Trump Tells American “Squad” To “Go Back To The Countries You Came From”; It’s Now Racism Against Americans Of Color: Make America White Again (MAWA)

The “squad” is the nickname that has been given to the four, young Democrat United States Representatives to Congress who are all women of color. All four were elected in November, 2018 to their first terms in congress. The “squad” are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

BACKGROUND

In June, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on a Senate-passed border spending bill without a series of amendments negotiated by progressives to protect migrants. The vote on the bill without any amendments by the House was done at the request and urging of the more moderate Democrat members of the House. Tensions and internal party fighting were made public during the debate over the border spending bill that passed. The four so called “squad” Democrats were the only 4 Democrats who voted against the Bill and they said they were being marginalized by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The discourse within the Democratic Caucus escalated when the Chief of Staff to Ocasio-Cortez compared moderate Democrats to segregationists. The tweet suggested that two moderate groups, the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats, be called New Southern Democrats, a group of Democrats who once supported segregation. Ocasio-Cortez’s Chief of Staff said “They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to downplay the conflict between the 4 members of congress and the much larger bloc of moderate Democrats and urged her members to stay out of the fray and said:

“We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made it personal, suggesting in an interview that House Speaker Pelosi was deliberately targeting the four because of their race and said:

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood … But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

TRUMP’S ATTEMPT TO DISRUPT AND DIVIDE

Never missing an opportunity to disrupt and divide Democrats, President Donald Trump on Sunday, July 14, 2019 tweeted about the dust up between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe … now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. … Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

In a follow-up tweet, President Trump suggested that the four Democrats should leave Washington:

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came … Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-four-liberal-congresswomen-should-go-back-to-the-crime-infested-places-from-which-they-came/2019/07/14/b8bf140e-a638-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html?utm_term=.d9ec32491554

Democrat US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump with her own tweet by saying:

“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States. But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”

All four women of the “squad” won election to Congress in 2018. Three of the 4 woman were in fact born and raised in the United States. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, was born in New York and is from the Bronx, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was born in Detroit, Mihigan. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.,was born in Mogadishu, Somalia where her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child and she became a United States citizen as a teenager.

This is not the first time that Trump has assumed a person is not and American because of their last name and who was born and raised in the United States. In May 2016 during the presidential campaign, Trump suggested United States Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who oversaw the class action lawsuit against Trump University, was biased against Trump due to his “Mexican” heritage claiming American born Curiel was from Mexico.

To her credit and as a testament to her leadership, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had a very sharp response to Trump and went to the defense of the four congresswoman and tweeted:

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again. Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

In another tweet, Pelosi said:

“I reject @realDonaldTrump’s xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation. Rather than attack Members of Congress, he should work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values. Stop the raids – #FamiliesBelongToget”

Democratic lawmakers quickly united in defending the 4 congresswomen against Trump’s attack and universally condemning Trump’s tweets.

New Mexico Democrat Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, an assistant House speaker and the 4th ranking in House Leadership, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s tweet was “racist” and “wrong” and said:

“[Trump] Telling people to go back where they came from? These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Arizona Democrat Congressman Ruben Gallegos was more personal responding to Trump by recounting how, despite being born in the United States, he was repeatedly told to “go back to Mexico” from childhood through adulthood, regardless of his service in the Marine Corps or how well he did in school:

“To people like Trump I will never be American enough … So if you wonder why I give no inch to these racists, now you know. Nothing will ever satisfy them, all we can do is stop them.”

Tennessee Democrat Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tweeted:

“3 of 4 are American born and the other is a citizen. They are all ‘more’ American than 2 of Trumps wives (he seems partial to foreign women) and his grandparents.” Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, was born in then Czechoslovakia, and the president’s wife, Melania, immigrated to the United States. Melania Trump immigrated from Slovenia in 1996 for a modeling career. Trump’s grandparents and his mother were born in Europe.

TRUMP’S “NO TOLERANCE POLICY” STILL STANDS AS BEST EXAMPLE OF HIS RACISM

On July 13, 2019 Vice President Mike Pence toured the overcrowded facility in McAllen, Texas and saw firsthand the abhorrent conditions the detained migrants are enduring in the United States. The images of around 384 men kept behind metal fences in the hot facility where they do not have any mats or pillows have been shown on news casts. The images reflect that even if the men wanted to sleep on the concrete floor it would be impossible for all of them to lie down at the same time.

The overwhelming stench in the facility has been reported as so bad that ICE agents and visitors have to wear face masks. ICE agents at the scene acknowledged that many of the men had not showered for 10 to 20 days because there were no actual showers at the facility until recently. It was reported that many of the men being held at the facility have been there for at least 32 days or more.

Before taking the tour, Vice President Pence claimed that reports of detainees being kept in filthy conditions were “slanderous.” After visiting the facility, he changed his tune and said he wasn’t shocked by the horrific scene and was quoted as saying:

“To be honest with you, I was not surprised by what we saw. … This crisis is real, the time for action is now. … The McAllen station, where our cells are overflowing … ought to be a very clear message to every American that the time for action is now and the time for Congress to act to end the flow of families that are coming north from Central America to our border is now”.

Pence did say the overcrowded facility in McAllen, Texas was not acceptable. Pence also said it was the fault of Democrats in Congress who have refused to provide additional funding for the border not at all accepting the fact it is a crisis created by President Trump.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/07/mike-pence-tours-overcrowded-detention-facility-migrants-texas.html

When a any person, a United States Citizens or not, is arrested and taken into custody, or for that matter convicted of any crime and sentenced to prison, by law they become wards of the government and they all must be properly housed, fed, protected from harm and medical care provided which is all paid for by the taxpayer. Over the years, millions have been paid out in civil rights lawsuits over prison overcrowding, poor conditions and correction officer mistreatment, including rapes and physical abuse. New Mexico and Bernalillo County have be subject to those very types of lawsuits costing taxpayers millions. It may be a crime to be here illegally, but once the migrants were taken into custody by ICE and placed in the McAllen, Texas facility, they became wards of the United State government entitled to safe and proper housing, to be fed, protected from harm and medical care.

What is happening at the border with the incarceration of those seeking asylum is nothing more than a “reincarnation” of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy he announced last year that arrested and prosecuted people coming into the United States illegally and forcibly separating children from their parents at the Mexican border. Cage like “chain link” enclosures and tents were erected to house the children.

Initially, President Trump dug in his heels over his controversial “zero-tolerance” policy. Mr. Trump pointed to Europe, which he said had become a “migrant camp,” and said that would not happen to the United States under his leadership. Speaking at the White House last year Trump said:

“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. You look at what’s happening in Europe, and in other places, we cannot allow that to happen. Not on my watch.”

At last year’s Nevada GOP state party convention, Trump reiterated some of his most vile rhetoric about migrants and asylum seekers from Central and South America when he said:

“The word is ‘overrun.’ We will have millions and millions of people pouring through our country and all the problems that would cause with crime and schools. … If they see any weakness, they will come by the millions.”

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/23/in-rambling-speech-trump-renews-attacks-on-immigrants-they-will-come-by-the-millions/23466476/

Trump elaborated on his plans for cracking down on people fleeing their home countries to enter the United States relying on fear mongering about gang violence from groups like MS-13 when he said:

“These are sick evil people. … I called them animals and people said ‘that’s a terrible thing to say.’ Nancy Pelosi said that’s a terrible thing to say. She was defending MS-13.” Apparently in Trump’s sick and warped mind, over 2,500 children separated from their parents are sick and evil people who are all MS-13 gang members.

After immense bipartisan pressure and public outcry, Trump abruptly reversed himself and signed an executive order halting his disgraceful policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border. Just four days after reversing himself and issuing an executive order, Trump again took to bashing migrants seeking asylum with their children on twitter:

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents. Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country. Strong Borders, No Crime!”

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/24/trump-calls-for-deporting-illegal-immigrants-with-no-judges-or-court-cases/23466729/

Trump has never differentiated between people who entered the United States to seek asylum and illegal immigrants. U.S. immigration law provides certain rights for undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In most cases, they are allowed a full hearing before an immigration judge before being deported. The first conviction for entering the United States illegally is a misdemeanor and a second offense is a felony.

You can review a history of Trump’s racism in the postscript to this blog article.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

President Donald Trump is a racist pure, plain and simple, even against American born citizens and elected United Sates Representatives born and raised in the United States and elected by United States citizens. The Republicans in Congress even refuse to admit it in the hopes of clinging to power. Not a single Republican elected to congress has condemned the President’s obviously racists tweets against 4 of their colleagues in the United State Congress.

Trump’s biggest legacy as President of the United State will be his disgraceful “scar of racism” he likes to show off for all the world to see. Trump enjoys showing his racism to his most fervent defenders who no doubt have no problem with it. Trump also stands for what the Republican Party has become.

