APD External Force Investigation Team Files Third Quarterly Report: 3,674 Use of Force Incidents Reported, 44.54% of Use of Force Investigations Found Out Of Compliance, 667 Case Backlog On Hold; Federal Monitor’s 15th Report; Remove Sergeants And Lieutenants From Police Union

On February 26, 2021, the City and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a Stipulated Agreement filed with the United States District Court to stay a contempt of court proceeding against the city for willful violations of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The Stipulated Order established the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT).

On May 16, the External Force Investigation Team filed with the Federal Court its third Quarterly Report on the progress made by APD. The third report is 38 pages and covers the time period of February 17, 2022 to April 22, 2022. It has 8 Exhibits (A through H) adding The report was prepared by EFIT Administrator Darryl S.Neier.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The link to the EFIT 3rd Quarterly Report, along with Quarterly Reports 1 and 2, will be found at the below link under the title External Force Investigation Team Quarterly Reports once posted by the city:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents-related-to-apds-settlement-agreement

This blog article is a report on the findings of the EFIT contained in the report. It also touches on the 15th Federal Monitors report released prior to the EFIT Third Quarterly report and reports on the approval of APD’s budget. Reviewed together, the 15th Federal Monitors Report and the EFIT 3rd quarterly report represent that APD has taken two steps forward followed by two steps backwards in coming into compliance with the DOJ reforms mandated by the consent decree.

BACKGROUND

The APD Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD) intentionally did not investigate 667 cases of police “use of force cases” to the point that even if investigators found officers hadn’t followed policies, they could not be disciplined because the deadlines had passed.

The External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) was established to train APD’s force investigators and ensure cases were being investigated within 90 days. Since EFIT started its work, no new cases have been added to the backlog. Federal Judge James Browning who is assigned to oversee the settlement has signed off on a plan to allow the EFIT to continue its work and also to review the backlog cases.

The EFIT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is required to respond to all police use of force call outs within 1 hour of notification.

All Use of Force (“UOF”) investigations undertaken by the EFIT must be completed within 60 days with an additional 30-day supervisory review period for a total of 90 days from start to finish. Pursuant to the Federal Court Order, EFIT must conduct joint investigations with APD Internal Affairs Force Division (“IAFD”) of all Level 2 and Level 3 Use Of Incidents . This includes all Tactical Deployments where there is APD police Use of Force is utilized. EFIT must also assist APD with training concerning the its Use of Force policies.

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS EFIT THIRD QUARTERLY REPORT

Major highlights and findings that can be gleaned and that have been edited to assist public consumption from the third EFIT Quarterly Report are as follows:

CASES OUT OF COMPLIANCE

“As of this report, 21 out of the 229 OR 9.17%) of the Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be not within the APD Use of Force policies. This is a decrease from the 10.63% reported in the previous quarterly report.

Most significantly, 102 out of the 229 or 44.54% of the Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be out of compliance when evaluated against the Process Narrative utilized to assess investigations. This is an increase from 34.4% reported in the previous quarterly report). This development must be an obvious concern for the Internal Affairs Force Division. (Page 5 of of EFIT report.)

As of April 22, 2022, EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division responded to and/or opened investigations on 3,674 Use of Force incidents to include 11 Officer Involved Shootings (“OIS”) and made 3 referrals to the Multi-Agency Task Force (“MATF”) for potential criminal violations.

EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division completed 229 investigations within the 90-day time period outlined in the Amended Stipulated Order. (Page 7 of report.)

EFIT assumed 10 Use of Force investigations pursuant to … the Amended Stipulated Order as those investigations became close to violating the stipulated timelines.

Pursuant to the Amended Stipulated Order, the City drafted a contract for EFIT to establish a secondary team (“EFIT 2”) to investigate and address the 667 backlog cases. While the EFIT 2 contact is pending approval with the City, the EFIT Executive Team has been diligently interviewing and securing the personnel and prepared the methodology by which the EFIT Backlog team will address the backlog cases pursuant to the Amended Stipulated Order. (Page 7 of EFIT report.)

As of August 28, 2021, IAFD met with the staffing requirement that IAFD must be staffed with 25 Detectives/Investigators. …

Currently [the Internal Affairs Force Division] has 14 civilian Investigators and 13 Detectives. In recent discussions with the Internal Affairs Force Division Commanders, it revealed that by the end of August 2022, the Internal Affairs Force Division may lose several of the most experienced personnel due to retirements, promotions, officers requesting [to go] back to field divisions and specialized field units. Chief Medina authorized the staffing of [the Internal Affairs Force Division] to be increased to 31 personnel in anticipation of the expected loss.”

ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE

“The EFIT Executive Team reported that … pursuant to the established protocols, [it began] to transition Internal Affairs Force Division detectives to conduct interviews without EFIT’s direct supervision. Nine Internal Affairs Force Division … personnel are progressing through the … the system that will ultimately lead to an IAFD Detective/Investigators conducting UOF investigations without direct supervision of EFIT. (Page 13 of EFIT report.)

Again, once a Detective/Investigator is identified by an EFIT Investigator, Supervisor or Executive Team Member, as attaining the requisite capabilities to conduct interviews without EFIT’s direct supervision, the EFIT Executive Team will make a determination that the IAFD Detective/Investigator may conduct interviews … .

As of this report, EFIT/IAFD responded to, and are investigating, a total of 367 Use of Force incidents. These investigations are completed on an average of 54.31 days. (Page 22 of EFIT Report. report.)

In addition, 229 UOF investigations were closed, averaging a total of 88.01 19 days for closure. While this currently meets the applicable timelines under the relevant documents, it will need to be addressed going forward to lower this number.

Supervisor reviews still average 22.87 days however, EFIT observed slight improvement from February 1, 2022, through April 22, 2022. The average supervisor review during this time period is now 17.41 days.

Of the UOF cases closed (229), 21 UOF cases were out of APD Policy (9.17%) and 102 of the 229 investigations (44.54%) failed to comply with the Process Narrative.

These levels remain extremely high and EFIT repeatedly meets with APD to address them. During this reporting period APD experienced 5 Officer Involved Shooting incidents. EFIT identified numerous issues regarding these cases. Specifically, during this most recent quarter, EFIT observed and/or discovered numerous issues with the way [the Internal Affairs Force Division] is handling Officer Involves Shooting investigations.

IAFD Detective are assigned varying numbers of active Use of Force investigations. This is an issue that EFIT has raised numerous times. In addition, EFIT recently has been made aware that certain IAFD Supervisors may be requesting Detectives to “sit on” completed investigations so not to make others in IAFD “make look bad.” This conduct is inexcusable if EFIT is to complete its Court ordered mandate.”

CONCERNS TO DATE

“The most troubling concerns of EFIT continue to be with the Internal Affairs Force Division supervisors and the sustainability of Internal Affairs Force Division recruitment. EFIT has serious concerns with the manner in which Internal Affairs Force Division first line supervisors are handling daily supervision of the Detectives in the Division. EFIT believes that this is clearly a first line supervisory issue that, if left uncorrected, will continue to render investigations out of compliance with the Process Narrative. (Page 24 of EFIT report.)

EFIT observed improvement when the Internal Affairs Force Division Detective respond to the scene of a Use Of Force when conducting a thorough investigation and are now finally collecting the proper documentation. However, a nationally accepted standard investigative technique and requirement of the Process Narrative is that within three business days of the Use of Force, the Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisor and Internal Affairs Force Division detective along with EFITs input, must develop an Investigative Plan.

These investigative plans are not only best practices throughout the country, they insure proper first line supervision of Detectives enabling the supervisors to know the case and status, and guiding the Detectives through the Use of Force investigations along with immediate problem solving. An added benefit to the first line supervisor is that, once the case is presented for review, they already know the case and can conduct their review in an expedient manner. (Page 25 of EFIT report.)

On March 17, 2022, after months of the EFIT Executive Team offering assistance to the Internal Affairs Force Division to address consistent violations of the Process Narrative without response, EFIT Administrators Neier and Hurlock provided training to all Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisors and Internal Affairs Force Division Command Staff as to how to compile a sufficient investigative plan.

Approximately a month after providing the investigative plan training, 29 current Use of Force of investigative plans were reviewed by the EFIT Executive Team and the team found:

A. 13.79 % – Were not filed in [in the approved format];
B. . 37.93% – Investigative plan was deemed insufficient by EFIT; and
C. 62.06 % – Failure to conduct follow-up weekly meetings and/or failure to update Investigative Plans … (Page 26)

The aforementioned concerns, will undoubtably take the UOF investigations, no matter what the outcome of APD policy decisions, out of compliance with the Process Narrative. This will have the attendant consequence of prolonging EFIT’s tenure to fulfill its Court ordered mandate.

… [O]ver the last 9-10 months, supervision at all levels is severely lacking. Indeed, supervisors, at all levels, must take responsibility for compliance. IAFD is making strides with the daily mentoring of EFIT at the Detective levels. However, the Internal Affairs Force Division command must focus on all levels of supervision to ensure that the Internal Affairs Force Division reaches a 95% compliance level as required by the Amended Stipulated Order. At this point, a great deal must be done if IAFD is to ever attain this goal. … . (Page 27 of EFIT Report)

… [T]he EFIT Executive Team noted several instances where EFIT Investigators provided guidance and expertise to Internal Affairs Force Division regarding Officer Involve Shooting investigations, and such guidance was completely ignored by Internal Affairs Force Division personnel. On one such Officer Involve Shooting investigation, the EFIT Executive Team assigned two seasoned EFIT Investigator with extensive homicide and Officer Involved Shooting experience.

At the same time, the EFIT Executive Team suggested that Internal Affairs Force Division Command reassign the Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisor for lack of supervision and the Investigator with no Officer Involve Shooting experience, stating that “she had to learn some time.

The EFIT Executive Team … suggested that a second Internal Affairs Force Division investigator be assigned with her in an observation compacity, this suggestion was also ignored. [The] Internal Affairs Force Division Command ultimately reassigned the supervision of the UOF investigation. As a result, EFIT essentially assumed primary interview responsibilities for this investigation. Moreover, considerable time was unnecessarily expended as the Investigator missed several deadlines and submitted extra material after the report was issued late.

While EFIT is limited in directing the Internal Affairs Force Division, EFIT reserves the right under the Stipulated Order … [and] the Amended Stipulated Order … to complete investigations and supervisory/command review if “believes that deficiencies in the tactics or work product of Internal Affairs Force Division personnel assigned to the investigation is likely to prevent the investigation from being completed within the deadlines provided for in the CASA, APD policy, and the CBA.”

It should be noted that EFIT is not advocating speed at the expense of a thorough and complete investigation. However, EFIT believes that it is possible to have a thorough and complete investigation in a timely manner. When EFIT provides direct guidance during a UOF investigation the total completion time is averaging 88.01 days.

EFIT believes that with proper supervision by IAFD these investigation and review timelines will decrease. EFIT is concerned that the timely completion of investigations will cease upon transfer back to IAFD for the reasons articulated thus far throughout this report.” (Page 29 of report.)

ALBUQUERQUE POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION

“EFIT reported on the prior actions of the APOA where the union’s representatives interrupted interviews in clear contravention of Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). Since EFIT’s inception and after the initial meetings with the APOA, EFIT is not experiencing the number of issues originally observed. However, on occasion these issues unfortunately occur with representatives interrupting interviews or acting in an unprofessional manner.
… .

CITY LEGAL

“EFIT identified certain issues regarding the City and its legal department. These issues include but are not limited to:

1. the ability to secure the contracts and funding for the continuation of EFIT’s current contract and the EFIT backlog team;
2. issuing opinion letters regarding the interpretation of certain labor agreements; and
3. clarification of the legal protocols concerning OIS events.

SUSTAINABILITY

“Sustainability of trained IAFD Detectives/Investigators … continue to be one of the EFIT Executive Team’s main concern related to the eventual transfer of responsibility from EFIT to APD for conducting full investigations of Level 2 and Level 3 Use of Force as individual IAFD Detectives and Supervisors meet the qualifications identified in … the Amended Stipulated Order. …

The APOA contract enables sworn personnel to “bid” based in part with seniority to various Divisions. EFIT witnessed the lack of sworn personnel wanting to transfer into the Internal Affairs Force Division requiring APD to assign the bottom of the bid list to the Internal Affairs Force Division to comply with the staffing levels of the Amended Stipulated Order.

At present little is done to keep sworn personnel in the Internal Affairs Force Division. This is especially so when promotions, requests for transfer of senior sworn personnel occur and a bid is announced. The loss of these trained personnel can be devastating.

It is anticipated that by August 2022, approximately 40% of the sworn personnel that are in the transition process will no longer be assigned to the Internal Affairs Force Division. With EFIT’s concern, APD is committed to over staffing the civilians in the Internal Affairs Force Division bringing the Division to a level of 31 from the current numbers. We commend APD in that regard however a well-functioning Internal Affairs Division needs both sworn and civilian personnel.”(Page 32 of EFIT Report.)

MINIMAL CHANGES TO POLICE UNION CONTRACT AGGRAVATE INTERNAL AFFAIRS FORCE DIVISION STAFFING

“While the City has made changes regarding incentives for the Internal Affairs Force Division personnel, EFIT believes more needs to be done. While EFIT anticipated that this would be addressed further during the recent collective bargaining agreement negotiation process, minimal changes were made in this regard in the contact signed by the City and the APOA on December 30, 2021, by providing the same incentive pay as field Officers receive for staying within the same area command as those staying in IAFD or IAPS.

Pursuant to the police union contract “An officer will receive $1,300.00 for each year served for the entire year in the same Area Command or the IA Division, up to and capped at four years of continuous service or $5,200.00 per year.” …

We commend Chief Medina in providing this incentive to the civilian Investigators, however more incentives are needed to make IAFD a sought-after Division at APD with an environment that has motivated teams and provides the best equipment, training, and promotional opportunities to Officers (Page 33 of of EFIT Report.)

