayor’s top administrators and City Hall Department Directors are “unclassified employees” and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and can be terminated without cause.

At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. In February, 2019, City of Albuquerque updated the list of the 250 top wage earners at City Hall for 2018. You can review the entire listing of all 25o wage earners at the below link.

POLITICAL APPOINTEES GIVEN THOUSANDS IN RAISES

KOAT TV Target 7 reviewed the city’s transparency website and found 5 political, at will employee appointees received raises in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Keller has given APD Police Chief Michael Geier a $27,000 raise and he is now being paid $187,000 a year.

Keller has given his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair a $20,000 pay increase and she is now paid $190,000 a year.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow’s pay went from $132,000 to $150,000, or $18,000 more.

Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael is now being paid $185,000, up $19,000 from last year.

Keller gave his Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta a $13,000 raise and his pay is $131,200.01.

Because Keller’s top administration employees are appointed by the mayor, the City Council does not have to approve any of raises. The approval of all the raises came from Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, who had to approve her own $20,000 pay raise and Mayor Keller.

Mayor Tim Keller issued a statement through a spokesperson indicating all the raise he gave were needed for the city to stay competitive and the statement said:

“We looked at salaries for these positions throughout our region and found that, even after these raises, our salaries are much lower than those offered in cities in the region of a similar size. We also have to compete with the new state administration which pays higher salaries, and to which we lost several key people, and a city council that has given consistent annual raises. By offering more comparable salaries, our goal is to attract and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque.”

COMPARING THE SALARY INCREASES

Following is the salaried paid all 5 that appeared in the February, 2019 list of 250 top wage earners comparing their salaries to their predecessors at city hall:

Chief Administrative Office (CAO) SARITA NAIR: $169,556.80, now paid $190,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936.

Chief Administrative Office Chief Operations Officer LAWRENCE RAEL: $165,524.80, now paid $185,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief MICHAEL GEIER: $159,513.60, now paid $187,000 a year. Former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief PAUL DOW: $132,691.20, now paid $150,000. Former Fire Chief David W. Downey was paid $138,993.

Finance Admin Svc CFO/Director SUNALEI BHAKTA: $131,200.01. Former Director of Finance Department Lou Hoffman was paid $99,732.

The Mayor’s salary and City Council salaries are determined by the Citizens’ Independent Salary Commission. Beginning January 1, 2018, the Mayor’s salary went from $103,854 a year to $125,00 a year. Mayor Keller is provided with a car, expense account as well as an APD protection detail. Eight Albuquerque City Councilors are paid $30,000 annually and the City Council President is paid $32,000 annually. The city council also increased their contituent contact fund from $5,000 to $20,000.

https://www.cabq.gov/audit/citizens-independent-salary-commission

2% RAISES FOR ALL OTHER CITY EMPLOYEES

On April 1, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted to the Albuquerque City Council a $1.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. The proposed budget represents an 11% increase in spending over the current year. Under the proposed budget, general fund spending, which covers most city government operations, climbs $65 million to $642 million. Buried in Keller’s 2019-2020 proposed budget is city workers will get a 2% pay raise under the Keller budget plan, though those represented by unions could get more based on their units’ agreements.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1299497/abq-budget-could-surpass-1-billion-for-the-first-time.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In the normal world outside of city hall, even in other government agencies and in the private sector, huge salary increases are associated with promotions, additional responsibilities taken on or exceptional job performance above and beyond the call of duty. The truth is that it is difficult to identify with any clarity exactly how APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta have set themselves apart or have gone above and beyond the normal job performance required by their positions.

It is these types of out of line salary increases that creates a tremendous amount of animosity among the personnel of the city of Albuquerque. It is these types of raises that essentially tarnishes the reputation of elected officials by allowing their top paid administrators to engage in a money grab with the public perceiving poor performance, no results and even mediocrity.

Former Republican Mayor Richard Berry was notorious for paying astronomical, out of line salaries to his top political operatives, especially during his second term in office. For example former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936 (#1 highest paid employee), former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699 (#2 highest paid employee), former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319 (#4 highest paid employee), former City Attorney Jessica Hernandez was paid $150,217 (#5 highest paid employee), former Fire Chief David W. Downey was $138,993 (#11 highest paid employee), former Deputy Fire Chief Eric Garcia was paid $133,872 (#13 highest paid employee) and former APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman was paid $132,435.

The most disgusting pay increase Berry gave was a 22%, $33,000 pay increase to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Berry who was paid $190,000 a year and became the top paid city hall employee of all time. What made Perry’s raise so disgusting is that he made sure all other city employees were given pay cuts of 2% at the time or zero or 1% or 2% pay increases and even going so far as cancelling the negotiated pay increases for police officers. Berry justified his salary increases by using similar or identical arguments Keller is now using saying that the salary increases were needed to keep people from going elsewhere and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque. Yeah, right.

https://www.abqjournal.com/292346/ex-councilor-ken-sanche-zcalls-increase-unacceptable-administrator-perry-had-been-finalist-to-lead-nm-finance-authority.html

To be perfectly blunt, the salaries now being paid to APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta now are probably the most they have ever been paid in their careers. At least 4 appointees were hired by Keller without a real national search to fill their positions and are considered Keller’s political operatives and “inner circle” of loyalist. The “national search” for a new APD Chief was considered by many as a sham with Geier always considered the front runner. Geier also has two other retirements that are vested. There was no need to attract many with pay in that they worked for Keller when he was state auditor.

Given all the recent stories on Albuquerque’s violent crime rates and the murders, the $27,000 raise for Chief Geier is highly questionable and very difficult to justify to the public. Adding insult to injury, APD Chief Geier decided not discipline APD’s Public Information Officer Simon Drobik for claiming massive amounts of overtime and being paid $192,000 in 2018, despite recommendations by the Police Oversight Commission he be terminated. What Geier and Drobik are being paid is considered nothing but a money grab, as is all the other pay raises in the double digits.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/05/01/pathetic-but-not-surprising-no-discipline-for-apd-192000-spokesman/

Mayor Tim Keller prides himself in being well educated and a quick learner and said when he was running for Mayor he said he “had done good at all the jobs he ever held.” With only one year and six months in office, Keller has learned very quickly to make sure his political operatives are well taken care of by giving them out of line salary increases that approach what many city hall employees makes in a full year. Mayor Keller will now have to deal with the animosity among average city hall workers his pay raises will no doubt create. One thing is for sure is the 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees who did not get raises do vote, as do their families, and Keller will have to decide was it worth it.

For a related blog article listing the 250 top wage earners in 2018 see:

“$100,000 Or More” Paid To All 250 Top ABQ City Hall Employees