Trump needs to be dumped in the garbage of history as the United States first duly elected racist dictator, the sooner the better. At this point, it is not likely he will be removed from office by impeachment or resignation, unless of course former Special Counsel Robert Mueller says when he testifies before congress in a few weeks that Trump did in fact commit crimes, but he could not indict him as a sitting President. Mueller would also have to tell congress point blank that Trump needs to be impeached and removed from office. Otherwise, this country will have at least another year of Trump’s racist version of “Making America Great Again”.

It is suggested that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. , Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass produce certified copies of their birth certificates, roll them up and deliver them to the White House and tell Trump to file the documents where the sun don’t shine. In the meantime, all 4 of the Squad and all American citizens need to recognize our real enemy, the enemy of Democracy and what this country stands for sits in the Oval Office of the White House and not in the Speaker’s Chair in the United States Congress. Otherwise we can look forward to having another four more years of a racist President hell bent on “Making America White Again” (MAWA).

_________________________

POSTCRIPT:

TRUMP’S HISTORY OF RACISM

President Trump’s racism dates back to 1973 when his housing management company was the target of a Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division civil lawsuit over allegations that he and his father as real estate developers were keeping black and Puerto Rican people out of their apartments.

It was in 1989 that Donald Trump purchased newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” four black men and one Latino man accused of rape who were later exonerated by DNA evidence and released after being exonerated as not committing the crime. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump still insisted the “Central Park Five” were guilty.

For at least eight (8) years, Donald Trump was front an center of the “birther movement” and questioned former President Barack Obama’s American citizenship thereby questioning Obama’s legitimacy as President of the United States. In 2011, Trump called on President Obama to release his birth certificate and went as far as to offer to give $5 million to one of Obama’s charity of choice if he released his college records and passport.

In 2015 when Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency, he said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

During the Presidential election, Trump said “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

In May 2016 during the presidential campaign, Trump suggested United States Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born and raised in the United States and who oversaw the class action lawsuit against Trump University, was biased against Trump due to his “Mexican” heritage claiming American born Curiel was from Mexico.

During a campaign stop, Trump looked over a crowd and ask out loud to the crowd of supporters “where’s my African American” as if to show he had support of African Americans.

On January 27, 2017, just seven days after being sworn in as President, January Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries arguing it was needed to combat terrorism. The move sparked numerous protests and legal challenges.

In August 2017, after a 20-year-old white man drove his car into a crowd at a white nationalist rally in Charlotesville, Virginia, killing one anti-racist protester and injuring 19 others, President Trump said that there was “blame on both sides” regarding the deadly violence that was instigated by white supremacists.

President Trump during a ceremony in the White House to honor the World War II Navajo Code talkers, one from New Mexico, took the opportunity to call Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”.

During the football season, Trump proclaimed that professional football players, who were predominantly African American and who “took a knee” during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans should be fired.

The New York Times reported in December, 2017 that President Trump said in a June meeting about immigration that Haitians “all have AIDS”, a statement denied by the White House.

On December 24, 2017, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump described Nigerians as people living in huts and that they would not want to return to them. He reportedly said 40,000 had come from Nigeria and would never “go back to their huts” once they had seen America.

New Mexico’s Job Growth Slowly Pulling Out Of Great Recession

In May, the national unemployment rate was 3.6% down from 3.8% in May 2018. On June 21, 2019 the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions reported that New Mexico’s adjusted unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in May, unchanged from the previous month and up from 4.8 percent in the same month the previous year. Notwithstanding the small increase in the unemployment rate, the state of New Mexico outpaced the national job growth rate.

NM Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill Mc Camley says the numbers are good for the Land of Enchantment by saying:

“Too often New Mexico is ranked 49th or 50th in the good things our country measures, but this growth, particularly in the private sector, shows New Mexico is headed in the right direction and open for business. … If you work hard and learn the right skills, you don’t have to give up your chile and move away for a job … You can earn a great salary here while staying in our friendly, beautiful communities.”

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/nm-job-growth-outpaces-national-rate/5402170/?fbclid=IwAR1kiR_qDymyYVKADlT0DlFFiSKtbdkrdKX4w0wih1yEeFHZ127MupICPkI

NEW MEXICO UNEMPLOYMENT RATES CONTINUE TO IMPROVE

On June 21, 2019 the Department of Workforce Solutions reported the total non-agricultural payroll employment in New Mexico increased by 15,900 jobs, or 1.9% between May 2018 and May 2019 with most gains from the private sector, which was up 2.3% or 15,300 jobs. Mining and construction, which includes the oil and gas industries, had the largest gains, adding 5,500 jobs, or 7.6%.

Other gains reported by the Department of Workforce Solutions in the private sector include:

Professional and Business Services Industry employment is up 3.5% or 3,700 jobs.
Education and Health Services Industry increased by 2.6% or 3,600 jobs.
The Leisure and Hospitality Industry added 3,500 jobs, or 3.5%.
Financial activities showed a gain of 600 jobs, or 1.8 percent.
Manufacturing Industry employment was up by 1.4% or 400 jobs.

Private sectors industry losing jobs included:

Trade, transportation, and utilities was down by 1.5% or 2,100 jobs
Employment in information sector was down 2.5% or 300 jobs.

In the local public or government sector, local government employment grew by a mere 0.8% or 800 jobs. All gains came from local government excluding education, with education up by 1.6%.
Federal government reported a gain of 500 jobs, or 1.7% while state government employment decreased by 700 jobs, or 1.3%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1331476/nm-jobless-rate-5-in-may-unchanged-from-april.html

ECONOMIC BASE JOBS VERSUS SERVICE INDUSTRY JOBS

A service-based industry is one that offers its products, goods or services primarily within a particular region and does not supply markets outside the region nor increase the economic base of a region. In general, service base industries offer lower paying or minimum wage jobs not requiring much education or technical skills.

Economic base industries provide jobs requiring higher education and higher trained skills An economic base job is one created or needed by a business or industry that increases economic growth of a region by increasing exports of manufactured products, goods or services from the local economy or region to another region or economy thereby increasing the size of the local economy with profits and cash flow from outside the region.

The corner stone of the “economic base theory” is that an increase in economic growth of a region or economy is dependent on increase in exports, manufactured goods or services from one region or economy to another region or economy and supplying markets outside the local economy.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Without question the positive news coming out of the NM Department of Workforce Solutions when it comes to our reduction in its unemployment rates is news that has been a long time in coming.

Notwithstanding, New Mexico needs to pursue with a vengeance the real growth industry like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, and the film industry to diversify our economy. Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Special emphasis and support should be given to Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.

With NBC Universal coming to Albuquerque and the purchase of Albuquerque Studios by Netflix, the film industry is clearly in the future of New Mexico and the best hope at this point in diversifying our economy. Last year alone, the film and TV production industry brought in over $180 million of direct spending to the city and state. Far more important, jobs that will be provided by both NBC Universal and NETFLEX are a far cry from the hourly wage jobs provided by the “call centers” that the state has become accustomed to being announced.

The State needs to continue with efforts that will ensure that our education institutions such as the New Mexico Community College continue to offer a trained work force. Both the City and the State need to create more incentives to build and guarantee that the industry continues to prosper in New Mexico.

There is never any guarantee what government does to spur economic development, such as offering tax incentives or reducing corporate taxes, that will create “economic based jobs.” For that reason, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature must take bold and aggressive, calculated risks to attract and create high-paying jobs to keep our youth and talent from leaving. The State’s economic development efforts need to be coordinated with our vocational institutions to identify new industries that can be attracted to Albuquerque and ensure that both have the trained workforce to accommodate any new industry.

Until then, New Mexico appears to be finally pulling out of the great recession.

State Settles With Behavioral Health Care Providers Gutted By Former Republican Governor; One Act Of Kindness Reveals True Character Of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

“Behavioral health” can be defined as “the scientific study of the emotions, behaviors and biology relating to a person’s mental well-being, their ability to function in every day life and their concept of self. Behavioral health is the preferred term to “mental health.” A person struggling with his or her behavioral health may face stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, addiction, ADHD or learning disabilities, mood disorders, or other psychological concerns. Counselors, therapists, life coaches, psychologists, nurse practitioners or physicians can help manage behavioral health concerns with treatments such as therapy, counseling, or medication.”

Defining Behavioral Health

One of the cruelest things that former Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named” did was when she ordered an “audit” of mental health services by nonprofits in New Mexico based on questionable information. The audit eventually devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In June 2013, under the direction of the former Republican Governor, the Human Services Department (HSD) cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health nonprofits operating in New Mexico. In 2014, more than 160,000 New Mexicans received behavioral health services, with most of those services funded by Medicaid, according to the Human Services Department.

After the audits were completed, the former Republican Administration said that the outside audit showed more than $36 million in over billing, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud. Under the orders of the Republican Governor, Human Services Department agency brought in 5 Arizona providers to take over from New Mexico providers.