Additionally, a recommendation both civilian Investigators and Detectives be required to reimburse the City for training costs if they choose to leave the Internal Affairs Force Division within a proscribed period of time to be determined. The training and mentoring are a substantial cost via EFIT, and other external sources paid by the City.

The five new civilian Investigators that APD hired are continuing their onboarding and started responding to on-scene UOF incidents the end of April 29, 2022.

While the Internal Affairs Force Division is responding within one hour as required by the Amended Stipulated Order, namely, within 42.43 minutes, its average response time is longer than EFIT’s average response time which is 28.17 minutes. It is also longer than the previous the new civilian training time of 30.55 minutes.

The assigned Internal Affairs Force Division Detective is required to pick up trainees on their way to a callout. This difference in time is due to the lack of assigned vehicles for trainees as a potential cause for this newfound delay. This has the attendant consequence of increasing the amount of time an Officer who utilized force must remain on scene.

The EFIT Executive Team conducted interviews for the Backlog Force Case Investigations Team (“EFIT 2”) 31 and are currently waiting for the City to execute and fund the contract to start the onboarding process and commence the investigations of 667 Backlog Force Cases.”

APD CITY BUDGET APPROVED

On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the 2022-2023 city budget. The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) continues to be the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and sworn count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions.

APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police for the past 3 years. However, there are currently 875 sworn officers in APD. The APD budget provides funding for 1,100 in order to accommodate growth. During APD’s budget review hearing, APD Chief Medina acknowledged that the department will likely not meet that staffing level and the personnel funds will help cover other operating costs.

The APD’s budget was increased to accommodate for an immediate 8% in police pay and another 5% in police pay to begin in July because of the new police union contract.

FUNDING FOR DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLIANCE

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget contains a line-item budget of $22,094,000 for the Office of the Superintendent of Police Reform. At the end of December, Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanly “retired” after a mere 8 months on the job and a national search is being conducted to find a replacement. The city is advertising the position with pay to be $150,000 to $180,000 depending upon experience.

Included in the 2022-2023 budget is funding of $1.6 million for the Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor assigned to audit APD’s progress in implementing the Court Approve settlement agreement. There is also an increase in one-time funding of $2.6 million for the Use of Force Contract, which is funding for 24 outside investigators hired on contract and assigned to the External Use of Force Investigation Team (EFIT) which investigates police use of force cases.

The EFIT has now been assigned with the task of the investigation of a backlog 660 sworn police use of force cases that APD was highly criticized by the Federal Monitor for its failure.

The budget also funds the CNM Academy and there is 33% increase in funding for the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, as a result of granting all requested increases to the CPOA budget.

In fiscal year 2022, 63 full-time civilian positions were added at a total cost of $4.9 million including benefits and reduction of $134 thousand in contractual services for a net cost of $4.7 million to support the daily operations and/or compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

The fiscal year 2023 proposed budget includes an additional 17 fulltime positions at a total cost of $1.4 million including benefits for 9 full-time positions for the internal affairs department, two victim advocates, three violent crime analysts, one investigative liaison to assist in non-critical tasks for homicide detectives, one fiscal program manager and one purchasing coordinator to support the daily operations of the fiscal department.

15TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT ON APD REFORM COMPLIANCE

On May 11, Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor James Ginger filed his 15th Report on the Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the City of Albuquerque with Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement. The 15th Federal Monitors report is a 332 page report that covers the 6 month time frame of August, 2021 to January, 2022. The link to review the entire report is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/910-220511-imr-15.pdf

The Federal Monitor reported that as of the end of the IMR-15 reporting period, APD’s compliance levels are as follows:

Primary Compliance: 100%
Secondary Compliance: 99%
Operational Compliance: 70%

These are the highest compliance level numbers since the Court Approved Settlement agreement was entered into in 2014. The 15th Federal Monitors report is also a dramatic reversal from the past 3 monitor reports that were highly critical of the Keller Administration and the Albuquerque Police Department.

The Federal Monitor Ginger said that the quality of writing and accuracy of investigations of police use of force cases has improved greatly since the creation of the External Force Investigation Team which has streamlined reviews of use of force and investigations by upper-level staff.

The Federal Monitor said this in his 15th report about EFIT:

“… optimism should be tempered by recognition of administrative and cultural obstacles that persist. … Eventually, EFIT will pass oversight responsibilities back to APD, which will test APD’s ability to sustain the obvious progress made with day-to-day external oversight.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

APD CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA’S REACTION TO 15TH REPORT

APD Police Chief Medina was quick to react and say it was “great news” and to take credit for the latest improvements in APD’s compliance levels as mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Medina attributed the progress in compliance in the reporting period to new leadership at the training academy and in other high-level positions.

Chief Harold Medina said APD’s goal is for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years. Medina said this about the 2 year goal:

“We may not meet that goal, and we could get criticized later that we didn’t meet our goal. But we’re going to set the goal … . We’re going to believe in ourselves and we’re going to try our best. If, 2 years from now, we recognize we need one more period, well, you know what, it’s a whole lot better than anybody else has done.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

This is what you call APD taking two major step forward and two major steps backwards in APD’S continuing 7 year saga to come into compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and implementation of the 270 mandated reforms to eliminate APS’ culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice in 2014. The two steps forward are the increases in two compliance levels. The two steps backwards are 3,674 Use of Force Incidents Reported and 44.54% of Use of Force Investigations Found Out Of Compliance.

APD took two steps forward when the Federal Monitor reported that APD reached its highest compliance levels since the Court Approved Settlement agreement was entered into in 2014. The Federal Monitor tempered his findings when he wrote in his 15th Monitor’s Report:

“The weak points of APD’s compliance efforts remain the same as they were in [the prevous report]: supervisors and mid-level command personnel continue to be the weak link when it comes to holding officers accountable for their in-field behavior. Until that issue is resolved, further increases in APD’s compliance levels will be difficult to attain.”

APD then took two major steps backwards when the EFIT reported 102 out of the 229 , or 44.54% of the APD Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be out of compliance when evaluated. EFIT also reported that as of April 22, 2022, EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division responded to and/or opened investigations on 3,674 Use of Force incidents.

When the Federal Monitor released his 15th report, APD Police Chief Medina was quick to react and say it was “great news” and to take credit for the latest improvements in APD’s compliance levels. Medina also set the goal for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years.

After over 7 years of implementing the mandating DOJ reforms, and millions spent on training, APD appears to have turned the corner on implementing the 271 mandated reforms. Medina’s goal to attain full compliance within two years commendable but actually means the public needs to brace itself for the DOJ being around for at least 4 more full years.

Under the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in the 3 identified compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. Primary Compliance is now at 100%, Secondary Compliance is now at 99% and Operational Compliance is now 70%. The problem is APD also has a history of improving compliance levels taking major steps forward only for it return to previous lower levels.

REMOVE SERGEANTS AND LIEUTENANTS FROM POLICE UNION

Being optimistic about APD coming into full compliance within 2 to 4 years may be justified but not at all realistic given the findings contained in the third External Force Investigation Team Quarterly Report.

The Federal Monitor, and now the EFIT, have found that APD sergeants and lieutenants are failing in the use of force investigations or who are resisting the reforms. In the 15th report, the Federal Monitor said:

“What remains to be done is to focus on APD’s sergeants, lieutenants, and commanders to ensure that APD’s major compliance systems are CASA-congruent and reflect department-established oversight of uses of force, oversight of day-to-day delivery of CASA-compliant services to the communities APD serves, and oversight of the compliance functions with respect to uses of force and day-to-day interactions with the public.”

Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of APD management and union that are in conflict when it comes to the reforms. To achieve compliance, sergeants and lieutenants need to be removed from the police union and made at will employees. The removal will allow APD management to take appropriate measures to ensure the reforms are accomplished and hold those who resist the reforms accountable.

City Council Approves $1.4 Billion 2022-2023 City Budget On 7-2 Vote; 20% Increase In Operating Budget; 5% Pay Raises Approved; Self Righteous Dan Lewis Opposition To $250,000 Planned Parenthood Funding Sign Of Things To Come From Lewis Opposing A Woman’s Right To Choose

On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the the 2022-2023 city budget. The council approved the budget on a 7-2 vote with Democrat City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Klarisa Pena, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Louie Sanchez and Republicans Brook Basaan and Trudy Jones voting YES and Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout voting NO. The fiscal year begins on July 1, 2022 and will end on June 30, 2023. By law, the city budget must be a balance budget with deficit spending strictly prohibited.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.

The general fund appropriation for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is more than the present year’s $714.5 million. It is also $15 million more than the fiscal year 2023 proposed by Mayor Tim Keller and sent to the Council on April 1. The total city budget of $1.4 Bullion includes “enterprise fund” Departments, such as Aviation, that are funded by their own revenues.

The general fund provides funding for city essential and basic services such as police protection, fire protection, the bus system, solid waste collection and disposal, the zoo, aquarium, the city’s museums maintenance, city libraries, the bus system, senior and community centers, swimming pools and parks and road maintenance. According to the proposed 2022-2023 budget, in 2021 the city had 6,536 full time employees and under the approved budget will have 6,916 for an increase of 380 full time positions or a 5.8% increase.

The increase includes $107.8 million in Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), $3.5 million in property tax, $7.2 million in other taxes, $3.1 million in enterprise revenue, and $57.8 million in inter-fund and fund balances. Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), enterprise revenues, and property taxes together make up 61% of the City’s total revenues. GRT is the City’s major source of revenue and is estimated at $529.7 million or 38% of total resources for fiscal year 2023. Property Tax comprises 12.4% of total revenue. The various enterprises operated by the City are estimated to generate 10.6% of total revenue in fiscal year 2023.

The Keller administration projected that the city will have over $100 million more in gross receipts tax to spend in 2023 than it budgeted for this year. Gross Receipts Tax is the tax assessed on the sale of most goods and services and GRT revenues have been much stronger than expected creating a balance of funding that can be applied to the 2022- 2023 budget cycle.

The approved budget includes 5% pay hikes for city workers plus additional one-time incentives of up to $2,000 per employee. The 5% pay raise for city workers and one-time incentive pay of between $500 and $2,000 dollars is for employees making under $100,000 a year. The Keller Administration had proposed a city-wide 2% cost-of-living increase for the city workforce. The City of Albuquerque employs upwards of 6,259 full time employees.

The link to the proposed and enacted 2022-2023 proposed budget is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

LARGEST DEPARTMENT BUDGETS PASSED AND INCREASES

There are 28 city departments. The Police Department and the Fire and Rescue Department are the two largest departments for City operating appropriations, primarily due to their large workforces. The two departments together comprise 26.8% of the total fund appropriations of $1.4 billion and 43.1% of the General Fund appropriations of $841.8 million in fiscal year 2022-2023.

ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) continues to be the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and sworn count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions.

APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police for the past 3 years. However, there are currently 875 sworn officers in APD. The APD budget provides funding for 1,100 in order to accommodate growth. During APD’s budget review hearing, APD Chief Medina acknowledged that the department will likely not meet that staffing level and the personnel funds will help cover other operating costs.
The APD’s budget was increased to accommodate for an immediate 8% in police pay and another 5% in police pay to begin in July because of the new police union contract.

The APD budget provides for a net total increase of $1.2 million in overtime pay to accommodate the police union contract hourly rate increase that went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In fiscal year 2022, a memorandum of understating agreement was approved increasing the hourly rate of pay for 911 operators in an effort to retain emergency service operators and offer a competitive wage for a total personnel cost of $737 thousand.

Technical adjustments include funding of $6.4 million for a 5% increase in hourly wages and longevity for sworn officers in accordance to year two of the approved police union contract and 2% Cost of Living Adjustments for civilian positions, subject to negotiations for positions associated with a union. An adjustment of $2.6 million for health benefits, insurance administration, life insurance and 0.5% State mandated Public Employees Retirement increase for the employer’s share.

A net total increase of $1.2 million in overtime is included for the APOA hourly rate increase that went into effect January 1, 2022. In fiscal year 2022, 63 full-time civilian positions were added at a total cost of $4.9 million including benefits and reduction of $134 thousand in contractual services for a net cost of $4.7 million to support the daily operations and/or compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

ALBUQUERQUE FIRE RESCUE

The Fire and Rescue Department (AFR) is the second-largest city department with funding at $107.6 million and reflects an increase of 11.6% or $11.2 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. In fiscal year 2021, AFR was budgeted for 781 full time positions and in the 2023, AFR is budgeted for 812 full time positions.

AFR and the Fire Marshal’s office are involved with code enforcement actions against substandard or vacant commercial and residential properties and the “Addressing Dilapidated and Abandoned Property Team” (ADAPT program.) AFR is also involved with the “Humane and Ethical Animal Regulations and Treatment (HEART)” Ordinance for frequent 9-1-1 callers.

Within the AFR budget, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is funded. OEM assisted with the city’s response to the pandemic, activating volunteers and City workers on everything from the distribution of protective equipment to operating points of dispensation to get the vaccine to thousands of Albuquerque residents. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget for AFR is in the top of the nation for medical calls per capita . . The AFR budget includes one-time payment of a million dollars to put towards funding and paramedic programming while maintaining proper staffing levels, and $2.4 million to increase call response capacity in high utilization areas.

The council approved 29 new positions for AFR all on the medical side. 16 of the positions will be paramedics to work on rescues in the southeast part of the city, which sees the highest number of medical calls.

There will also be 13 more positions funded for people to fill in for firefighters who decide to go to paramedic school. Traditionally, those students would be taken out of the mix during their year of study but these additional positions will make sure the department is fully-staffed during those times.

ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT

In fiscal year 2021, the Keller Administration created the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) with an initial budget of $2.5 million. The ACS consists of social workers and mental health care workers to deal with those suffering from a mental health crisis or drug addiction crisis and they are dispatched in lieu of sworn police or fire emergency medical paramedics.

The fiscal year 2022 budget for ACS was $7.7 million and the fiscal year 2023 proposed budget doubles the amount to $15.5 million to continue the service of responding to calls for service and perform outreach for inebriation, homelessness, addiction, and other issues that do not require police or EMT response.

The Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) dispatches trained and unarmed professionals to respond to 9-1-1 calls that do not require a police or paramedic response. ACS is taking hundreds of calls per month, easing the burden on police and paramedics and improving outcomes on behavioral health calls.

The Fiscal Year 2023 proposed budget was for $15 million to provide funding to add 74 new positions to make it a 24/7 round-the-clock operation across the city. However, at the Keller Administration’s request during the budget hearing, the council voted to fund the new jobs for only part of next year under the assumption they would not all be filled as of July 1.

CITY COUNCIL DOUBLES BUDGET REQUEST TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS

Since being elected Mayor and assuming office for his first term on Decemebr 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller’s addressing the city’s homelessness crisis has been a top priority. The Keller Administration has said the goal is to address the homeless crisis through a housing-first approach.

During the May 16 city council meeting, several amendments passed that increased the amount of money going toward emergency housing support for the homeless. Those amendments increased the total appropriations from $7 million to just under $15 million. The city council approved $15 million dollars in recurring funds for housing vouchers meant to help the homeless, or those on the brink of it, to pay their rent.

Funding of $3 million for supportive housing was provided as was first requested with $4 million added to go toward that cause each year.

Overall, the council approved upwards of $20 million for rental vouchers, about $15 million of it built into the budget on a recurring basis.

Albuquerque began operating its first Gateway Center for the homeless at the former Lovelace Hospital the city purchased for the Gibson Health hub. $4.7 was approved to operate the emergency shelter.

Mayor Keller’s office will now have to create a plan to use the extra money granted by the council for those in need of supportive housing. There is also $100,000 in the budget allocated toward emergency housing for victims of domestic violence.

The 2022-2023 approved city budget provides major funding to deal with the homeless including the following approved funding:

• $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government, which the City will make available in partnership with the State.

• $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model. In addition, as recommended by the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Task Force, the budget includes $100 thousand for emergency housing vouchers for victims of intimate partner violence.

• $4.7 million net to operate the City’s first Gateway Center at the Gibson Medical Facility, including revenue and expenses for facility and program operations.

• $500 thousand to fund Albuquerque Street Connect, a highly effective program that focuses on people experiencing homelessness who use the most emergency services and care, to establish ongoing relationships that result in permanent supportive housing.

• $214 thousand to adequately staff the senior meal home delivery program, which delivered over 390,000 meals to seniors since the pandemic started.

• $750,000 for proposed “safe outdoor spaces,” often called government sanctioned encampments for the homeless. If approved by Council, will enable ultra-low barrier encampments to set up in vacant dirt lots across the City. There is an additional $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.

• $1.3 million for a Medical Respite facility at Gibson Health Hub, which will provide acute and post-acute care for persons experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not sick enough to be in a hospital.

• Full funding for the Westside Emergency Housing Center which is operated close to full occupancy for much of the year.

• $500 thousand to fund the development of a technology system that enables the City and providers to coordinate on the provision of social services to people experiencing homelessness and behavioral health challenges.

• $500 thousand to fund Albuquerque Street Connect, a highly effective program that focuses on people experiencing homelessness who use the most emergency services and care, to establish ongoing relationships that result in permanent supportive housing.

SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVES

Safe Neighborhood Initiatives deals with making strong neighborhoods marked by clean and safe public spaces and a thriving environment. The approved fiscal year 2023 budget includes the following Safe Neighborhood Initiatives:

• Full funding for nuisance abatement, including the Code Enforcement Division of Planning and the ADAPT program in the Fire Marshal’s Office to continue voluntary abatement, condemnations and clean-ups. Three years ago, the Keller Administration gutted the Safe City Strike Force, an acknowledged best practices program that initiated upwards of 1,000 enforcement actions a year against substandard properties that were magnets for crime, and eliminated $1.5 million in funding and substituted the ADAPT program that emphasizes “voluntary” compliance with city codes an avoids condemnations and code compliance measures.

• An additional $750 thousand to expand the very successful spay and neuter program to reduce the population of homeless animals in the City.

• An additional $580 thousand for City security staff to be dedicated to City parks.

• An additional $445 thousand to form an Illegal Dumping Crew that will also service cleanliness to the City’s ART stations.

• Full funding for emergency board-up activities, and the Block-by-Block program.

• Full funding for emergency board-up activities and the Block-by-Block program.

SAFE COMMUNITIES’ PROGRAMS

Safe Community programs are ones that deal with issues such as substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence and youth opportunity makes our community safer and stronger. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes the following funding for Safe Community programs:

• $1.8 million to develop what will be Albuquerque’s only medical substance abuse facility dedicated to youths likely housed at the Gibson Health Hub.

• Full funding for the Violence Intervention Program that deals with both APD and Family & Community Services departments, including the first phase of School-Based VIP in partnership with APS.

• $736 thousand to fully fund the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program.

• $730 thousand for a partial year of operation of a Medical Sobering Center at Gibson Health Hub, which will complement the social model sobering facilities available at the County’s CARES campus.

• Full funding for the “Automated Speed Enforcement” program, including hearing officers, where civil speeding citations are issued with the use of “speed van” surveillance cameras. The “Automated Speed Enforcement” program was announced last year to deal with speeding. It is a “semi-judicial” program that is similar to the controversial “re light camera” program that was dismantled 7 years ago.

The program will be administered by the City Clerk and not the City Attorney. The City Attorney Office is currently funded for and staffs the Metropolitan Court Traffic Arraignment program. The Office of the City Clerk also manages the Office of Administrative Hearings and is responsible for conducting all hearings specifically assigned by City of Albuquerque ordinance, including animal appeals, handicap parking and personnel matters. The approved fiscal year 2023 General Fund budget is $4.3 million, an increase of 47.7%, or $1.4 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget.

• Full funding for service contracts for mental health, substance abuse, early intervention and prevention programs, domestic violence shelters and services, sexual assault services, health and social service center providers, and services to abused, neglected and abandoned youth.

• Full investment in youth programs in partnership with the Albuquerque Public Schools and nonprofits that keep our kids off the streets and out of harm’s way and youth violence prevention initiatives that aim to break the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration.

STIMULATING THE ECONOMY

The city has been working to support businesses and families through the economic challenges of COVID-19. The enacted 2023 budget invests in business support and economic development programs.
Highlights of approved funding include:

• $5 million investment in the Local Economic Development Act fund, which has helped the City retain and attract businesses like Netflix, NBC Universal, Los Poblanos, and Build With Robots.

• Streamlining the development process through $1.2 million in investments for process improvements, new technology, and additional staffing in the Planning Department.

• A reserve of $15 million that will provide a local 4 to 1 match if the City is awarded a federal grant to create a “Space Valley” downtown.

• $1.1 million for the next phase of Job Training Albuquerque, a partnership with CNM Ingenuity that provides an opportunity for employers to skill up their workforce and provides an opportunity for employees to gain high-demand skills and industry specific credentials.

• $547 thousand to support the City’s hosting of sporting events, including the highly successful USATF track meet and tennis, pickleball, bicycle and running events.

• Funding for the next cohort of Tipping Points for Creatives, a highly successful initiative to enhance our creative economy using an “increment of one” approach.

• Full recurring funding for the Small Business Office, which has provided technical assistance to help local businesses access COVID relief programs,

WORKFORCE YOUTH PROGRAMS

The Keller Administration since taking office 4 years ago has emphasized youth development programs to deal with crime and poverty by investing in programs that get youth off the street with before- and after-school and summer programs. COVID dramatically changed many needs of those programs. As the city populace emerges from the pandemic, the City is focusing on returning to pre-COVID levels of access and participation in summer and before- and after-school programs.

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget continues youth programming by fully funding the Head Start program in the General Fund, funding to sustain our highly successful Youth Connect system of youth programming, and support to aquatics. Funding is included for a new youth “sobering center” to provide addiction counseling and mental health services.

ONE TIME EXPENDITURES

Because of the volatility of the economy, including rising inflation and gas prices as well as fluctuating gross receipts tax revenues, the 2022-2023 approved city budget contains significantly more onetime expenses in the fiscal year. Nearly 11% of all general fund spending is line itemed for one-time expenditures which means once the projects are completed there will be no recurring budget expenses.
One-time money expenditures included in the approved budget are the following:

$10 million in nonrecurring money for city buildings, including potential upgrades to City Hall, the police headquarters and other city facilities.
$10 million for a “cost escalation fund” that will help complete existing construction projects amid soaring prices.
$5 million for future Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) grants,
$5 million for city vehicles.
$3 million for housing vouchers.
$2.6 million for a police use-of-force review consultant.
$2 million for dog parks.
$1.8 million for events sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture.
$1.5 million to subsidize the free city bus service.

The links to quoted news sources material are here

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/albuquerque-city-council-passes-1-4-billion-budget-for-2023/

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-city-council-addresses-homelessness/40015752

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499990/councilapproved-budget-would-up-spending-by-20.html

CITY COUNCIL CUTS

The city council eliminated the Keller administration’s planned $702,000 cannabis services division. To be housed within the city’s Environmental Health Department, the division would have had staff dedicated to various cannabis inspections. City councilors questioned the scope and necessity of the division given the state’s regulation of the industry.

The council also cut from the proposed budget funding for some community events. The council also removed 2 revenue generating proposals contained in Keller’s proposed budget. One was to charge a $20 “surrender” fee when owners take their pets to city animal shelters. The other would have raised the coffee price at city senior centers to 50 cents from the current 30 cents. Under an amendment, the senior centers will provide coffee for free.

The link to news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499397/council-vote-on-budget-set-for-monday-ex-citys-acting-cao-notes-so.html

CITY COUNCLORS REACT TO BUDGET PASSAGE

First term Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan was the Council Budget Chairwoman and presided over all city budget hearings that reviewed each of the 27 department budgets. Reacting to the fact the council enacted a budget with $100 million more in additional spending, Bassan had this to say:

“With inflation and the cost of services and goods, that’s part of what I’m trying to wrap my head around and accept is that things did go up globally, so I’m not surprised our budget did too. ”

The council approved the budget on a 7-2 vote with City Councilors Dan Lewis and Renee Grout voting against it. Neither explained their opposition during the meeting. After the meeting, City Councilor Dan Lewis said in an interview that he could not support appropriating $100 million in additional revenues an he had this to say:

“I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better.”

Lewis singled out and objected to the $250,000 council sponsorship of Planned Parenthood, no doubt because he is “pro life” and is opposed to Plan Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose. Dan Lewis failed to provide specific as examples of departments or programs getting too much money in the approved budget.

During the April 28 budget hearing, Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis questioned APD for more information on its budgeting strategy on using unspent sworn police officers salaries for other priorities. Lewis said this:

“I think it’s good for us to understand this is not a budget that [actually] funds 1,100 police officers. … We’re going to give you [funding for] 1,100 officers this year. We’re going to fund [the amount] just like we did last year. We’re continuing to do that, but I think at the very least what this council is going to need and want is a very specific breakdown of where those salary savings went because we didn’t hire those officers.”

Chief Medina said that financial cushion from last year helped cover a union-negotiated 8% officer pay increase that took effect in January and was not otherwise funded. The proposed budget covers the continuation of the 8% pay increase that went into effect in January and then covers the additional 5%, for a total of 13% in APD sworn police raises that starts on July 1. 2022.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYIS

SELF RIGHTEOUS DAN LEWIS MOUTHING OFF IS SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis mouthing off and saying “I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better” amounts to nothing more than meritless, self-righteous indignation and laziness on his part. If Dan Lewis had a problem with the Planned Parenthood funding and APD budgeting he should have offered amendments to the budget to voice his concerns and make cuts or require further approval from the City Council, but no, he just wanted to grand stand for publicity sake.

Lewis is also no neophyte to the City Council. He has just begun his third term on the city council after a 4-year absence caused by him losing his run for Mayor in 2017 in a landslide to Tim Keller. Lewis has served as the City Council Budget Chair in the past and knows full well that he could have just as easily instructed the council to draft a proposed “substitute budget” to his liking, or sponsored amendments to the proposed budget, but that would have required effort and some work on his part.

The blunt truth is Dan Lewis could have NOThave done a better job with the budget and he just wants to complain for publicity sake. Dan Lewis has already made it known privately to supporters he is running for Mayor again in 2025. His voting noon the budget amounts to nothing more than his continuing obstructionists’ tactics he is known for since assuming office on January 1 to carry out his personal vendetta against Tim Keller.

Dan Lewis’ objection to the $250,000 Planned Parenthood funding is likely a precursor of things to come from Dan Lewis and for that matter his strongest supporters on the City Council Republican City Renee Grout and Democrat Louie Sanchez. If the United States Supreme Court does in fact reverse Roe v. Wade as is anticipated and makes abortion an issue and right for states to decide, no one should be surprised if Dan Lewis introduces a city council resolution that would prohibit abortions from being conducted within the city limits or prohibiting the city from issuing licenses to do business to any health care provider that provide abortions thereby allowing the city to shut them down. Abortion is an issue that weekend Christian Fundamentalist Minister Dan Lewis knows full well will fire up his right wing Trump base as he makes plans to run for Mayor.