In early 2016, following exhaustive investigations, the Attorney General cleared all 15 of the healthcare providers of any wrongdoing and exonerated all of them of fraud. Even though the Attorney General found no fraud and actually cleared the nonprofits of fraud, the damage had been done to the nonprofits. With the Medicaid funding freeze, many of the nonprofits could not continue and just went out of business leaving many patients without a behavioral health service provider. Lawsuits against the state were initiated by many of the mental health care providers.

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by the previous Republican Administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled out of the state. New Mexico’s mental health system has yet to fully recover.

https://www.abqjournal.com/749923/third-arizona-behavioral-health-provider-to-pull-out-of-state.html

CASES BEING SETTLED

During a July 9, 2019 press conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that her Administration has settled several of the long-running lawsuits involving the states nonprofit behavioral health providers affected by a 2013 Medicaid funding freeze ordered by her Republican predecessor. The lawsuits as a carry-over from the former Republican Governor Administration have now cost the state millions of dollars in taxpayer money that could have been put to better use for essential services.

Negotiated settlement agreements have been reached with at least 3 of nonprofit behavioral health providers affected by a 2013 Medicaid funding freeze. The three providers the state settled with are: Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares.

All 3 behavioral health providers were among 15 mental health nonprofits that had their Medicaid funding cut off by order of the former Republican Governor based on allegations of “potential” overbilling and fraud. The New Mexico Attorney General eventually cleared all 15 of the providers of any wrongdoing following investigations, but many were driven out of the behavioral health business.

Under the terms of the negotiated settlement agreements, the state will pay the Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares nearly $2.7 million in dmages. The 3 providers have agreed to pay the state roughly $191,000. One of the providers will also be able to apply to the state for a reinstatement of its Medicaid provider number. Several of the other behavioral health nonprofits still have active claims under a consolidated lawsuit pending in the Santa Fe First Judicial District Court.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase had this to say about the settlements:

“We are encouraged by the progress made to resolve these cases, and we believe that these settlements are in the best interest of New Mexico and our behavioral health network.”

Notwithstanding the settlements announced, Governor Lujan Grisham said the damage to New Mexico’s mental health system caused by 2013 Medicaid funding freeze ordered by her predecessor affected numerous families and businesses and it will take years to recover from and she said:

“Quite frankly, it’s created such deep holes in the other health care delivery systems in Medicaid … that in fact it’s raised the cost in the private market for health care.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1338147/settlements-reached-with-three-mental-health-providers.html

GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM’S COMMITMENT TO BEHAVIORAL HEATH CARE

During my early teenage, high school and college years, my family dealt with a member who suffered from very severe, chronic and self-destructive mental illness who never recovered from it until his passing. I will always remember how my father was treated by health care professionals and yes at times law enforcement. Throughout my life and public service career, I made sure I knew how elected officials dealt with behavioral health care issues. When I was a prosecutor, I understood the importance of drug treatment programs and behavioral health programs as an alternative to prosecution and incarceration and returning people to be productive citizens.

In politics, more can be learned about a politician and their character by observing them in private and especially how they treat other people. A little more than 5 years ago, I attended a small fund raiser for then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. In attendance was a person who we both knew and dealt with in the past, who was a very vocal critic of both of us in the past, and who we both understood to have mental health issues. Michelle Lujan Grisham, not knowing that I was listening and watching her, had one of her aides approach her and ask her if she wanted the person removed before she started to speak. Her response was quick and sure and it told me more about her than I had ever known. She told her aide to talk to the person, make sure he did not need anything, and then after the event, make sure he got a ride home seeing as the person walked to the event and it would be dark when the event ended. This one act of understanding revealed the true character of an elected official.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The former New Mexico Republican Governor never understood the need for mental health services and it was an easy target for her conservative anti government philosophy to freeze Medicaid funding to bring 15 nonprofits to their knees and forcing them out of business. To the former prosecutor, the answer was always increasing penalties and incarceration. It has never been fully reported on how the 5 Arizona Heath Care providers were selected to replace the New Mexico nonprofits. It has also never been revealed to what extent the former Republican Governor was involved with the selection nor what orders her office gave in the selection of the out of state providers.

What is known is that legacy of Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named” is a legacy of shame when it comes to the destruction of New Mexico’s nonprofit mental health care system. Her political wrath and cost cutting measures affected thousands of New Mexico residents in need of mental and behavioral health care services and she simply did not give a damn.

After 8 very long years, New Mexico has a Governor that truly understands the need for effective and critical mental and behavioral health care services. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham served as Director of New Mexico’s Agency on Aging under Governors Bruce King, Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson elevated the position to the state cabinet. In 2004. Lujan Grisham was appointed as New Mexico Secretary of Health where she was a champion for mental health services.

It is now on to cleaning up the many other piles of Republican Elephant dung left by the previous Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”.

Another Disgraceful Statistic For New Mexico’s Children: State’s Child Abuse and Neglect Rates Twice National Average; 2019 Child Welfare Legislation Becomes Law

Albuquerque and New Mexico for the last 4 years have been shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents. Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).

Six of New Mexico’s most notorious child abuse and neglect cases are recalled in the postscript to this article below. All 6 cases shook New Mexico and dominated news cycles when they were first reported.

This article is a deep dive into New Mexico’s child abuse and neglect crisis and what the New Mexico Legislature and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham are doing to confront the crisis.

HEART BREAKING DEATHS

From 2001 to August, 2016 no less than 22 children in New Mexico ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse. (Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.) More child deaths have been reported since 2016, with the most recent being a 2-week-old baby found dead on July 7, 2019 with foul play suspected. The Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) responded to the scene and identified the baby’s injuries as suspicious. It was announced by the OMI that an autopsy on the baby was performed, but they could not determine the cause of death. APD detectives are interviewing family members as they investigate what caused the child’s injuries.

https://www.koat.com/article/police-investigating-childs-death-in-albuquerque/28313969

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/albuquerque-police-investigating-death-of-2-week-old-infant/

NEW MEXICO’S CHILD ABUSE RATE

A child abuse allegation is substantiated when it is determined that the victim is under the age of 18, a parent or caretaker has been identified as the perpetrator or identified as failing to protect the victim. Credible evidence must exist to support the conclusion of an investigation that the child has been abused or neglected as defined by the New Mexico Children’s Code. The types of child abuse under New Mexico criminal law are physical abuse, sexual abuse, and physical neglect.

The “child abuse rate” is the number of substantiated child victims per 1,000 children in a state during the state’s fiscal year. New Mexico’s fiscal year is July through June 30. In New Mexico’s 2018 fiscal year, the state’s child abuse rate was 15 meaning 15 children in every 1,000 children under the age of 18 in New Mexico were victims of abuse or neglect. In 2017, the rate was 25, in 2016 the rate was 17, in 2015 the rate was 18, in 2014 the rate was 16, and in 2013 the rate was 13 all rates higher than the national averages.

https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/5162-child-abuse-rate#detailed/2/any/false/37,871,870,573,869,36/any/11625

According to a report by the Children’s Bureau of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, New Mexico’s rate of child abuse and neglect has been far higher than the national average in each of the past 5 years for which data are available. In 2017, the state’s rate of maltreatment climbed to 17.6 victims per 1,000 children, or nearly twice the national average of 9.1. Only the 3 states of Kentucky, Indiana and Massachusetts had higher rates in 2017 according to the report. The state of West Virginia had the same rate as New Mexico.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1306042/nm-struggles-with-child-neglect-abuse.html

OTHER DISGRACEFUL STATISTICS

As if the New Mexico’s rate of child abuse and neglect being twice the national average were not bad or disturbing enough, the rankings and financial numbers relating to New Mexico’s children are depressing and staggering with some downright disgraceful:

According to the just-released 2019 “Map the Gap” report from Feeding America, 24.1% of children and young teenagers age 18 and younger in New Mexico, or one of every four children, are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity. This makes New Mexico’s ranking dead last in the country. In 2018 the “Map the Meal Gap” also ranked New Mexico as dead last, and in the 2017, the state ranked 49th. New Mexico ranks 50th for at risk of childhood in hunger and “food insecurity.”

27% of New Mexico kids live in poverty, ranking New Mexico 49th on this list. A spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking the state 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.

75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.

You can read more on New Mexico’s disgraceful legacy of child hunger, illiteracy and well being at the below link:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/07/01/nms-disgraceful-legacy-of-child-hunger-illiteracy-and-well-being-gov-michelle-lujan-grishams-goal-to-ending-child-hunger-within-one-year/

2019 NEW MEXICO CHILD WELFARE LEGISLATION ENACTED

During the 2019 legislative session, which ended March, 15, 2019, the New Mexico Legislature struggled to enact child welfare legislation to protect New Mexico’s most innocent from child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Major legislation was enacted in an effort to reduce child abuse and neglect by providing services and employing a less punitive approach to families that clearly need help. All the legislation has been signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the laws went in to effect July 1, 2019.