LARGEST BUDGET IN CITY’S HISTORY

Last year’s $1.2 Billion dollar budget was the largest budget in the city’s history and that record has now been broken. The 2022-2023 approved city budget of $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund appropriations and a 20% increase over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022 makes it the single largest budget in the city’s history. Information on budgets passed for other city departments can be found in the postscript to this blog.

The City Council budget process is one of the very few times that the council can bore deep down into each of the city department budgets. All too often, Mayor’s and their political operatives view the City Council more of an annoyance as opposed to being a legitimate oversight function.

All to often, it becomes a process of members of the City Council asking the Mayor and his top executives the main question “What is it in this budget do you not want us to know about?” or put it another way “What is it that you are hiding or lying about?”

The council’s approved budget will now be forwarded to Mayor Tim Keller for his final review and signature.

____________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

Other major departments budgets worth noting in the 2022-2023 budget listed from highest to lowest budgets approved in the 2023 budget are as follows:

The SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT provides residential and commercial trash collection, disposal, and the collection of residential recycling. The department oversees large-item disposal, graffiti removal, weed and litter abatement, median maintenance, convenience centers, and neighborhood cleanup support. Other services include operating the City landfill in compliance with State and Federal regulations and educating the public about recycling and responsible waste disposal. The council approved budget is for $89.8 million, of which $67.1 million is to fund operations and $22.6 million is in transfers to other funds. The Solid Waste Management Department’s fiscal year 2023 operating budget reflects an increase of 3.8% or $3.3 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget level. In 2022, the department budget lists 505 full time positions and and in 2023 there 524 full time positions listed.

The FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES has total funding at $72.4 million. Under the council approved budget its funding is increased by 24%. Family and Community Services in 2022 is budgeted for 323 and in 2023 it is budgeted for 335 full time positions.

The AVIATION DEPARTMENT operates two municipal airports: The Albuquerque International Sunport , which covers approximately 2,200 acres on Albuquerque’s east side; and Double Eagle II (DE II) Reliever Airport, which covers approximately 4,500 acres on Albuquerque’s west side. The council approved budget for fiscal year 2023, is $69.2 million, or an increase of 4% from the fiscal year 2022 original budget of $66.5 million employing 293 in 2022 and employing 298 in 2023.

The DEPARTMENT OF ARTS AND CULTURE is comprised of seven divisions. The Albuquerque Biological Park (BioPark) operates the Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Gardens, Heritage Farm, Bugarium, Tingley Beach and the Albuquerque Museum. The fiscal year 2023 council approved General Fund budget for the Department of Arts and Culture is $49.7 million and reflects an increase of 7% or $3.3 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The Department of Arts and Culture in 2022 is budgeted for 399 and in 2023 it is budgeted for 403 full time positions.

The TRANSIT DEPARTMENT provides fixed route (ABQ Ride) and rapid transit (ART) bus service for the Albuquerque community and Para-Transit (SunVan) service for the mobility impaired population. The Fiscal year 2023 council approved budget for the Transit Department Operating Fund is $62.8 million, an increase of $13.5 million above the fiscal 2022 original budget. The department has listed 546 full time positions for 2022 and has 552 full time positions listed for 2023.

The PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT serves the recreational needs of the residents of Albuquerque and the surrounding metropolitan areas. The department is organized into the following divisions: park management, recreation services, aquatics, open space, golf, parks design, planning and construction. The council approved budget is $54.2 million, an increase of 17.1%, or $7.9 million above the FY/22 original budget. The Parks and Recreation Department employs 318 in 2022 and will 329 in 2023.

The DEPARTMENT OF MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT (DMD) operates and maintains City streets, storm drains, traffic signals, street lighting, parking operations and the development and design of capital public buildings. The fiscal year 2023 approved budget for the General Fund budget is $39 million, a decrease of 45.5% or $32.5 million below the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The major reason for the decrease is that many functions and divisions of the DMD were transferred to General Services Department including the department’s divisions of security, facilities maintenance, energy, Gibson Medical Center, Law Enforcement Center and stadium operations resulting in a total decrease to DMD’s budget of $37.8 million. Total full time positions for the Municipal Development Department will go from 546 in 2022 to 334 in 2023.

The GENERAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT (GSD) is a new department in fiscal year 2023 with the key responsibility of centralizing maintenance of major City facilities such as the Albuquerque Government Center, the Baseball Stadium and the Convention Center, which includes contract management. This department will assume responsibility for the facilitation of security and fleet operations throughout the City. GSD also includes Energy and Sustainability as well as the Law Enforcement Center and Gibson Medical Center. The fiscal year 2023 approved budget is $39 million and includes a move of facilities, security, Gibson Medical Center, 3% Energy CIP from Municipal Development, Convention Center and Railyards from Economic Development, and Fleet Services from Finance and Administrative Services. The number of full time employees for the General services department in 2021 is 247.

The PLANNING DEPARTMENT’S fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget is $21.9 million, an increase of $5.2 million or 31.6% above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The planning department will add 21 new positions, including 10 “to streamline and expedite” development review processes, and new departmental software. In Code Enforcement, eight positions are added to increase the division’s ability to respond to customer inquiries, provide quicker review times for building permits, and to properly enforce new ordinances and initiatives. The total cost for positions and associated operating increases the budget by $571 thousand of which $28 thousand is one-time.

The CITY ATTORNEY and the Legal Department advises the City in all legal matters, and consists of six main divisions: the Litigation Division; the Employment Law Division; the Municipal Affairs Division; the Division of Property, Finance, Development and Public Information; the Policy Division; and the Compliance Division. The Litigation Division appears on behalf of the City in all courts in New Mexico and before administrative and legislative bodies. The legal department is responsible for managing and defending the City, its elected and appointed officials, and departments before all federal and state courts in relation to civil rights and tort related claims. The fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget is is $9.7 million, an increase of 22% over the fiscal year 2022 original budget. In 2021, the legal department employed 78 full time employees and in 2023 it is budgeted to employ 83.

The OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK maintains official records for the City of Albuquerque, administers the public financing program for municipal elections, manages and administers all municipal elections, accepts construction and contracting bids from the general public, as well as accepts service of process for summons, subpoenas and tort claims on behalf of the City of Albuquerque. The City Clerk is the chief records custodian for the City of Albuquerque and processes requests for public records pursuant to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IRPA). The city clerk receives upwards of 10,000 public records requests each year. The Office of the City Clerk also manages the Office of Administrative Hearings and is responsible for conducting all hearings specifically assigned by City of Albuquerque ordinance, including animal appeals, handicap parking and personnel matters. The fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget isis $4.3 million, an increase of 47.7%, or $1.4 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The city clerk has 28 full time employees.

Other much smaller budgeted city departments include Senior Affairs, the Human Resources Department, the Office of the Mayor, Office of Chief Administrative Officer, the Office of Inspector General, Office of Internal Audit and the Civilian Police Oversight Department. Smaller departments such as City Support, Finance and Administrative Services, and Human Resources have large appropriations because of the number and type of funds managed within the departments.

The link to the 244-page 2022-2023 budget to review all city department budgets is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

Federal Monitor Files 15th Report On APD Reform Compliance; Dramatic Progress Made; Sergeant and Lieutenants Still “Weakest Link” On Holding Officers Accountable; No Superintendent Of Police Reform; Chief Medina Says Wants To Achieve 100% Compliance In Two Years

On May 11, Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor James Ginger filed his 15th Report on the Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the City of Albuquerque with Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement. The 15th Federal Monitors report is a 332 page report that covers the 6 month time frame of August, 2021 to January, 2022. The link to review the entire report is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/910-220511-imr-15.pdf

This blog article reports on the findings and is a summary of the 15th Federal Monitors Report. The article also provides related news and Commentary and Analysis.

COMPLIANCE LEVELS

On November 14, 2014, the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department and the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a stipulated Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The Court Approved Settlement Agreement mandates 271 police reforms, the appointment of a Federal Monitor and the filing of Independent Monitor’s reports (IMRs). There are 276 paragraphs in 10 sections within the CASA with measurable requirements that the monitor reports on.

The link to the 118-page CASA is here:

https://documents.cabq.gov/justice-department/settlement-agreement.pdf

Under the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in the 3 identified compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. Originally, APD was to have come into compliance within 4 years and the case was to be dismissed in 2020.

The 3 compliance levels can be explained as follows:

PRIMARY COMPLIANCE

Primary compliance is the “policy” part of compliance. To attain primary compliance, APD must have in place operational policies and procedures designed to guide officers, supervisors and managers in the performance of the tasks outlined in the CASA. As a matter of course, the policies must be reflective of the requirements of the CASA; must comply with national standards for effective policing policy; and must demonstrate trainable and evaluable policy components.

SECONDARY COMPLIANCE

Secondary compliance is attained by implementing supervisory, managerial and executive practices designed to and be effective in implementing the policy as written, e.g., sergeants routinely enforce the policies among field personnel and are held accountable by managerial and executive levels of the department for doing so. By definition, there should be operational artifacts such as reports, disciplinary records, remands to retraining, follow-up, and even revisions to policies if necessary, indicating that the policies developed in the first stage of compliance are known to, followed by, and important to supervisory and managerial levels of the department.

OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE

Operational compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency e.g., line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.

15TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT ON APD REFORM COMPLIANCE

The Federal Monitor reported that as of the end of the IMR-15 reporting period, APD’s compliance levels are as follows:

Primary Compliance: 100%
Secondary Compliance: 99%
Operational Compliance: 70%.

These are the highest compliance level numbers since the Court Approved Settlement agreement was entered into in 2014. The 15th Federal Monitors report is also a dramatic reversal from the past 3 monitor reports that were highly critical of the Keller Administration and the Albuquerque Police Department.

In the Federal Monitors IMR-14 report filed on November 12, 2021, the Federal Monitor reported the 3 compliance levels were as follows:

Primary Compliance: 100 %; (No change from before)
Secondary Compliance: 82 %; (No change from before)
Operational Compliance: 62 % (An increase 3% points from before)

DRAMATIC INCREASE IN COMPLIANCE LEVELS

In a remarkable departure from his findings in the past 3 Federal Monitors reports, Independent Federal Monitor James Ginger found APD has attained the highest levels of compliance yet of the 276 CASA mandated reforms. This is a dramatic improvement over recent years when it was reported APD had declining compliance levels. Ginger wrote in his 15th Federal Monitor’s report that he saw “perhaps for the first time” a serious willingness to identify and correct behavior that is counter to the effort and the CASA mandated reforms.

Ginger wrote:

“Over the last 18 months, APD has made significant progress in its efforts to attain compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). … APD has shown significant performance increases in training effectiveness, and performance in the field has improved somewhat. In the monitor’s experience, training nearly always leads the way in organizational development and planned change processes.”

According to the 15th federal monitor’s reported, APD has been at 100% Primary Compliance since the 10th report. APD is now at 99% Secondary Compliance, a 20.7% increase from the last report, which deals with the training of officers. This is the biggest jump in this reporting period and means all of the training to accompany the policies has been accomplished by APD.

Operational Compliance is now at 70%, a strong 12% increase over the previous report, which deals with officers following policies and being corrected when they don’t. Both IMR-14 and IMR-15, have shown increased compliance numbers over the previous reporting periods, indicating that APD has finally broken through the declining numbers shown for the IMR-11 through IMR-13 reporting periods.

Deputy Chief Cori Lowe said of the gains in Operational Compliance that after the monitor provided a draft report, APD provided feedback on paragraphs it thought should be considered in compliance according to the settlement agreement. Lowe said Federal Monitor took the information it into account and in turn gave more analysis in Operational Compliance.

APD Deputy Chief Cory Lowe had this to say about the Operational Compliance:

“The hardest compliance level is Operational Compliance. … That is putting that training and policy into operational on a day-to-day basis. That’s proving that we can do things on our own in accordance with policy and training.”

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/new-doj-report-shows-progress-for-apd/

SYNOPSIS OF FEDERAL MONITOR’S FINDINGS IN THE 15TH FEDERAL MONITORS REPORT

The following synopsis can be gleaned from portions of Federal Monitor’s 15th Report. The portions of the report quoted have been edited with topic headlines to assist with general public consumption.

MONITOR IDENTIFIES ORGANIZATIONAL SUCCESSES

“APD has shown strong performance with its compliance factors this reporting period, with continuing strong performances relating to effective policy development and a substantial increase in training effectiveness. Performance in the field continues to lag behind these two “policy and training” processes. APD’s improved performance this reporting period is attributable … to an influx of external management talent, particularly at the Training Academy.

Secondary compliance, which measures training effectiveness, showed a substantial increase this reporting period, with APD raising that measure of compliance to the highest level we have seen since the advent of the CASA reporting process.

Fully 99% of the CASA’s training requirements have been successfully met during the 15h Independent Monitor Reporting period. This indicates truly exceptional compliance levels for APD training functions during this reporting period. We have long encouraged APD to focus on its training functions, and the training processes are a true standout among APD’s compliance factors during the 15h Independent Monitor Reporting (IMR-15) period.

Further, operational compliance levels, the rate at which in-field performance is executed in a manner that complies with CASA requirements, have also shown improvement over the nadir seen in the IMR-13 reporting period. Operational compliance reached an all-time high during the IMR-15 reporting period, at 70% compliance.”

MONITOR IDENTIFIES DEFICIENCIES IN SUPERVSION AND DISCIPLINE

“While policy processes and training processes at APD were at the highest levels we have seen to date, operational compliance figures continue to lag the compliance levels for policy and training. APD currently stands at 70% compliance with the CASA requirements for actions in the field. In the monitor’s experience, operational compliance factors routinely lag behind primary and secondary compliance factors.

Once policy and training compliance have been achieved, effective and consistent supervision is needed to achieve full compliance. Supervision continues to be a significant problem with APD’s compliance efforts. Further APD’s disciplinary practices continue to show artifacts of disparate treatment, indicating that personnel at times receive dissimilar discipline instead of based on offense and prior history, which should be the touchstone of effective discipline.

… APD’s major issues at this point in the monitoring process are supervision and command oversight, including such processes as supervisory efficiency in noting behaviors in the field that are non-compliant with policy and training. Changing non-compliance with CASA requirements in the field with notice and corrective behavior will be the next critical element of compliance that APD will need to assess, modify, and assert as an operational priority.

Finally, we suggest that APD develop a complete assessment of the current disciplinary system to ensure that similar infractions and past histories of various members of APD result in similar penalties. We see this as a key part of moving to a professional disciplinary system that is offense- and history-based.”

CURRENT COMPLIANCE ASSESSMENTS

During the IMR-15 reporting period, APD has shown significant performance increases in training effectiveness, and performance in the field has improved somewhat. In the monitor’s experience, training nearly always leads the way in organizational development and planned change processes. This has held true for APD’s reform efforts as well.

APD has made significant and meaningful progress in its secondary compliance efforts, which have substantially increased their levels of compliance, from 82% in IMR-13 to 99 % in IMR-15.

Training practices at APD have shown exceptional improvement, and compliance in the field has been on an 18-month upward trajectory. Operational compliance with the CASA has also seen improvement during the 15th reporting period, increasing to 70%.

The next significant hurdle for APD is to persistently self-monitor in-field operations to ensure that compliance in the field reflects the policy development and training that has been delivered and continues to be reflected in in-field actions. During the last three reporting periods, APD has seen steady, but gradual, increases in the delivery of CASA-compliant policing services.

Data indicate that APD has gradually improved in-field service delivery from 59% compliance in IMR-13, to 62% in IMR-14, and to 70% in IMR-15.”

MONITOR’S OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF COMPLIANCE LEVELS

“As part of the monitoring team’s normal course of business, it established a baseline assessment of all paragraphs of the CASA for the Independent Monitor’s first report (IMR-1) . This was an attempt to provide the Parties with a snapshot of existing compliance levels and, more importantly, to provide the Parties with identification of issues confronting compliance as APD continues to work toward full compliance.

As such, the baseline analysis was considered critical to future performance in APD’s reform effort, as it gives a clear depiction of the issues standing between the APD and full compliance. This report … provides a similar assessment and establishes a picture of progress on APD goals and objectives since the last monitor’s report.

As of the end of the 15th reporting period, APD has achieved substantial increases in secondary compliance and has improved operational compliance by 8% … .

Primary compliance relates mostly to the development and implementation of acceptable policies [and] conforming to national best practices. APD has shown a substantial increase in secondary compliance this reporting period, up from 82% percent compliance in IMR-14 to 99% compliance in IMR-15, which means that effective follow-up mechanisms have been taken to ensure that APD personnel understand the requirements of promulgated policies. [Examples are] training, supervising, coaching, and implementing disciplinary processes to ensure APD personnel understand and follow the policies as promulgated and are implementing them in the field.

Operational compliance with the requirements of the CASA for the 15th reporting period are higher than they were for the 14th reporting period, from 62% in IMR-14 to 70% in IMR-15. This means that 70% of the time, field personnel either perform tasks as required by the CASA or that when they fail, management personnel note and correct in-field behavior that is not compliant with the requirements of the CASA.

These compliance numbers are significant. They indicate a 20.7% increase in secondary compliance and a 12.9% increase in APD’s supervisory and operational compliance over the previous reporting period, and indicate, perhaps for the first time, a serious management willingness at APD to identify and correct behavior that is not in compliance with the requirements of the CASA.”

WEAK LINK IDENTIFIED

“A significant number of CASA paragraphs were addressed by new training at APD during this reporting period. The training tempo has increased significantly, and the quality of training also increased markedly.

The weak points of APD’s compliance efforts remain the same as they were in IMR-14: supervisors and mid-level command personnel continue to be the weak link when it comes to holding officers accountable for their in-field behavior. Until that issue is resolved, further increases in APD’s compliance levels will be difficult to attain.”

MONITOR’S REPORT SUMMARY

“APD made steady progress during the 15th reporting period. Policy development at APD has become less reliant on monitoring oversight and input and has gradually grown in its ability to move adequate policy product through its internal systems and to submit to the monitoring team policy that requires only minor modifications to be CASA congruent.

Training has become an organizational strong point during this reporting period, and the academy has shown the benefit of a strong infusion of well-qualified executives who have had proven performance in well-respected law enforcement training programs. This should make attaining full secondary compliance with the CASA easier moving forward.”

FOCUS NEEDED ON APD SERGEANTS, LIEUTENANTS, AND COMMANDERS

“Since the inception of the monitor’s work with APD, we have advised the agency repeatedly that supervision of in-field activities is critical to APD’s compliance success. This remains … the last remaining objective to address on the path to full compliance.

What remains to be done is to focus on APD’s sergeants, lieutenants, and commanders to ensure that APD’s major compliance systems are CASA-congruent and reflect department-established oversight of uses of force, oversight of day-to-day delivery of CASA-compliant services to the communities APD serves, and oversight of the compliance functions with respect to uses of force and day-to-day interactions with the public.

In short, what needs attention at this time is vigilant supervisory and managerial oversight to ensure APD’s personnel perform in a manner that is CASA-compliant at least 95% of the time. This is a high standard, no doubt, but other agencies have been successful in meeting this standard, and there is no reason APD cannot do the same.

At the current time, APD is 100% in compliance with the CASA’s policy development processes. The monitor’s comments on policies proffered during this reporting period are, for the most part, minor, and tend to be focused on the finer points of policy work, not on tangible CASA requirements.

Training, a process at APD frequently noted as deficient and not in compliance with national standards, has come into its own during the last two monitor’s reports. APD now fields training that is “industry standard.” Supervision processes at APD need a final product improvement push, and mid-level management personnel, and at times command-level personnel, need to be reminded of the critical nature of vigilant oversight of in-field operations.

The capacities to take the final steps to full operational compliance are present within APD. What remains to be done is to focus on the outstanding needs and processes noted in IMR-15, and to work diligently to build internal systems to replace E-FIT and monitoring oversight with internal systems designed to monitor and ensure continued performance on the street and performance at the supervisory levels.

Further, APD will need to focus directly on its disciplinary system, ensuring that the process meets modern standards of progressive discipline. As with other critical tasks with which APD has been confronted, the monitoring team will continue to coach and structure APD’s efforts toward full operational compliance with the requirements of the CASA.”

EFIT WORKING

On February 26, 2021, the City and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a Stipulated Agreement filed with the United States District Court to stay a contempt of court proceeding against the city for willful violations of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The Stipulated Order established the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT). The Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD) had allowed and did not investigate 667 cases of police “use of force cases” to the point that even if investigators found officers hadn’t followed policies, they could not be disciplined because the deadlines had passed.

The External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) was established to train APD’s force investigators and ensure cases were being investigated within 90 days. Since EFIT started its work, no new cases have been added to the backlog. Federal Judge James Browning who is assigned to oversee the settlement has signed off on a plan to allow the EFIT to continue its work and also to review the backlog cases.
The EFIT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is required to respond to all police use of force call outs within 1 hour of notification.

All Use of Force (“UOF”) investigations undertaken by the EFIT must be completed within 60 days with an additional 30-day supervisory review period for a total of 90 days from start to finish. Pursuant to the Federal Court Order, EFIT must conduct joint investigations with APD Internal Affairs Force Division (“IAFD”) of all Level 2 and Level 3 Use Of Incidents . This includes all Tactical Deployments where there is APD police Use of Force is utilized. EFIT must also assist APD with training concerning the its Use of Force policies.

The Federal Monitor Ginger said that the quality of writing and accuracy of investigations of police use of force cases has improved greatly since the creation of the External Force Investigation Team which has streamlined reviews of use of force and investigations by upper-level staff.

The Federal Monitor said this in his 15th report:

“… optimism should be tempered by recognition of administrative and cultural obstacles that persist. … Eventually, EFIT will pass oversight responsibilities back to APD, which will test APD’s ability to sustain the obvious progress made with day-to-day external oversight.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

FEDERAL MONITOR’S CAUTIONARY STATEMENTS ABOUT COUNTER CASA EFFECT

While the tone of the latest report was a clear departure from past monitor’s reports that were highly critical of APD, Federal Monitor Ginger still cautioned that critical issues still remain when it comes to sergeants and lieutenants and what is known as the “Counter CASA” effect that he himself identified and defined.

It was in the Federal Monitors 10th audit report that the “Counter CASA” effect was fully explained. According to the Federal Monitor’s 10th report:

“Sergeants and lieutenants, at times, go to extreme lengths to excuse officer behaviors that clearly violate established and trained APD policy, using excuses, deflective verbiage, de minimis comments and unsupported assertions to avoid calling out subordinates’ failures to adhere to established policies and expected practice. Supervisors (sergeants) and mid-level managers (lieutenants) routinely ignore serious violations, fail to note minor infractions, and instead, consider a given case “complete”. … Some members of APD continue to resist actively APD’s reform efforts, including using deliberate counter-CASA processes. For example … the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) disciplinary timelines, appear at times to be manipulated by supervisory, management and command levels at the area commands, letting known violations lie dormant until timelines for discipline cannot be met.”

What the Federal Monitor said about sergeants and lieutenants in the 15th Monitor’s Report is essentially the Counter CASA effect and for that reason alone what he said makes it worth repeating:

“The weak points of APD’s compliance efforts remain the same as they were in IMR-14: supervisors and mid-level command personnel continue to be the weak link when it comes to holding officers accountable for their in-field behavior. Until that issue is resolved, further increases in APD’s compliance levels will be difficult to attain.”
… .

“What remains to be done is to focus on APD’s sergeants, lieutenants, and commanders to ensure that APD’s major compliance systems are CASA-congruent and reflect department-established oversight of uses of force, oversight of day-to-day delivery of CASA-compliant services to the communities APD serves, and oversight of the compliance functions with respect to uses of force and day-to-day interactions with the public.”
… .

“Supervision continues to be a significant problem with APD’s compliance efforts. … Further, APD’s disciplinary practices continue to show artifacts of disparate treatment, indicating that personnel at times receive dissimilar discipline instead of based on offense and prior history, which should be the touchstone of effective discipline.”

APD CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA’S REACTION TO 15TH REPORT

APD Police Chief Medina was quick to react and say it was “great news” and to take credit for the latest improvements in APD’s compliance levels as mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Medina attributed the progress in compliance in the reporting period to new leadership at the training academy and in other high-level positions.

Chief Harold Medina said APD’s goal is for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years. Medina said this about the 2 year goal:

“We may not meet that goal, and we could get criticized later that we didn’t meet our goal. But we’re going to set the goal … . We’re going to believe in ourselves and we’re going to try our best. If, 2 years from now, we recognize we need one more period, well, you know what, it’s a whole lot better than anybody else has done.”

Regarding the entire report, Medina had this to say:

“I think that it goes to show that, you know, sometimes you’ve got to give a team a little bit of time to transition and to change. … One of the things that always hurt us is the lack of resources, and you run out of time in the day. … The way this has been developed by the administration is giving specific tasks and not overloading people so that they’re able to accomplish more. …

Sometimes people may criticize and say APD is top heavy. APD’s never been under a settlement agreement and now APD has never moved a settlement agreement forward this quickly and it’s because we have resources at the top.

We will continue to stand up for our department where we think it’s necessary and, you know, to explain ourselves. … We don’t want to be confrontational about it … but it is imperative that we explain ourselves and they take into account our explanations … I want a sustainable process that will outlast DOJ and I mean that. … I want to create a process that is going to be here beyond them.

My goal is that we go into compliance with policies and procedures that stay the same. … That we modify very little because it is creating the department that we want. Hopefully we could build off this momentum and we could continue to move in the right direction and hopefully we can get out of this in the near future.”

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/new-doj-report-shows-progress-for-apd/

CREATING WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF APD BUREAUCRACY

When Medina says “Sometimes people may criticize and say APD is top heavy” he no doubt is referring the whole new level of bureaucracy the Keller Administration has created at APD within the last year.

The APD high command that works directly out of the Chief’s Office has gone from 3 to 10 full time sworn staff. Those positions are Chief, Superintendent Of Police Reform, Deputy Superintendent Of Police Reform, 6 Deputy Chiefs, 1 Chief of Staff. Within the last year, Chief Medina has appointed 3 new Deputy Chiefs for a total of 6 Deputies. This is the largest number of Deputies in the history of the department.

The Keller Administration has also created the new position of “Deputy Commanders” which there are 16. The 16 “Deputy Commander” positions created a whole new level of bureaucracy and management between Commanders and Lieutenants.

A link to a related blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2022/01/03/top-heavy-apd-high-command-staff-goes-from-3-to-6-deputies-with-5-apd-insiders-new-level-of-apd-bureaucracy-created-with-16-deputy-commander-positions-outsiders-needed-to/

APD FORWARD COALITION REACTION

APD Forward is one of the main stakeholders who appear during the federal court hearings on the CASA. APD Forward includes 19 organizations who have affiliated with each other in an effort to reform APD and implement the DOJ consent reforms. Members of APD Forward include Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, American Civil Liberties, Bernalillo County Community Health Council, Common Cause New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, Equality New Mexico, League of Women Voters of Central New, Mexico New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.

ACLU frequently speaks on behalf of APD Forward. Barron Jones, senior policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, pointed out that APD was able to improve so much because it had outside help. Jones had this to say:

“While we really appreciate and applaud the progress made during this reporting period, we do want to highlight that this progress came after a huge amount of additional resources had to be put into APD so they could bring up the use-of-force investigations.”