Following is a listing of the enacted legislation relating to child welfare reform as provided by the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department:

House Bill 56: Prostitution as a Delinquent Act. All too often, children who are the victims of human trafficking are further traumatized by being arrested on prostitution charges. This bill decriminalizes prostitution by youths under 18 so they’re treated as victims who need services, not punished as delinquents. The child can be taken into protective custody, and their cases referred to the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). This bill will both help prevent criminal prosecution that traumatizes and ensure that the child receives the support and services they need.

House Bill 230: Plan of Safe Care. Medical studies show that prenatal drug use can significantly affect a developing fetus. Research indicates that non-punitive interventions have the most long-term benefits for the children and families. This bill brings New Mexico into line with federal requirements and will help ensure the child and their parents receive the support and services they need by giving caseworkers more options to protect the child. This measure calls for alerting CYFD whenever an infant tests positive for addictive substances. The goal is to allow CYFD to assess the family situation and provide help, without the opening of a formal abuse or neglect case. CYFD will be required to create a plan of care to help ensure the baby’s safety and address substance abuse by the caregiver. The legislation brings the state into compliance with federal requirements and make the state eligible for an extra $200,000 a year in funding.

House Bill 236: Attendance for Success Act. Among the factors which have a direct effect on a child’s educational success is their absentee rate. Studies show missing as few as two days a month can drastically affect a child’s likelihood of graduating. This bill updates the New Mexico truancy laws to establish a progressive approach to addressing a child’s absenteeism. As part of that process, CYFD will work closely with the schools, the child, and the family, to ensure that they are linked to appropriate community-based support programs and services.

House Bill 314: Children’s Advocacy Centers. Child Advocacy Centers are organizations that provide training, prevention, and treatment services to victims of child abuse and neglect, and their non-offending family members. The bill establishes the criteria that a Child Advocacy Center operating in New Mexico must meet, based on the same best practices criteria that a Child Advocacy Center must meet in order to become accredited through the National Children’s Alliance.

House Bill 376 : Creating “Alternative Response” System. This bill deals with what is known throughout the country as “alternative response” where certain reports of abuse or neglect are assigned to an alternative track rather than a formal criminal investigation or children being removed from their parents’ custody. This law establishes an “alternative response” system in New Mexico starting in July 2020.

The alternative response system will be available after the state conducts an initial evaluation after a report of abuse or neglect is made and finds that the child isn’t in immediate danger. The enacted legislation requires the state to assess the family situation and may offer or provide services, including counseling or training for parents, aimed at addressing the causes of the problem that affects the child.

If the family refuses to participate, the state can proceed with an investigation and criminal charges. Most maltreatment cases involve allegations of neglect, and in New Mexico, most neglect cases involve a caregiver with a drug or alcohol problem, according to analysts for the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). The goal is to focus on prevention of abuse and neglect rather than prison punishment with providing services as an alternative to removing a child from a home. HB 376 was approved with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 23: Services for Youth Leaving Foster Care. This bill provides extra services to help teens in foster care transition to adult life. Young adults who age out of foster care from 18 to age 21 will be able to enroll in to the program if they’re in college or participating in vocational programs, allowing them to continue to receive services through age 21. The phased implementation will begin extending services in July of 2021, allowing CYFD to ensure additional infrastructure is in place to fully support these newly-eligible young adults

Senate Bill 341: Transfer Complete Course Work. This bill works to ensure that a child’s educational achievements are not adversely affected by their involvement in the foster care system. It ensures that they receive full credit for all completed coursework regardless of their movement within the New Mexico primary and secondary school systems.

Senate Bill 251: Tuition and Fee Waivers for Foster Children. This bill expands the population of foster care children eligible for a full waiver of post secondary tuition and fees at state institutions to any child who was in either state or tribal foster care on or after their 14th birthday. This waiver supports the goal of SB 23 of ensuring that children in foster care have all practicable supports and services necessary to achieve their full adult potential.

https://cyfd.org/news-events/news/cyfd-secretary-applauds-governor-legislature-for-steps-forward-on-child-welfare-reform

PROTECTING CHILDREN

On June 26, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham during her keynote address to the annual “Kids Count Conference” told the audience that that the one thing that has kept her up at night is when she learned that the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) receives hundreds more referrals based on child abuse and neglect allegations than it has the staff to handle. According to the Governor, the problem is being addressed by expanded hiring efforts to boost staffing and other temporary measures. Lujan Grisham revealed that the state has held hiring events to recruit more CYFD employees and said and the Governor said:

“CYFD is boosting hiring in their protective services division. We did a rapid hire series of events statewide.”

Governor Lujan Grisham’s enacted budget that took effect July 1, 2019 provides for an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed CYFD. Under the enacted budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division.

CREATING DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD

A new “Early Childhood Department” was created by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Some say the New Mexico legislature did too little in this year’s 2019 legislative session to deal with New Mexico’s Child Abuse and Neglect crisis. More was done to address the child abuse crisis in last 60-day session than was done during the entire 8 years of the former Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”. The only solution offered during the previous Republican Administration was increasing criminal penalties and more incarceration and even calling for reinstatement of the death penalty.

Still, the New Mexico legislature needs and can do more. A proposal to expand New Mexico’s child abuse reporting laws failed to make it through this year’s session and it should be revisited and enacted in the upcoming 2020 legislative session. Further, and ombudsman system could be established within CYFD to handle complaints filed by foster families.

All too often after horrific crimes against a child happens, elected officials express outrage and quickly announce proposed changes in the law, propose increases in penalties, often including reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes against children. The typical public relations approach is to demand a review of policies and procedures and vow to hold people accountable for their inaction or incompetence.

There must be swift criminal justice upon those who harm our most vulnerable and innocent. The New Mexico Legislature or Governor need to create a “Crimes Against Children Prosecution Task Force” within the CYFD in conjunction with the New Mexico Attorney General and the New Mexico District Attorneys Association, fund it and staff it with experienced prosecutors and a special investigation unit to prosecute all child abuse and child neglect cases in the State with assistance of the local District Attorneys.

New Mexico must find solutions to what contributes to or cause our most horrific crimes against children: domestic violence, substance abuse, children living in severe poverty, a poor education system, the breakdown of the family unit, the failures of our social services and child protective services, a failed mental health system, an ineffective criminal justice system, and a failing economy.

Our children’s lives depend upon it as does New Mexico’s future.

Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

— Matthew 19:13-14
______________________________________________

POSTSCRIPT: NOTORIOUS CASES RECALLED

Six of the most notorious cases still haunt New Mexico and New Mexico continues to struggle with child abuse and neglect cases. The public needs to remember the names of these children and how all 6 children were killed to focus on how bad things are in New Mexico and its failure to protect its most vulnerable.

Following are those 6 cases:

1. OMAREE VARELA

In 2014, 9-year-old Omaree Varela was found beaten to death months after placing a desperate 911 call to APD. Nine-year-old Omaree Varela called 911 from his Albuquerque home 6 months before his death. In the 911 audio recording, the child’s mother and the boy’s stepfather can be heard hurling verbal abuse at the child. The parents were unaware that the 911 dispatcher was listening and recording the exchange. The verbal abuse began after the child accidentally spilled food on the ground. Two APD officers went out to the residence after the child’s 911 call and made several errors that day that may have led to the child’s eventual death. The 911 dispatcher told the APD officers that they should listen to the phone call before going to the home. APD officers never went to the child’s home.

According to police logs, the officers claimed they questioned the parents for two hours. Their lapel camera showed that the officers were there for only 15 minutes. The APD Officers did not write a report in the case with one officer saying he would call the state’s Children Youth and Family Department. No call to CYFD was ever made by either APD Officer. After arriving to the child’s home to investigate the 911 call, one of the officer’s belt tape has him telling the parents: “You guys seem like a good family. … A decent family. Just be careful what you guys say when you say stuff like that. I am going to overlook it right now.” Six months later, Omaree Varela was dead. The Omaree had been stomped and beaten to death by his parent. The autopsy report detailed the child’s injuries. The autopsy report said Omaree had lost about 25 percent of his blood volume through internal bleeding.

It was recently reported that Steve Casaus, the stepfather who was convicted of killing Omaree Varela could have his prison sentence cut in half.

https://www.koat.com/article/man-convicted-in-death-of-9-year-old-omaree-varela-could-have-prison-sentence-cut-in-half/28327667

2. VICTORIA MARTENS

On August 24, 2016, in one of the most brutal murders seen in Albuquerque’s history, APD found the dead body of ten-year-old Victoria Martens in an Albuquerque apartment. The APD Officers were responding to a 911 call for a “domestic” dispute. The APD officers discovered 10-year-old Victoria Martens’ dismembered body partially wrapped in a burning blanket in her mother’s apartment. The child’s mother, her boyfriend and the cousin of the boyfriend were arrested at the scene by APD. All three defendants were arrested and charged with first degree murder, child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and death, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

On August 4, 2017 it was reported that an investigation by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) found that a spokesperson for APD “did lie” about the police department’s response to a CYFD referral concerning Victoria Martens prior to her death. In late January 2017, two police spokespersons told the media that officers did investigate the referrals and stated that interviews with Victoria Martens and her mother had been conducted. The APD spoke persons lied and there were no interviews of the child nor of her mother.

After close to a full year in custody by the 3 charged defendants, it was revealed by the District Attorneys Office that the confession of the mother was fabricated, the DNA evidence did not substantiate the claims and that another person actually killed Victoria Martens. The suspect remains at large.

http://www.koat.com/article/new-disturbing-details-revealed-in-victoria-martens-case/5268319

3. Jeremiah Valencia

In November 2017, the body of 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia was found buried in a shallow grave in Santa Fe County. Prosecutors say his stepfather kept him locked up in a dog cage and tortured him, and his stepbrother killed him. An autopsy of Jeremiah’s body revealed lacerations consistent with sexual assault. The autopsy also revealed that portions of his body “had possibly been burned.” Jeremiah’s mother plead guilty for her role in the case. His stepfather committed suicide in jail.

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/documents-detail-alleged-torture-of-slain-boy-jeremiah-valencia/article_d1bc36eb-8a8f-53ef-8ab8-8418c338d33a.html

4. CHILD “JANE DOE”

In April, 2018, the New Mexico Attorney General launched and investigation after a school nurse reported that she thought a 9-year-old child girl was exhibiting signs of trafficking and sexual assault. The media never has released the child’s name and she is therefore referred in this article as Jane Doe. Other school employees described seeing “hickies” on the child’s neck and chest. In an April safe house interview, the child said one parent made her touch other adults inappropriately. One of the 7-year-old girl’s teachers found the girl’s underwear had caked blood on it, the child smelled of feces and urine. The teacher called the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to report suspected child abuse.

The teacher told the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator she was “gagging because it smelled of feces and of urine”. When the teacher took the child’s clothing and went to put it in a bag, she discovered the child’s underwear had caked blood on it with dried feces. The teacher told the officers that the blood was not at all normal for a child of 7 who was not old enough to be menstruating. The teacher told the police officer and the CYFD investigator it was not the first time she had to give the 7-year-old child clean cloths and it was an ongoing problem. Instead of taking and tagging the child’s underwear into evidence, the APD officer threw it into a school dumpster, saying it was not useful as evidence. The child was never taken into protective custody. The child’s father case went to trial and the child testified against her defendant father. The District Court Judge was force to declare a mistrial in the jury trial after witnesses gave testimony about a topic that was prohibited. A second trial will be held and the child will have to testify again against her father.

https://www.koat.com/article/mistrial-declared-in-case-of-father-accused-of-prostituting-young-daughter/26572591

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/girl-8-testifies-father-accused-sex-trafficking-exchange-drugs-220955803.html

5. THE 5 YEAR OLD SON OF FERNANDO AZOFEIFA

On April 2, 2019, in Farmington, New Mexico Fernando Azofeifa, 45, was charged with the murder of his 5-year-old son by smothering him to death with a pillow after a fight with the new boyfriend of the boy’s mother. (News accounts reviewed did not disclose the child’s name) The child’s mother received a text message from Azofeifa stating she would never see her son again. According to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office says Fernando Azofeifa had been arguing with the child’s mother and pointed a rifle at a man she had with her when the two met to exchange the 5-year-old. They say he later sent a text message to the mother saying she would never see her son again. Deputies found the Azofeifa at an apartment in Farmington and hile searching the apartment, detectives found the boy’s body.

April 1st Morning Rush: Farmington man accused of murdering son

https://www.daily-times.com/story/news/crime/2019/04/02/farmington-man-accused-murder-son-hearing-san-juan-county-court/3331579002/

6. SARAH DUBOIS-GILBEAU

On April 5, 2019, it was reported that 5-year-old Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau, who had been diagnosed as being autistic, was beaten to death by her father, Brandon Reynolds with a rubber water shoe. APD Police say Reynolds, 36, beat his daughter to death because she refused to finish her homework, he had assigned her. She had welts and bruises all over her back and was literally beaten to death. Police found blood on the walls and carpet and bruising all over the girl’s body consistent with the treads from a shoe. The child was pronounced dead at University of New Mexico Hospital. Reynolds is charged with child abuse resulting in death.

Father accused of killing 5-year-old girl for not doing her homework

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/mom-says-5-year-old-allegedly-killed-by-father-had-autism/5307260/

APD Changes Policy Taking Fewer CYFD Referrals; Never Mind Changes Order By Mayor Tim Keller “To Build A System That Protects Our Kids”

On Sunday July 7, 2019 , it was reported that the APD Crimes Against Children Unit are investigating the death of a two-week-old infant at a Northwest Albuquerque apartment complex. Police were dispatched to the 1800 block of Indian School NW following reports that an infant was unresponsive.

Emergency medical personnel attempted treatment, but they determined the baby was “beyond help” and medical investigators determined the child’s injuries were suspicious. An APD spokesman said ““Detectives are conducting interviews to determine the course of events and what caused the injuries. … This is an open and active case.”

https://www.koat.com/article/police-investigating-childs-death-in-albuquerque/28313969

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/albuquerque-police-investigating-death-of-2-week-old-infant/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1337334/apd-investigating-death-of-2-week-old-baby.html

HAVE THINGS CHANGED WITH APD?

In 2018, there were several high-profile child abuse cases in Albuquerque that were so mishandled by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) that major policy changes in handling child abuse cases by APD were ordered by Mayor Tim Keller. Keller decided APD officers should respond to all cases reported to CYFD’s Statewide Central Intake center.

The high-profile case that prompted the APD policy changes was the case of Terri Sanchez and James Stewart, the mother and father of a seven-year-old girl, who were charge by the NM Attorney General Office with serious child abuse allegations including human trafficking, promoting prostitution, child abuse and criminal sexual contact of a minor. The facts of the case merit review as does the changes announced by Mayor Tim Keller at the time.

FACTS OF CASE REVISTED

The AG’s Office launched its investigation in April, 2018 after a school nurse reported that she thought a 9-year-old child girl was exhibiting signs of trafficking and sexual assault. Other school employees described seeing “hickies” on the child’s neck and chest. In an April safe house interview, the child said one parent made her touch other adults inappropriately. One of the 7-year-old girl’s teachers found the girl’s underwear had caked blood on it, the child smelled of feces and urine. The teacher called the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to report suspected child abuse.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released three (3) lapel videos and recordings of the 911 calls of APD officers going to the hotel for a well fare check and the elementary school to interview the child’s teacher. A November 14, 2017 lapel camera video of an APD Officer and a Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) investigator was released of the 7-year old’s teacher being interviewed. In the video, the teacher describes how she took the child to a bathroom located in the classroom to have her cleaned up and provide the child with clean clothing.

The teacher tells the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator she was “gagging because it smelled of feces and of urine”. When the teacher took the child’s clothing and went to put it in a bag, she discovered the child’s underwear had caked blood on it with dried feces. The teacher told the officers that the blood was not at all normal for a child of 7 who was not old enough to be menstruating. The teacher told the police officer and the CYFD investigator it was not the first time she had to give the 7-year-old child clean cloths and it was an ongoing problem.

The teacher took the child’s clothing, bagged it, and saved it for police. The teacher reported that she left the bag of the child’s clothing in a locked classroom bathroom and then left the classroom. The teacher testified in a detention hearing that when the police officer came to the school the following day, the APD officer said they could not use the underwear as evidence. She said the APD officer told her the underwear had not been kept in a secure location.

The police officer also said to the teacher “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court.” Instead of taking and tagging the child’s underwear into evidence, the APD officer threw it into a school dumpster, saying it was not useful as evidence. After the officer finished talking to the teacher, the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator had a discussion on what to do with the child’s clothing collected by the teacher. The APD officer actually asks the question “Do you think it is a good idea to collect them?” The CYFD investigator then tells the officer “That’s up to you guys. That ain’t my department.”

The APD officer attempted to call the APD Crimes Against Children Unit to get guidance on what to do with the clothing and apparently never received a response. APD officers did not arrest the mother or father. The child was never taken into protective custody following the November 14, 2017 interviews. On November 14, 2017 a child welfare check was made at the hotel the child was residing with her parents and the girl’s teacher was interviewed at her school.

James Stewart’s case went to trial and the child testified against her defendant father. The District Court Judge was force to declare a mistrial in the jury trial after witnesses gave testimony about a topic that was prohibited. A second trial will have to be held and the child will have to testify again against her father.

MAYOR KELLER AND APD CHIEF GEIER BACKTRACK

Initially, both Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier insisted that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures, including when an APD officer tossed out the bloody underwear of the child. Keller and Geier then doubled down when they said that officers and detectives did everything, they could with the information they had at the time. After Keller and Geier doubled down, it was reported that when two APD officers and two detectives with APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit looked into an allegation that the 7-year-old child had blood on her underwear someone from APD in fact accessed the states Children Youth and Families (CYFD) law enforcement portal and reviewed the family history of CYFD contacts. After a week of intense media coverage Keller ordered APD to launch an Internal Affairs investigation to provide a more complete accounting of the department’s interactions related to the incident involving the parents and the child.