The links to quoted source material are here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/new-doj-report-shows-progress-for-apd/

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents-related-to-apds-settlement-agreement

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/apds-15th-progress-report.pdf

NO SUPERINDENDANT OF POLICE REFORM

On Monday, April 25, 2022, Mayor Tim Keller announced in a press release that he had nominated La Tesha Watson, Ph.D., as the new Superintendent of Police Reform to be confirmed by the Albuquerque City Council. The position had remained open since Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley announced his departure on December 1, 2021 after a mere 8 months on the job.

On May 3, one week after the Dr. LaTesha Watson appointment was announced, the City issued a press release announcing it was not moving forward with her nomination of for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform and that the hiring process will continue. The press release announcing the withdrawal is as follows:

“City Not Moving Forward With Nominee for Superintendent of Police Reform
Hiring for Position Continues

ALBUQUERQUE – After the final round of in-person discussions with Dr. LaTesha Watson, the [Keller] administration has chosen to not to proceed with her nomination to the position of Superintendent of Reform for the Albuquerque Police Department. Watson recently concluded a site visit and a series of meetings with City and Department Executive Staff as part of her nomination for confirmation.

Watson brought alternative ideas and views about the path forward on reform, but the candidate and the administration identified key differences in our approach to the role and for continued progress in Albuquerque.

During the visit to Albuquerque, Watson put forward a proposal for restructuring the role in a manner that ultimately did not align with the position that the city is hiring for, as outlined in the job description created last year to meet the specific needs of APD. The administration determined that her alternative approach could in fact hold back recent progress made in the Department of Justice consent decree.

The city is encouraged by the significant recent reform progress outlined in the upcoming independent monitor report which is set to be released in two weeks. This is a critical moment in Albuquerque’s reform process, with the position of Superintendent playing a key role in overseeing this forward momentum.

The administration will continue the hiring process for the Superintendent of Reform. Although ultimately visions for the role differed, we appreciate her candidacy, and her impressive work on aspects of policing and accountability throughout her career.

The Superintendent of Reform was created last year by the City to bring individual accountability and leadership to reform, create differential use of force and discipline processes from APD chain of command, and add overall governance to the reform process. The position is also designed to enable the Chief of Police to better focus on crime fighting. The position was held by Sylvester Stanley until his retirement in January.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

After over 7 years of implementing the mandating DOJ reforms, and millions spent on training, APD appears to have finally turned the corner on implementing the 271 mandated reforms. APD is commended for attaining a 100% Primary Compliance rate and a 99% Secondary Compliance.

Notwithstanding, APD is still struggling mightily with Operational Compliance at 70% compliance. Operational compliance is the single most important compliance level of all 3 and it is where the rubber hits the road with respect to the reforms.

Operational compliance is the hardest to attain. Operational compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency. It is achieved when line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.

The problem is that the Federal Monitor has repeatedly found that APD sergeants and lieutenants are resisting the reforms.

REMOVE SERGEANTS AND LIEUTENANTS FROM POLICE UNION

The Federal Monitor has found repeatedly it is APD sergeants and lieutenants who are resisting management’s implementation of the DOJ reforms. Sergeants and lieutenants are where the rubber hits the road when it comes implementation of the 271 reforms.

It is difficult to understand why Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger essentially down played and did not come out and say that the Counter CASA effect is still alive and well within APD. What is also difficult to understand is Ginger’s reluctance to tell the court that APD’s sergeants and lieutenants need to be removed from the police union.

Sergeants and lieutenants need to be made at will employees and removed from the collective bargaining unit in order to get a real buy in to management’s goals of police reform and the CASA. APD Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of Administration Management and Union priorities that are in conflict when it comes to the CASA reforms. Sergeants and lieutenants are management and need to be removed from the union in order to allow APD management to take appropriate measures to ensure the reforms are accomplished or hold those sergeants and lieutenants who continue to resist the reforms accountable.

SUPERINDENDANT OF POLICE REFORM

The nomination of and then withdrawal of LaTesha Watson, Ph.D. by Mayor Tim Keller for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform was sloppy and disappointing. It is “Human Resourses 101” in the appointment of high profile positions that under no circumstances should an appointment be announced until the vetting process and interview process of a selected candidate is completed and all questions are resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. That is especially true when it comes to high profile law enforcement appointments such as Chief of Police and Superintendent of Police Reform, given the fact that public safety is at issue.

Ever since the creation of the position of Superintendent of Police Reform was created, including the release of the job description, the APD Union has voiced objections that the Superintendent of Police Reform will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The union has said that it violates the union contract and that only the APD Chief can impose discipline. It is highly likely that police union and others voiced strong objections to the Watson appointment once the circumstances of her termination by the Henderson Police Department were reported.

Although Mayor Tim Keller announced that a national search would be conducted to fill the position Superintendent of Police Reform, such as when he appointed Harold Medina as APD Chief, the process was never made public. There were 3 finalists for APD Chief and all 3 were interviewed on line for the public to witness, including Medina’s interview. That has not happened with the Superintendent of Police Reform.

The Keller Administration never released to the public the names of all the applicants nor the application process itself, including who was on the interviewing committee. It was never disclosed to the public if the city conferred with the Department of Justice or Federal Court Appointed Monitor Dr. James Ginger to get his take or input over the applicants.

MEDINA’S TWO YEAR GOAL

APD Chief Medina’s goal for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years is commendable. However, based on 8 years of obstructionist tactics by the APD Police Union and APD’s Sergeants and Lieutenants who are union members, it’s likely going from 70% to 100% in Operational Compliance is easier said than done given how long APD was stuck at mediocre compliance levels for 8 years.

Medina needs to remember what Ginger has now said:

“… supervisors and mid-level command personnel continue to be the weak link when it comes to holding officers accountable for their in-field behavior. Until that issue is resolved, further increases in APD’s compliance levels will be difficult to attain.”

What complicates matters is that for almost a full 4 months, Mayor Tim Keller has not appointed a Superintendent of Police Reform raising questions if the potion is needed or ever was needed.

Links to all related blog articles can be found here:

Dinelli Blog Articles On The DOJ Reforms, Federal Monitor’s Reports, APD And The Police Union

Guest Column By Valere McFarland, Ph.D : “Housing Best Solution To Solve Homeless Crisis, Not City Sanctioned Homeless Encampments”; City To Purchase Tents; Council Needs To Vote NO Rejecting “Living Lots” and “Safe Outdoor Spaces”

The Albuquerque City Council is proposing to create two new “land use” zoning areas to allow 2 separate types of city sanctioned homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts for a total of 18 city sanctioned homeless encampments. Both are amendments updating the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that regulates residential and commercial zoning development and land use throughout the city.

One is called “living lots” and the other “safe outdoor spaces”. City sanctioned homeless encampments will be permitted in both areas. The “safe outdoor spaces” calls for the creation of government sanctioned homeless campsites where the homeless will be able to sleep and tend to personal hygiene. Under living lots zoning, open space areas would be designated where people would be allowed to sleep overnight in tents, cars or RVs. Empty parking lots and other unused space could be used.

VALERE MCFARLAND, PH.D.

Valere McFarland, Ph.D., is a former resident of Echo Ridge neighborhood located in in the North East heights City Council District 4 represented by City Councilor Brook Bassan. Although currently not a resident of New Mexico, she plans on returning soon and has a very strong interest in crime in Albuquerque because of contacts she still has here. She is a very active member of “Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods” (WTBON), a group founded in 2018 in South East Albuquerque to inform the public and demand greater accountability from elected and other civic leaders for preventing crime on Central Ave., in neighborhoods, and in public parks.

Dr. Mc Farland has four undergraduate degrees including gerontology, anthropology, and sociology. Her master’s degree is a dual education foundation, and political science. Her PhD was is in education policy that overlaps to business, medicine, politics. She spent an extra year in her PhD program to gain a certificate in “disability” counseling. She has have worked with the homeless her entire career. When she was doing her gerontology practicum, or social work on aging, she worked in a homeless shelter. She has worked for most of her career in education in a Research One university with high at risk of achieving, indigenous populations. During her career she has dealt with issues of poverty and homelessness and has spent a lifetime challenging and confronting unequal treatment of disadvantaged individuals, groups, and populations, through providing access to an equality-based education.

On May 12, Dr. Mc Farland wrote to all members of the city council and Mayor Tim Keller the following meme voicing her strong opposition to both “living lots” “safe outdoor spaces”. She also proposes another option.

EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: Valere Mcfarland, Ph.D. gave permission to publish her memo to the City Council and Mayor and she was not compensated by www.PeteDinelli.com.

MEMO TO CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR TIM KELLER

May 12, 2022

TO: MEMBERS OF THE ALBUQUERQUE CITY COUNCIL, MAYOR TIM KELLER

FROM: VALERE MCFARLAND, PH.D.

RE: AMENDMENTS TO INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE ALLOWING “LIVING LOTS” AND “SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES”

“I am writing to voice strong opposition to IDO Amendment Changes that propose ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ to address homelessness in Albuquerque … .

I am also enclosing my first letter of opposition, sent to you on 5-3-2022. That letter outlined an option for treating the transit homeless and local homeless as the separate entities they are by establishing a Campus Model for the local homeless population. To reiterate: transit homeless individuals (in Albuquerque and other major cities faced with homelessness such as New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu, Dallas and Houston) commit a disproportionate number of felonies. These are not crimes of petty shoplifting: they are violent and major felony crimes and include rape, assault, running prostitution rings including underage girls and trafficked girls and women, selling hard drugs, theft and other serious crime.

By contrast, folks living without a key to a residence because they are the victims of job-downsizing during the Covid 19 crisis, rent increases from inflation, or hardship from illness, death of a loved one including spouse or partner, are not criminals. They are our neighbors and relatives and we are a paycheck away from being them and they are a paycheck away from becoming ‘us.’

So on that note, I wish to state my strong objection to Councilwoman Brooke Basson’s ‘othering’ behavior. Once again, I wish to remind Brooke that she is not ‘better than’ anyone and the local homeless are not ‘lesser than.’ I want to remind Brooke that SHE is one paycheck away from a recall. Additionally, I wish to point out that the idea of putting proposed ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ on San Pedro Drive is wrong from every economic and moral standpoint and every council person who votes for this ill-thought-out proposal is culpable.

The proposed red-line for the implementation of the misguided amendments runs from South Albuquerque to North Albuquerque, along San Pedro Drive, home to middle income single family homes belonging to tax paying citizens, middle income long established subdivisions whose residents are tax paying citizens, small businesses that have survived the economic crises of supply chain issues, Covid 19 employment issues, inflation we have not seen since Jimmy Carter’s presidency …, parks with local residents jogging in the early mornings prior to going to their JOBS where they earn money to pay taxes to pay city council salaries, and where they bring their families and pets for evenings in the parks after WORK (an idea foreign by choice to the transit homeless); churches, a major city library, residential houses for disabled individuals and elderly; and culminating at the golf course on the northern end of San Pedro Drive.

All of the outdoor activities currently available and enjoyed by residents will be gone if you instill ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces.’ First, this is not a ‘safe’ idea because even the most naive resident of a major metropolitan area knows that EVERY transient without exception carries a knife. They do not have a knife because they are the aggressor – but because they need protection from other aggressive and often mentally ill transit homeless individuals.

And no matter the individual, when a fight is stirred, the knives come out. An innocent passer-by, jogger, child, pet, or another ‘Living Lot’ and/or ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ resident can be injured just by being in proximity of the altercation. Trying to ‘get away’ from this in a wheelchair will be impossible and all the now safe activities of park use time, picnicking and walking dogs will be history.

Your jobs are to protect the public physically and fiscally. This proposal does neither. You have a staff who should be tasked with bringing workable solutions to your attention. I am [suggesting] an idea that worked in a western city, not so different demographically, from Albuquerque, NM; i.e., Salt Lake City, Utah. I am wondering if you are aware of the success in addressing homelessness in Salt Lake City, Utah? Salt Lake City’s business leaders rolled up their sleeves about five years ago and implemented a plan that was deemed radical at the time: the city purchased homes for the homeless. And instead of ‘costing’ them this program has ended up saving them money to the tune of millions of dollars annually.

[Below is the Link to a Washington Post article entitled “The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions] detailing this successful program … .

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/04/17/the-surprisingly-simple-way-utah-solved-chronic-homelessness-and-saved-millions/

Homelessness was reduced from some of the highest numbers in the United States to a level today where homeless individuals are known by name, not a ‘number.’ While it is true that an element of the transit population is averse to ‘sleeping inside,’ in this event, that element soon found other places (not Salt Lake) to live. They moved away and Salt Lake City was no longer their ‘chosen stop’ on the way to ‘somewhere.’ Those remaining, who included the local homeless, accepted housing. And those who accepted the idea became part of the solution. Instead of dozens of trips to emergency rooms, these individuals became responsible for their own health care and attended medical appointments that included preventive health care.

An ancillary benefit from this program has been the growth of the city in every area. Salt Lake City has a high ‘safe’ rating and is known as business friendly. Businesses want to invest in a city rated as having ‘safe living’ because they can more easily hire and retain employees.

Instead of finding a successful model that includes furnishing housing and providing a Campus Model, you have found your lowest common denominator with every other failed metropolitan area program. What are you thinking? Did you think we would not notice?

You can and should do better for what is the most beautiful city in the United States. Albuquerque is unmatched with its geographical beauty, location, perfect climate, but most of all the generous hearts of its citizens. Why would you even consider such an unworkable from the get-go plan that threatens to harm the citizens who pay your salaries? Please slow down and consider plans that work.