On June 2, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published front-page story on an interview Keller had with the editors entitled “KELLER WALKS BACK DEFENSE OF APD IN CHILD ABUSE CASE; Mayor: ‘Bunker mentality’ stalls reform in department”.

Mayor Keller is quoted as saying:

“It was premature to go out with those kinds of statements [that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures and that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time] … We should have waited. … What we learned is that you can’t make a few phone calls and say you have the entire picture, and we’re not going to do it again. I think we learned a lot through this. … There are still lots and lots of issues at APD. … It’s just a realization that reforming APD in reality is going to be a unit-by-unit exercise and that is going to take years.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1179756/keller-walks-back-defense-of-apd-in-abuse-case.html

MAYOR KELLER ORDERED CHANGES

On May 18, 2018 Mayor Keller ordered APD to examine how they investigate possible child abuse or children’s safety issues in the wake of the case and the accusation of suspected sex trafficking of the girl by her parents with whom police had prior contacts.

Mayor Tim Keller ordered APD to undertake the following steps:

1. Review child abuse cases for patterns that raise red flags.

2. Work on trauma-informed interviewing techniques.

3. Use the Real Time Crime Center to identify people with repeat interactions with law enforcement or child welfare agencies.

4. Work with a state Children, Youth and Families Department task force to review prior cases.

5. Prioritize recruitment and funding for civilian and sworn positions that work on children’s cases.

6. Reach out to other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the courts, CYFD and child advocates to coordinate crimes against children cases.

7. Evaluate policies on evidence collection.

In a press release announcing what action he wanted APD to take, Mayor Keller said:

“We’re going to do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening [ever again]. It’s going to take all of us – law enforcement agencies, child advocates, prosecutors and the courts. … Today we’re stepping up ourselves, and we’re reaching out to all these partners to address coordination for cases impacting children’s safety. We’re asking all of these partners to review how they interact on child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking cases, including the handling of evidence. We’ve got to figure out a way to build a system that protects our kids.” (Ephasis added)

TWO OTHER NOTORIOUS APD CASES REMEMBERED

There are two other cases Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and the public need to be reminded of involving APD: Omaree Varela and Victoria Martens.

OMAREE VARELA

In 2014, 9-year-old Omaree Varela was found beaten to death months after placing a desperate 911 call to APD. Nine-year-old Omaree Varela called 911 from his Albuquerque home 6 months before his death. In the 911 audio recording, the child’s mother and the boy’s stepfather can be heard hurling verbal abuse at the child. The parents were unaware that the 911 dispatcher was listening and recording the exchange. The verbal abuse began after the child accidentally spilled food on the ground. Two APD officers went out to the residence after the child’s 911 call and made several errors that day that may have led to the child’s eventual death. The 911 dispatcher told the APD officers that they should listen to the phone call before going to the home. APD officers never went to the child’s home.

According to police logs, the officers claimed they questioned the parents for two hours. Their lapel camera showed that the officers were there for only 15 minutes. The APD Officers did not write a report in the case with one officer saying he would call the state’s Children Youth and Family Department. No call to CYFD was ever made by either APD Officer. After arriving to the child’s home to investigate the 911 call, one of the officer’s belt tape has him telling the parents: “You guys seem like a good family. … A decent family. Just be careful what you guys say when you say stuff like that. I am going to overlook it right now.” Six months later, Omaree Varela was dead. Omaree had been stomped and beaten to death by his parent. The autopsy report detailed the child’s injuries. The autopsy report said Omaree had lost about 25 percent of his blood volume through internal bleeding.

VICTORIA MARTENS

On August 24, 2016, in one of the most brutal murders seen in Albuquerque’s history, APD found the dead body of ten-year-old Victoria Martens in an Albuquerque apartment. The APD Officers were responding to a 911 call for a “domestic” dispute. The APD officers discovered 10-year-old Victoria Martens’ dismembered body partially wrapped in a burning blanket in her mother’s apartment. The child’s mother, her boyfriend and the cousin of the boyfriend were arrested at the scene by APD. All three defendants were arrested and charged with first degree murder, child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and death, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

On August 4, 2017 it was reported that an investigation by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) found that a spokesperson for APD “did lie” about the police department’s response to a CYFD referral concerning Victoria Martens prior to her death. In late January 2017, two police spokespersons told the media that officers did investigate the referrals and stated that interviews with Victoria Martens and her mother had been conducted. The APD spoke persons lied in that and there were no interviews of the child nor of her mother as they had said.

After close to a full year in custody by the 3 charged defendants, it was revealed by the District Attorney’s Office that the confession taken by APD of the mother was fabricated by the mother in order to cooperate with APD, the DNA evidence gathered and finally tested by APD did not substantiate the claims and that another person actually killed Victoria Martens. The suspect remains at large.

http://www.koat.com/article/new-disturbing-details-revealed-in-victoria-martens-case/5268319

WHAT HAPPENS NOW IS NO LONGER APD’S PROBLEM

On June 28, 2019, it was announced by the Keller Administration with a press release that the procedures ordered by Mayor Keller in May, 2018 would be altered. It was announced APD officers will only respond to calls that are determined to be “emergency” and “priority one” calls. “Priority One” calls involve immediate danger of physical harm. All the rest of the calls will be responded to and handled by just CYFD workers. According to the APD press release, the changes will run through August to test how effective they are and then will be evaluated for success.

Under the test procedures, Statewide Central Intake (SCI) will take responsibility for calls that are not categorized as emergencies or priority one and will send CYFD counseling or family services to follow up. According to the APD news release, CYFD will continue to provide child neglect and abuse reports to APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit.

Lt. Nicholas Sanders with APD’s criminal investigations division juvenile section explained the rational for the changes as follows:

“What we were seeing was APD was receiving calls for real, real general, not even neglect, just general calls that were coming in … Some of those would be an incident where a child missed an appointment for an eye exam. Then you’re getting law enforcement out there looking at that element, when it was just truly just a family structure issue that made that child not be able to attend the doctor’s appointment and no real criminal element.”

APD did not provide the number of calls officers responded to that were reported to the Statewide Central Intake center since March 2018 when officers began responding to all calls. CYFD said they had 4,228 cases reported in Bernalillo County between then and now. Of those calls, they said 2,444 were rated as emergencies and 1,784 were rated as priority ones. Some of those calls would have been fielded by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies instead of APD officers.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334554/apd-testing-out-responding-to-only-high-priority-cyfd-calls.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

With the passage of time, Mayor Tim Keller and APD find it all too easy to announce major changes in policy relating to child abuse cases by press release no doubt believing no one cares or will take notice. For that reason, Mayor Tim Keller needs to be reminded of what he said on May 18, 2018:

“We’re going to do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening [ever again]. … We’ve got to figure out a way to build a system that protects our kids.”

It is highly likely the case involving the bloody underwear of a 9-year-old would have not have been classified as a priority one call or emergency call that lead to changes in APD policy by Mayor Keller. No doubt the July 7, 2019 shocking case involving the death of a 2-week-old baby was an “emergency” and “priority one” call under the APD altered policies. What remains to be seen is did APD or CYFD ever have any contact at all with the family before the baby’s death. What is likely is we will hear absolutely nothing from Mayor Keller regarding the recent case unless of course he expresses sorrow and condolences and announces new policies which are policies abandoned by his administration months after they were initially announced by him.

Absolutely nothing has been said by APD nor Mayor Tim Keller as to what he promised and what has in fact been done to:

1. Review child abuse cases for patterns that raise red flags.

2. What has been done by APD to work on trauma-informed interviewing techniques.

3. How the APD Real Time Crime Center is being used to identify people with repeat interactions with law enforcement or child welfare agencies.

4. What work is being done by the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) task force to review prior cases.

5. What has been done to prioritize recruitment and funding for civilian and sworn positions that work on children’s cases.

6. What has been done to reach out to other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the courts, CYFD and child advocates to coordinate crimes against children cases.

7. What exactly has been done to evaluate policies on evidence collection.

When it comes to Mayor Tim Keller, you can always count on him to do a good press conference by saying all the right things but never have any substantive follow up unless of course it’s to take credit for something done such as reducing crime rates. Perhaps sooner rather than later, Mayor Tim Keller will announce what he has actually done “to build a system that protects our kids” unless of course his APD Department discards his orders to change policy he has announced.

Headlines Discredits Mayor’s and Chief’s Statistics “Crime Is Down”; City Ranks In Top 10 Of Dangerous Cities; Number One In Auto Thefts 3rd Year in A Row;”

The news headlines for April 4, 5, 6 and 7, 2019 reported 8 dead, including a child of 5 beaten to death by her father with a rubber water shoe and an 8-year-old girl who was shot and critically injured in a Northeast Albuquerque home from a stray bullet, all in four days.

On April 29, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal front page headline printed in red letters read “IN BERNALILLO COUTY” followed in black letters by “114 PEOPLE SHOT IN 112 DAYS”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1308316/in-bernalillo-county-114-people-shot-in-112-days.html

On July 4, 2019, the front-page Albuquerque Journal headline read:

“APD: DETECTIVE ON DUTY FATALLY SHOOTS ARMED MAN; SHOTS EXCHANGED DURING SURVEILLANCE WORK; DETECTIVE SLIGHTLY INJURED”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1336377/apd-detective-doing-surveillance-work-shoots-kills-armed-man.html

On Saturday, July 6, 2019 a Journal headline read “MAN CHARGED WITH SHOOTING, KILLING HIS NEIGHBOR.” The defendant allegedly shot and killed his neighbor after they got into a fight about the neighbor’s dog. The defendant claimed the victim pulled a handgun and began shooting at the defendant’s yard. The defendant claimed he went into his house, grabbed a rifle and fired back from the entrance of his house killing the victim. No handgun casings were found at the scene from the victim’s gun. A neighbor told police he saw the defendant standing on a stack of pallets outside and he had propped a rifle looking through a scope aiming it toward the victim.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1336703/man-charged-with-shooting-killing-his-neighbor.html

On Sunday, July 7, 2018 it was reported APD is investigating 4 people who were shot in a parking lot near Gold Avenue early Sunday morning. APD Police reported finding blood and shell casings, then received information that four people were taken to hospitals throughout the city suffering from gunshot wounds. APD reported they located a vehicle with “multiple impacts and visible firearms.” The vehicle was sealed, and police were seeking a search warrant.

https://www.koat.com/article/four-people-shot-in-downtown-albuquerque/28311592

NEWS DISCREDITS CLAIMS ABQ CRIME IS DOWN

The news reports and headlines reflect just how violent Albuquerque has become. All the recent headlines undercut Mayor Keller’s July 1, 2019 press conference to announce a decline in all categories of crime for the first 6 months of 2019 compared to the first 6 months of 2018.

These are the very type of headlines that are used in campaigns against any incumbent Mayor who tries to take credit for reducing crime rates when it’s simply not true. This article is a deep dive into comparing the City’ crime statistics for the last two years to the statistics of the last 10 years.

CRIME STATISTICS ANNOUNCED

According to the statistics released during the July 1, 2019 Keller press conference, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reported to the FBI that in the first 6 months of 2019, the property crimes of home burglaries were down and auto burglaries were down . Robberies, sexual assaults and murders were also down from the first 6 months of last year. Double-digit drops during the last 6 months in violent offenses included robberies, down, aggravated assaults, and rapes.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335502/crime-declining-in-albuquerque-new-numbers-show.html

Following are the APD city crime data released for first 6 month of 2018 compared to first 6 months 2019 with the percentage of changes:

Auto Burglary:
2018: 4,882
2019: 3,044
Change: -38%

Auto Theft:
2018:2,890
2019: 1,750
Change: -39%

Commercial Burglary:
2018:971
2019: 710
Change: -27%

Residential Burglary:
2018: 2,046
2019: 1,242
Change: -39%

Robbery:
2018: 1,051
2019: 550
Change:-48%

Homicide:
2018: 39
2019: 32
Change: -18%

Rape:
2018: 203
2019: 144
Change: -29%

Aggravated Assault:
2018: 1,727
2019: 1,163
Change:-33%

During the July 1, 2019 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say about the statistics announced:

“Crime is still far too high, and the fight is nowhere near being over. This is something for us that is about a long-term, sustained effort that we have deep resolve around, and what we’re sharing today at least shows we believe these efforts are at least pushing us in the right direction.”

APD Chief Geier for his part said:

“[The declining numbers are encouraging and] we’re starting to see these results, but, again, we know that people are still being victimized every day.”

CITY ONE OF 10 MOST DANGEROUS BIG CITIES

On April 25, 2019, it was reported that the website Safewise named Albuquerque one of the 10 most dangerous big cities in the nation. The city ranked 8th , up from number 12 just one year ago.

According to the KRQE news report, Albuquerque had the highest property crime rate, with more than 73 per 1,000 people. The study compared trends in wealth distribution, graduation rates and ethnic diversity.

The report states that “the top 10 most dangerous metro cities have a violent crime rate that is 3.8 times higher than the national average. Albuquerque’s violent crime rate (per1,000) was 13.69.

St. Louis and Detroit topped the list of most dangerous communities, while Corrales was named the safest community in New Mexico. Cities were ranked based on FBI crime report statistics and population data for the most recent year available which was 2017.”

https://www.safewise.com/blog/safest-metro-cities/

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-ranks-among-nations-top-10-most-dangerous-big-cities/

CITY NUMBER ONE IN AUTO THEFTS THIRD YEAR IN A ROW

On June 26, 2019 it was announced in its annual report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) that Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area for the 3rd year in the row is ranked number #1 in auto thefts in the country. The #1 ranking is despite the decrease in auto thefts. The Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area includes the 4 counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance and Valencia counties.

The country as has seen a decrease in auto theft overall, but Albuquerque area has made even bigger and more significant gains in reducing auto thefts. According to the annual NICB report, in 2018 almost 2,700 fewer cars were stolen in the Albuquerque area than the year before, a 27% decrease. In 2017, 1,096 cars were stolen per 100,000 residents and in 2018 that figure was 780 cars stolen per 100,000 residents.

Notwithstanding the decrease in auto thefts, it was not enough to reduce the Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area as the number one ranking area in the country for stolen vehicles per capita in the country. While the Albuquerque area had fewer stolen vehicles in 2018 than in 2017, the city of Albuquerque saw a slightly higher decrease of 29%. According to APD data, there have been 1,135 fewer stolen vehicles so far this year over the same time period last year. (2019: 1,750 compared to 2018: 2,890)

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-comes-in-1-in-auto-thefts-nationally-again/28188855

https://www.abqjournal.com/1333048/abq-auto-thefts-drop-but-metro-still-no-1.html

CITY’S 2008 TO 2018 CRIME STATISTICS

Albuquerque’s FBI Uniform Crime statistics for the years 2008 to 2018 reveal just how bad violent crime has increased in Albuquerque over the last 10 years. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults. Property Crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. The hard numbers for the last 10 years reflect that crime has not declined much and that like a waive on a beach, it had “ebbed and flowed” over the years.

The number of HOMICIDES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 38
2009: 56
2010: 42
2011: 35
2012: 41
2013: 34
2014: 30
2015: 42
2016: 61
2017: 72
2018: 65

The number of RAPES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 370
2009: 326
2010: 338
2011: 264
2012: 278
2013: 439
2014: 402
2015: 404
2016: 381
2017: 473
2018: 461

The number of AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS reported each year from 2008 to 2016 are:

2008: 2,960
2009: 2,597
2010: 2,971
2011: 2,910
2012: 2,740
2013: 2,803
2014: 3,121
2015: 3,273
2016: 3,846
2017: 4,213
2018: 3,885

The total number of VIOLENT CRIMES (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined) reported each year from 2008 to 2018 were:

2008: 4,718
2009: 4,082
2010: 4,291
2011: 4,207
2012: 4,151
2013: 4,322
2014: 4,934
2015: 5,405
2016: 6,245
2017: 7,686 (Aggravated Assaults: 4,213, Non-Fatal Shootings: 470)
2018: 6,789 (Aggravated Assaults: 3,885, Non-Fatal Shootings: 491)

The total number of ROBBERIES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 1,350
2009: 1,103
2010: 940
2011: 998
2012: 1,092
2013: 1,046
2014: 1,381
2015: 1,686
2016: 1,957
2017: 2,930
2018: 1,887

The total number of AUTO THEFTS reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 4,672
2009: 3,399
2010: 2,773
2011: 2,823
2012: 2,743
2013: 3,005
2014: 3,558
2015: 5,179
2016: 7,710
2017: 7,692
2018: 5,341

The total number of BURGLARIES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 6,137
2009: 6,376
2010: 5,465
2011: 5,985
2012: 6,677
2013: 7,297
2014: 6,123
2015: 5,996
2016: 6,236
2017: 7,002
2018: 5,765

The total number of PROPERTY CRIMES (burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft) reported each year from 2008 to 2018 were:

2008: 32,039
2009: 29,238
2010: 26,493
2011: 28,109
2012: 29,804
2013: 30,614
2014: 30,523
2015: 34,082
2016: 38,645
2017: 41,350
2018: 34,481

The COMBINED STATISTICS FOR PART I CRIMES (the number of incidents reported) each year from 2008 to 2018 are as follows:

2008: 36,757 total reported crimes
2009: 33,329 total reported crimes
2010: 30,784 total reported crimes
2011: 32,316 total reported crimes
2012: 33,955 total reported crimes
2013: 34,936 total reported crimes
2014: 35,457 total reported crimes
2015: 39,487 total reported crimes
2016: 46,665 total reported crimes
2017: January to June: 24,770 (Full year numbers unavailable)
2018: 42,091

SOURCES:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/annual-reports/uniform-crime-reports

https://www.dps.nm.gov/index.php/107-uniform-crime-reports

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/police-crime-stats-2019-03-18.pdf

2017 AND 2018 CRIME STATISTICS SHOW DECLINE

Comparing full year statistics for 2017 and 2018 shows a decline in the percentages for one year. Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show the largest decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary, auto theft, commercial burglary, and residential burglary, and robbery.