Sincerely,

Valere McFarland, Ph.D
Member, Women Taking Back Our Neighborhood

CITY PURCHASED TENTS PROPOSED FOR “SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES”

On Tuesday, May 10, the City of Albuquerque made a presentation before the Bernalillo County’s Homeless Coordinating Council elaborating on its plans for “Safe Outdoor Spaces”. The presentation was made by Elizabeth Holguin with the City’s Family and Community Services Department.

According to Holguin, the city envisions that “Safe Outdoor Spaces” would be communities of tents for the homeless population, uniform in design and structure, and fenced in for safety. Holguin told the coordinating council:

“Not anyone can just walk up. … People will be accepted based on outreach worker referral. … Resources like bathrooms, showers, electricity, shade structures, sometimes even internet [will be provided] … Definitely handwashing stations. There’s often connections to food and meals and all of the different outreach services that can be provided. … You cannot bring anything that does not fit into your structure. You get a storage bin, sleeping area, and chair. … there would be policies preventing weapons, and the safe spaces would be supervised by a management team. … [Drugs and alcohol would be allowed inside tents, the same way they are allowed in homes but] obviously there’s no drug dealing [allowed]”.

City official also recognized that the tents are not a solution to homelessness, but hope they will help curb the metro’s crime crisis by providing a safer alternative to life on the street. The initiative is still in its early planning stages, so size and potential locations remain up in the air.
The link to quoted source material is here:

https://www.kob.com/archive/albuquerque-leaders-discuss-plans-for-safe-outdoor-spaces/

DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a much larger return on investment than offering government sanctioned encampments and “tent cities”. Given the millions the city is spending each year, it needs to continue with the approach of offering programs, building shelter space and making beds available for its homeless population.

CITY MEETING MORAL OBLIGATION TO HELP HOMELESS

The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless, especially those who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. The city is in fact meeting that moral obligation with the city spending upwards of $114 Million with housing assistance vouchers, mental health care services and shelter for the homeless.

Albuquerque is making a huge financial commitment to help the homeless. Last year, it spent upwards of $40 million to benefit the homeless in housing and services. The 2023 proposed budget significantly increases funding for the homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915. The city contracts with 10 separate homeless service providers throughout the city and it funds the Westside 24-7 homeless shelter.

The city has bought the 572,000-square-foot Lovelace Hospital Complex on Gibson for $15 million that currently has space of 200 beds or more and transforming it into the Gateway Center Homeless shelter. City officials have said that the city is expected to launch multiple services on the property this winter, including a 50-bed women’s shelter, a sobering center and a space designed to deliver “medical respite” care for individuals who would have no place other than a hospital to recover from illnesses and injury.

The massive facility could be remodeled even further to house the homeless and convert offices, treating rooms, operating rooms and treatment rooms into temporary housing accommodations. The onsite auditorium and cafeteria could also be utilized for counseling and feeding programs from service providers.

ENFORCE THE LAW

Too many elected and government officials who want to establish government sanction encampments have a hard time dealing with the facts that many homeless adults simply want to live their life as they choose, where they want to camp for as long as they can get away with it, without any government nor family interference and especially no government rules and no regulations.

The city cannot just ignore and not enforce its anti-camping ordinances, vagrancy laws, civil nuisance laws and criminal laws nor pretend they simply do not exist. Squatters who have no interest in any offers of shelter, beds, motel vouchers or alternatives to living on the street really give the city no choice but to make it totally inconvenient for them to “squat” anywhere they want and force them to move on. After repeated attempts to force them to move on and citations arrests are in order.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis. The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.

TELL COUNCIL TO VOTE NO

“Safe outdoor spaces” and “living lots” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. Both will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city efforts to manage the homeless through housing. The public needs to make their opinions known and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.

The public needs to voice their opinions and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.

The email address to contact each city councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:

lesanchez@cabq.gov

louiesanchez@allstate.com

ibenton@cabq.gov

kpena@cabq.gov

bbassan@cabq.gov

danlewis@cabq.gov

LEWISABQ@GMAIL.COM

patdavis@cabq.gov

tfiebelkorn@cabq.gov

trudyjones@cabq.gov

rgrout@cabq.gov

lrummler@cabq.gov

City Purchased Tents Proposed For “Safe Outdoor Spaces”; “Tent City’s” Will Destroy City’s Permanent Housing Efforts ; Scant Evidence Found On How Permanent Homeless Shelters Affect Surrounding Community; Safe Outdoor Spaces Will Make City “Land of Encampments”

The Homeless Coordinating Council (HCC) is a collaborative body made up of members from the City of Albuquerque, the County of Bernalillo, and the Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico. The HCC’s purpose is to deliver a coordinated community-wide framework for expanding and strengthening services and permanent affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness in the Albuquerque metro area.

https://www.cabq.gov/family/partner-resources/meeting-minutes-agendas/homeless-coordinating-council

The City Council is proposing to create two new “land use” zoning areas to allow 2 separate types of city sanctioned homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts for a total of 18 city sanctioned homeless encampments. Both are amendments updating the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that regulates residential and commercial zoning development and land use throughout the city.

The “safe outdoor spaces” amendment to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) calls for the creation of government sanctioned homeless campsites where the homeless will be able to sleep and tend to personal hygiene. The proposed zone change can be summarized as follows:

1. Not more than 1 sanctioned campsites will be allowed in any one of the city’s 9 city council districts, or 9 total campsites, and the campsites would be limited to 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles.
2. Each campsite will be required to have a certain number of water-flush or composting toilets, or portable facilities, hand-washing stations and showers based on occupancy.
3. It would require a surrounding wall or screen at least 6 feet high for those using tents.
4. Operators of the campsites, which could include churches and nonprofit organizations, would have to provide the city with a management plan or security agreement proving the site has 24/7 on-site support and security.
5. Operators would offer occupants some form of social services and support facilities.
6. The homeless campsites would be prohibited from being allowed within 330 feet of low-density residential areas. Religious institutions would have more flexibility for locating them.
7. The campsites would be permitted in certain commercial, business park and manufacturing zones and in some mixed-use zones after a public hearing.
According to City Officials, in most instances, the encampments would be set up and managed by churches or nonprofits.

“Living lots” zoning would be open space areas designated where people would be allowed to sleep overnight in tents, cars or RVs. Empty parking lots and other unused space could be used. Living lots would provide appointed spaces for people who may otherwise already be sleeping in parks, on sidewalks and in arroyos.

“COMMUNITIES OF TENTS” OUTLINED FOR “SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES”

On Tuesday, May 10, the City of Albuquerque made a presentation before the Bernalillo County’s Homeless Coordinating Council elaborating on its plans for “Safe Outdoor Spaces”. The presentation was made by Elizabeth Holguin with the City’s Family and Community Services Department.

According to Holguin, the city envisions that “Safe Outdoor Spaces” would be communities of tents for the homeless population, uniform in design and structure, and fenced in for safety.

Holguin told the coordinating council:

“Not anyone can just walk up. … People will be accepted based on outreach worker referral. … Resources like bathrooms, showers, electricity, shade structures, sometimes even internet [will be provided] … Definitely handwashing stations. There’s often connections to food and meals and all of the different outreach services that can be provided. … You cannot bring anything that does not fit into your structure. You get a storage bin, sleeping area, and chair. … there would be policies preventing weapons, and the safe spaces would be supervised by a management team. … Drugs and alcohol would be allowed inside tents, the same way they are allowed in homes but obviously there’s no drug dealing [allowed]”.

City representatives told the coordinating council Safe Outdoor Spaces has seen success in Denver, Colorado. City official also recognized that the tents are not a solution to homelessness, but hope they will help curb the metro’s crime crisis by providing a safer alternative to life on the street.

The initiative is still in its early planning stages, so size and potential locations remain up in the air.

The link to quoted source material is here:

https://www.kob.com/archive/albuquerque-leaders-discuss-plans-for-safe-outdoor-spaces/

“TENT CITY, USA”

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is a national legal group dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. It works to expand access to affordable housing, meet the immediate and long-term needs of those who are homeless or at risk, and strengthen the social safety-net through policy advocacy, public education, impact litigation, and advocacy training and support.

In 2017, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty released a study entitled “TENT CITY, USA The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding” with the link here:

Click to access Tent_City_USA_2017.pdf

In 2018, the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty released a study entitled “Welcome The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States” with the link here:

https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WelcomeHome_TentCities.pdf

The following was gleaned from the studies prepared the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty:

Tent cities have been reported in the majority of states, 46 of 51 jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia). Of all of these, only 8 encampments had a legalized status. Three more were moving in that direction, meaning that through municipal ordinance or formal agreement, the tent city had been sanctioned by the community and was either allowed to self-govern or was created by service providers working with the city. Ten tent cities had at least a semi-sanctioned status, meaning that although not formally recognized, public officials were aware of the encampments and were not taking active steps to have them evicted.

https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WelcomeHome_TentCities.pdf

“In the past decade, documented homeless encampments have dramatically increased across the country. Research showed a 1,342 percent increase in the number of unique homeless encampments reported in the media, from 19 reported encampments in 2007 to a high of 274 reported encampments in 2016 [the last full year for data], and with 255 already reported by mid 2017, the trend appears to be continuing upward. Two thirds of this growth comes after the Great Recession of 2007-2012 was declared over, suggesting that many are still feeling the long-term effects.

Unique homeless encampments were reported in every state and the District of Columbia. California had the highest number of reported encampments by far, but states as diverse as Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, and Virginia each tallied significant numbers of reported encampments.

Half the reports that recorded the size of the encampments showed a size of 11-50 residents, and 17 percent of encampments had more than 100 residents.

Close to two-thirds of reports which recorded the time in existence of the encampments showed they had been there for more than one year, and more than one-quarter had been there for more than five years.

Three-quarters of reports which recorded the legal status of the encampments showed they were illegal; 4% were reported to be legal, 20% were reported to be semi-legal (tacitly sanctioned.

This increase in encampments reflects the growth in homelessness overall, and provides evidence of the inadequacy (and sometimes inaccessibility) of the U.S. shelter system. The growth of homelessness is largely explained by rising housing costs and stagnant wages.

Municipalities often face pressure to “do something” about the problem of visible homelessness. For many cities, the response has been an increase in laws prohibiting encampments and an increase in enforcement.

[A survey of ] the laws and policies in place in 187 cities across the country … found:

33% of cities prohibit camping city-wide, and 50 percent prohibit camping in particular public places, increases of 69% and 48% from 2006-16, respectively.

50% have either a formal or informal procedure for clearing or allowing encampments. Many more use trespass or disorderly conduct statutes in order to evict residents of encampments.

Only five cities (2.7% ) have some requirement that alternative housing or shelter be offered when a sweep of an encampment is conducted.

Only 20 (11%) had ordinances or formal policies requiring notice prior to clearing encampments. Of those, five can require as little as 24 hours’ notice before encampments are evicted, though five require at least a week, and three provide for two weeks or more. An additional 26 cities provided some notice informally, including two providing more than a month.

Only 20 cities, 11%, require storage be provided for possessions of persons residing in encampments if the encampment is evicted. The length of storage required is typically between 30 and 90 days, but ranged from 14 to 120 days.

Regional analysis found western cities have more formal policies than any other region of the country, and are more likely to provide notice and storage.

Using the criminal justice system and other municipal resources to move people who have nowhere else to go is costly and counter-productive, for both communities and individuals. …

Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a larger return on investment.

Other cities spend thousands of dollars on fences, bars, rocks, spikes, and other “hostile” or “aggressive” architecture, deliberately making certain areas of their community inaccessible to homeless persons without shelter.

Many communities state they need criminalization ordinances to provide law enforcement with a “tool” to push people to accept services, such as shelter. Conducting outreach backed with resources for real alternatives, however, is the approach that has shown the best, evidence-based results.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign found permanent housing for more than 100,000 of the most “service-resistant” chronically homeless individuals across America by listening to their needs and providing appropriate alternatives that actually meet their needs.

Most cities in the United States have insufficient shelter beds for the number of people experiencing homelessness; in some cities, the shortage is stark.

So when law enforcement tells residents of encampments to go to a shelter, they risk finding the shelter full. Even where shelter beds are open, they are not always appropriate, or even adequate, for all people.

Many shelters are available only to men or only to women; some require children, others do not allow children. Some do not ensure more than one night’s stay, requiring daily long waits in line- sometimes far from other alternatives.

The survey of 187 cities found only 10 of these cities have explicitly permitted some form of legalized camping. Encampments are not an appropriate long term solution to homelessness or the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

In order to be successful, legalized encampments require a tremendous amount of planning, consultation, and collaboration with all stakeholders, most especially the homeless residents of the encampment. In many cases, this time and effort may be better spent developing other interim or permanent housing solutions.”

The link to the news source is here:

https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Tent_City_USA_2017.pdf

CORONADO PARK

Coronado Park is considered by many as the epicenter of Albuquerque’s homeless crisis. Over the last 10 years, Coronado Park has essentially become the “de facto” city sanctioned homeless encampment with the city repeatedly cleaning it up only for the homeless to return the next day.

At any given time, Coronado Park will have 70 to 80 tents crammed into the park with homeless wondering the area. It comes with and extensive history lawlessness including drug use, violence, murder, rape and mental health issues. In 2020, there were 3 homicides at Coronado Park. In 2019, a disabled woman was raped, and in 2018 there was a murder.

Police 911 logs reveal a variety of other issues. In February 2019, police investigated a stabbing after a fight broke out at the park. One month before the stabbing, police responded to a call after a woman said she was suicidal, telling police on lapel camera video that she had previously made attempts to overdose on meth.

The link to the news source is here:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/police-records-depict-pattern-of-problems-violence-at-coronado-park/5891961/

City officials have said Coronado Park is the subject of daily responses from the encampment team because of the number of tent’s set up there. They say the encampment team, along with Parks and Recreation Department , and Solid Waste go out every morning, during the week, to give campers notice and clean up the park. They also work on getting them connected to resources and services they may need.

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/the-process-behind-removing-homeless-camps-from-public-places/

SCANT EVIDENCE SHOWING IMPACT OF SHELTERS ON SURROUNDING AREA

The UNM Homelessness Research Taskforce is made up of 14 people from departments across the UNM campus. The taskforce was asked by the Homeless Coordinating Council to study the issue of how homeless shelters affect the surrounding community. Over the past year, the taskforce did the research and it had two aims:

1. Review existing data to see how different types of housing services relate to repeat homelessness and

2. What works best for different populations, and to study the risks and benefits of emergency homeless shelters to communities.

Research has been demanded repeatedly by Southeast Albuquerque residents fighting the city’s plans for the Gateway Center homeless shelter and services center on Gibson Boulevard on what will be the effects of the shelter. Some community members have demanded an in-depth neighborhood impact assessment of the Gibson area believing the effects could reach up to 2 miles. According to UNM research team member Janet Page-Reeves, such an extensive and specific project would require more time and resources

On May 10, Page-Reeves provided an executive summary presentation to the Homeless Coordinating Council telling the council the challenges of answering the shelter effect question. She told the council:

“Very little research has been published on the impact of emergency shelters … but from the sparse literature, there is some evidence regarding both associated benefits and risks [but that information was not] “robust”. ”

According to Page-Reeves, existing literature about crime and shelters shows an “increased likelihood of crime” within a fourth- to half-mile radius, though the types of crime change. Vandalism and armed robbery go down, according to the research, but petty crimes like theft go up and “the people that are the victims of the crime tend to be those experiencing homelessness themselves”.

When it comes to property values, Page-Reeves said research reflects some effect within the immediate vicinity, but no evidence it extends beyond 1,000 feet of the shelter. And a shelter may have some positive and some negative impacts on nearby businesses.

UNM Homelessness Research Taskforce member Brady Horn reiterated that there is other research that is much less ambiguous. Horn told the Homeless Coordinating Council

“I just want to make sure we’re clear: providing housing does reduce crime . … [But] it’s unclear exactly what happens right around the shelter.”

Other findings from the UNM research team include:

• Those with lived experience reported that the eligibility qualifications for many support services are too rigid to meet.

• Nearly half (49%) of those who get enrolled in the state’s homelessness information management system as they seek shelter or other services have a disability. The category includes chronic health conditions and substance use disorders. 58% of those who have at least one additional enrollment have a disability.

• About a third of families enrolling in services are fleeing domestic violence.

The link to quoted news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498676/unm-team-published-research-on-homeless-shelter-impacts-is-meager-exce.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a much larger return on investment than offering government sanctioned encampments. Given the millions the city is spending each year, it needs to continue with the approach of offering programs, building shelter space and making beds available for its homeless population.

Albuquerque is making a huge financial commitment to help the homeless. Last year, it spent upwards of $40 million to benefit the homeless. The 2023 proposed budget significantly increases funding for the homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915. The city contracts with 10 separate homeless service providers throughout the city and it funds the Westside 24-7 homeless shelter.

The city has bought the 572,000-square-foot Lovelace Hospital Complex on Gibson for $15 million that currently has space of 200 beds or more and transforming it into the Gateway Center Homeless shelter. City officials have said that the city expect to launch multiple services on the property this winter, including a 50-bed women’s shelter, a sobering center and a space designed to deliver “medical respite” care for individuals who would have no place other than a hospital to recover from illnesses and injury.

MANAGING HOMELESS CRISIS MUST INCLUDE ENFORCING EXISTING LAWS

Coronado Park at 4th Street and the Freeway has been the Albuquerque’s “de facto” city sanctioned homeless encampments for the last 10 years with city officials offering services to the homeless who camp there and repeatedly cleaning up the park only to allow the homeless to move back in and camp. At any given time upwards of 70 tents are on the property. Coronado Park clearly shows that sanctioned encampments do not work.

Too many elected and government who want to establish government sanction encampments have a hard time dealing with the fact that many homeless adults simply want to live their life as they choose, where they want to camp for as long as they can get away with it, without any government nor family interference and especially no government rules and no regulations.

The city cannot just ignore and not enforce its anti-camping ordinances, vagrancy laws, civil nuisance laws and criminal laws nor pretend they simply do not exist. Squatters who have no interest in any offers of shelter, beds, motel vouchers or alternatives to living on the street really give the city no choice but to make it totally inconvenient for them to “squat” anywhere they want and force them to move on. After repeated attempts to force them to move on and repeated citations arrests are in order.

The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis. The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.

“Safe outdoor spaces” and “living lots” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. Both will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city efforts to manage the homeless through housing.

The public needs to make their opinions known and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances. The email address to contact each city councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:

lesanchez@cabq.gov

louiesanchez@allstate.com

ibenton@cabq.gov

kpena@cabq.gov

bbassan@cabq.gov

danlewis@cabq.gov

LEWISABQ@GMAIL.COM

patdavis@cabq.gov

tfiebelkorn@cabq.gov

trudyjones@cabq.gov

rgrout@cabq.gov

lrummler@cabq.gov

ABQ Journal Candidate Profiles In Attorney General Race; KOB-4 Poll: Torrez Leads Colon In AG Race By 6%; “Undecides” Out Poll Both; Negative Ads Work; Race Considered “Toss Up”

On Sunday, May 15, the Albuquerque Journal ran on its front page the anticipated report of the Democratic race for Attorney General. The below the fold front page article was written by long time Journal Investigative Reporter Collen Heild and entitled:

“Attorney General’s Democratic primary pits two heavy hitters”

The link to the full report is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499353/ags-democratic-primary-pits-two-heavy-hitters.html

The Albquerquerqu Journal also ran two separate profile articles on each candidate also written by Collen Heild including its traditional candidate questions and answers.

The stories and links to the candidate profiles and Question and Answers are here:

BRIAN COLÓN

Colón: Getting people to sit down together can solve big issues

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499366/coloacuten-getting-people-to-sit-down-together-can-solve-big-issues.html

Q&A: Democratic attorney general candidate Brian S. Colón

https://www.abqjournal.com/2497358/qa-democratic-attorney-general-candidate-brian-s-colon.html

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: https://colonfornm.com/

RAUL TORREZ

Torrez: Willingness to ruffle feathers is an asset, not a liability

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499373/torre-zwillingness-to-ruffle-feathers-is-an-asset-not-a-liability-exc.html

Q&A: Democratic attorney general candidate Raúl Torrez

https://www.abqjournal.com/2497355/qa-democratic-attorney-general-candidate-raul-torrez.html

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: https://www.raultorrez.com/

KOB CHANNEL 4 POLL

On May 12, KOB Channel 4 released a poll it commissioned with Survey USA in the Democratic primary race for Attorney General between New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez. The state wide survey was conducted of 583 likely registered Democratic voters and has a plus or minus margin of error of 5.7%. The results of the poll came did not come as a surprise to many political observers given the negative advertising by Raúl Torrez.

The poll results were as follows:

Undecided: 38%
Raúl Torrez: 34%
Brian Colón: 28%

The link to the quoted KOB story is here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/many-voters-yet-to-take-sides-for-ag-as-torrez-holds-narrow-lead-over-colon/

On March 5, nearly 1,000 Democrats attended the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention and cast their voted for the office of Attorney General of New Mexico and the vote was as follows:

Brian Colón – 61.46%
Raúl Torrez – 38.54%

https://nmdemocrats.org/news/dpnm-releases-results-of-2022-pre-primary-convention-voting/

OTHER POLL RESULTS

On the issue of no pretrial release for people accused violent crimes and “rebuttable presumption” to hold an accused pending trial, the KOB 4/Survey USA poll showed broad support for the idea with 71% of likely voters surveyed saying it should be more difficult for people charged with violent felonies to be free until their trial. Only 8% of those polled said New Mexico’s system of pretrial release needed no changes.

The poll showed 57% of New Mexicans felt confident their local police department could keep them safe. That general support of law enforcement flipped when it came to use of force by police during arrests. In the poll, 60% of people were either somewhat or very concerned about how police treat the people they arrest. That concern ran across the urban-rural divide that separates many political opinions, including in suburban areas like Rio Rancho and Corrales. Even 43% of self-identified conservatives were worried about use of force during arrests.”

In urban areas, 47% of those surveyed had little or no confidence in their police department’s performance. White survey respondents were more likely than non-whites to say they felt safe, 63-54%.

In a question about whether people felt safe in their daily lives, just 27% said they did not. Party affiliation also had an impact on how safe people felt and the 2020 presidential vote. Supporters of former President Donald Trump felt unsafe at nearly double the rate, 36%, of those who voted for President Joe Biden at 19%.

The link to the quoted KOB 4 story is here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/many-voters-yet-to-take-sides-for-ag-as-torrez-holds-narrow-lead-over-colon/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

There is little doubt that the KOB 4 poll showing Torrez in the lead was a wakeup call for Colón to start to get far more aggressive. The only comfort Colón can take from the poll is that the Torrez lead of 6% points falls within the polls plus or minus margin of error of 5.7% making the race a likely tossup with 38% undecided.

After the March 5 Democratic convention, Colón was thought by many politico observers to be the clear front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. Colón has also raised more than $1.4 million while Torrez’s has raised a little over $1 million. The race for Attorney General was considered Colón’s race to lose. That is no longer the case and the race now appears to be a toss up.

Voters always complain about the proliferation of negative ads in political campaigns, but the candidates continue with them. The reason why is that they work and often tip the scales for a win.

The likely cause of the KOB poll results that “undecideds” now lead both candidates and that Torrez leads Colón by 6% is that Bernalillo District Attorney Raúl Torrez has outspent Brian Colón in TV advertising thus far and started his political ads way before Colón. Torrez has been relentless at repeatedly hammering and faulting Colón as a “career politician” who lacks “experience in public safety.”

Thus far, Torrez has run a slick advertising campaign running at least 4 sperate commercials featuring him alone and negative ads against Colón. The TV stations first run Torrez campaign ads then run unrelated commercials followed with commercials featuring Senator Martin Heinrich endorsing Torres.

Traditionally, US Senators stay out of party contested races, but not Martin Heinrich who is said to be planning on running for Governor in 4 years. Heinrich likely views Colón as running for Governor in 4 years after serving as Attorney General and it’s better to defeat Colón’ now and to end Colón’s political career than to deal with him in 4 years.

Torrez said of Colon on May 9, in a one-hour debate on KRQE-TV:

“One of the things that defines this race is whether you want a career prosecutor or a career politician. … He has not prosecuted a single case, not even a parking ticket. … You know I saw Mr. Colon at the round house taking selfies with his friends, taking selfies with the Speaker [of the House]. I never heard him speak up, I never heard him step out and support publicly our fight and the governor’s fight for “rebuttable presumption”. That’s the difference between a career prosecutor and somebody who lives and dies with politics.”

Colón thus far has run 3 campaign commercials. The first was an emotional one where Colón describes his personal struggles, being raised in poverty and having to hock his dad’s wedding ring. In the second ad, Colón talks about a “shield and sword” approach to prosecutions and protecting the general public. Although well produced, both of Colón’s ads were considered by political observers as weak and ineffective with the “shield and sword” ad bordering on juvenile.

The third and far more effective TV ad is where Colón goes negative for the first time and goes into great detail about Torrez’s “failed prosecution rates” as Bernalillo County District Attorney. Statistics prepared by the District Court reveal the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raúl Torrez has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries. The ad highlights major homicide cases botched by Torrez, including the murder of UNM baseball player Jackson Weller. Darian Bashir killed Jackson Weller outside a Nob Hill bar in 2019. Two years before the murder, Bashir was arrested for shooting a man outside a downtown bar. But Bashir never went to trial in that case. A District Court Judge found that Bashir never went to trial in the case due to the District Attorney failing to comply with deadlines, not interviewing witnesses on time, and not responding to motions.

It’s a theme that Colon used during the May 9 KRQE debate when Colón said:

“What my opponent has is a failed track record of prosecution. A lifelong career as a prosecutor, yet at the end of the day, the numbers are abysmal. Our community is less safe than it has ever been before. … The best way to get Torrez to the office is to have a T.V. camera present. … At some point you gotta quite pointing fingers, ya gotta take responsibility. … I’ve got a failed prosecutor standing beside me. … At the end of the day, we’re not safe.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Brian Colón has raised a total so far of $1.452 million in his race for the nomination against Raul Torrez who has raised $1.066 million. It’s the cash on hand on May 2 that the candidates reported that makes the race still wide open. Colón reported $911,000 in cash on hand to Torrez’s $382,000. The most recent AG Race Campaign Finance Reports can be found here:

BRIAN COLÓN

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9cdc8f33-a7c2-4d02-b820-fed384501751.pdf

RAUL TORREZ

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9be8522e-f6b5-47ea-8503-8cfb1f143895.pdf

The fact that Colón is running second and not running stronger can be directly attributed to the Torrez negative campaign ads that have taken a toll. Colón may have reported $911,000 in cash on hand to Torrez’s $382,000, but it’s likely the money gap will also be closed by Torrez because when you lead in the polls, fundraising becomes a lot easier, especially when you have the backing of a United States Senator interfering in a primary race.

The race between both Colón and Torrez was bound to be hard fought in that both have expressed they are interested in eventually becoming Governor or going on to serve in congress. Both State Auditor Brian Colón and District Attorney Raúl Torrez are well-funded and their personal attacks on each other will likely continue until election day.

Notwithstanding the KOB poll results and the Albuquerque Journal profiles, the race for attorney general is considered a tossup. For that reason, you can expect much stronger, hard-hitting ads from Colón and Torrez.