The crime statistics for the entire years of 2017 and 2018 are as follows:

VIOLENT CRIME FOR 2017 AND 2018

HOMICIDES:
2017: 72
2018: 65
Change: -10%

RAPE:
2017: 473
2018: 461
Change: -3%

AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS FOR 2017 AND 2018
2017: 4,213
2018: 3,885
Change: -8

NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS FOR 2017 AND 2018:
2017: 470
2018: 491
Change: +4

ROBBERY FOR 2017 AND 2018:
2017: 2,930
2018: 1,887
Change: -36%

PROPERTY CRIMES FOR 2017 AND 2018:

AUTO BURGLARY:
2017:12,999
2018: 9,218
Change: -29%

AUTO THEFT:
2017: 7,692
2018: 5,341
Change: -31%

COMMERCIAL BURGLARY:
2017: 2,298
2018: 1,918
Change: -17%

RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY:
2017: 4,704
2018: 3,847
Change: -18

https://www.abqjournal.com/1261926/apd-release-crime-stats-for-2018.html

DECLARING GUN VIOLENCE “PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT”

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD Officials announced several proactive and reactive initiatives designed to combat gun violence in the City and declaring gun violence a “public health risk.”

The specific initiatives announced include:

1. Using data from APD’s Real Time Crime Center to focus on areas with a heavy concentration of gun violence and identify any patterns and putting more officers in those areas.

2. Forming units of officers called Problem Response Teams in each area command. The Problem Response Teams will be made up of officers who don’t take calls for service but will be available to help community members as they need it. After a violent crime, the teams, along with Albuquerque Fire Rescue, will visit the neighborhood and provide resources or information.

3. Identifying those who are selling firearms illegally to felons or juveniles.

4. Working with agencies and universities to conduct research on gun violence as a public health issue.

5. Implementing a standardized shooting response protocol that police must follow within the first 72 hours of a reported crime. APD intends to collect and test all casings at shooting scenes and intends to purchase new equipment and technology that can assist detectives in investigating gun crimes.

6. APD is in the process of hiring additional personnel for the crime lab and securing technology that will increase efficiency around DNA testing including automating the entire unit. The unit that tests DNA and the unit that tests latent fingerprints will be split in an attempt to reduce a backlog of evidence that needs to be tested.

7. Increasing the use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the Problem Response Teams. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network program is used to identify which guns have been used in multiple crimes by analyzing all casings they can find at violent crime scenes where a firearm has been discharged.

8. Use of a placard police officers can hang on doors to encourage residents to call with information about a crime.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/09/four-very-violent-days-in-a-violent-city-apd-declares-violent-crime-as-public-health-issue/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1301057/police-to-focus-on-gun-violence.html

INCREASING SIZE APD POLICE FORCE

APD’s intends to spend $88 million dollars beginning last year in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Last year’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provided for increasing APD funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. This year’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget has funding for 1,040 sworn police.

On June 17, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced that is has hired 116 police officers during the first full budget year of the Mayor Tim Keller Administration. A very large percentage of those officers are lateral hires from other departments. It is projected that with the additions APD will reach 957 sworn officers by the end of July, 2019 and reach 981 by the end of the summer. For the 2019-20129 fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019 APD has been is budgeted for 1,040 full time sworn officers.

According to an APD news release, about two-thirds of the 116 new officers are already patrolling the streets and taking calls for service. The remainder are expected to be on duty by the end of the summer. Of the 957 police officers APD now has, 533 are patrolling the streets taking calls for service.

https://www.koat.com/article/116-new-officers-hitting-abq-streets/28069973

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The feel good news is that the hard numbers reflect that for ONE full year of 2017 to 2018 and the first 6 months of 2019 crime is going down in the major categories. The feel bad news is the 10-year statistics confirms crime is not down, especially when it comes to violent crimes. In a nutshell, violent crime is not down and the statistics need a dramatic turnaround before people will feel safe.

During their July 1, 2019 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier to their credit did not claim victory in reducing the crime rates in Albuquerque. That would have been a major political mistake given the communities’ anger over crime in general. The hard numbers released do not yet reflect a trend that can be relied upon for any sort of a victory lap on their part.

Crime has spiked so much in Albuquerque for the last 10 years that , even with a 30% or more decrease in each category as announced by Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier, the numbers are still way too high, especially in violent crime and they both know it. Violent crime and auto thefts are at unacceptable levels. A sign of the times of how bad things have gotten in the City is when no one believes Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Geier’s when they both say that crime is going down.

Albuquerque’s population has remained relatively the same for the last 4 years yet the hard number of crimes continue to rise. In other words, the city is experiencing more incidents of crime with fewer residents. When a city is ranked for crime with FBI crimes statistics , it uses a per capita basis which is so many crimes per 100,000 population and it tends to skew the numbers toward the worst-case scenario.

During the July 1, 2019 press conference APD Chief Geier seem to acknowledge the problem when he called the numbers encouraging, but went on to say many in the community have not personally felt the progress. Chief Geier said “We’re starting to see these results, but, again, we know that people are still being victimized every day.”

When it comes to crime, public perception overrides reality. If you’re a victim of a crime, it’s hard to accept the statistics that crime is down. For any politician to claim credit for reduction in crime is always very foolish and dangerous given how volatile crime really is. During winter months, crime tends to go down and during summer months, it tends to spike, very much like a wave on a beach flowing in and then flowing out.

It is more likely than not that the reduction in the overall percentages of crime can be attributed in part to APD adding 116 more police officers to the force in one year, with at least 70 experienced laterals recruited from other departments. More cops mean more patrolling the streets and making more arrests. APD will be spending $88 million over 3 more years to hire 300 more cops to patrol streets assuming they can actually recruit and hire that many. There have been no reports on how successful APD has been declaring gun violence a “public health risk” and if the announced proactive and reactive initiatives have been at all successful.

A declining trend in crime would be reflected in a 4 to 5 year period . The question that must be asked is “Can APD sustain the declining numbers?” The answer is no one really knows for sure. It’s “not a sure bet” that simply hiring more cops will bring the crime rates down. Increasing the number of sworn police could actually increase the numbers because more cops mean more arrests and prosecutions.

No doubt Mayor Tim Keller is hoping crime will decline significantly before he runs for another term in 2021. Keller campaigned on the issue of making public safety the number one priority of his administration, returning to community-based police, reducing crime and implementing the Department of Justice reforms. If he does not deliver on his promises, even after spending millions to increase the size of APD, he may not get elected to another term.

Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier need to continue their efforts. Only time will tell if crime is indeed going down and what headlines will be used in the 2021 Mayor’s race.

POSTSCRIPT:

This blog article generated a lot of reaction on the web page from Keller defenders who are way too sensitive. The article points out crime rates have gone down for 18 months and what is being done. Having press conferences every 3 months to announce declining crime rates when the national rankings still have city in top 10 for violent crime and auto thefts is trying to make a mole hill (declining rates) into a mountain (acceptable crime levels). The article also points out what Keller and Geier said about the need to do more and it is suggested that people don’t try to make something bigger than it is. The article gave all the good news for the last year and a half, the Mayor’s comments as well as the policy to declare violent crime a public health threat and outlines the gains in APD staffing.

What was said at the end of the article is “The feel good news is that the hard numbers reflect that for ONE full year of 2017 to 2018 and the first 6 months of 2019 crime is going down in the major categories. The feel bad news is the 10-year statistics confirms crime is not down, especially when it comes to violent crimes. In a nutshell, violent crime is not down and the statistics need a dramatic turnaround before people will feel safe. …. Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier need to continue their efforts. Only time will tell if crime is indeed going down and what headlines will be used in the 2021 Mayor’s race”. No doubt Keller will be pointing to his own positive headlines.

The sources for the above statistics can be reviewed at the below links:

For 2008 to 2016 statistics see:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/annual-reports/uniform-crime-reports

https://www.dps.nm.gov/index.php/107-uniform-crime-reports

For 2017 statistics see:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/police-crime-stats-2019-03-18.pdf

https://www.abqjournal.com/1224917/fbi-abq-crime-rate-up-in-2017.html
https://www.dps.nm.gov/index.php/107-uniform-crime-reports

For 2018 statistics see:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/police-crime-stats-2019-03-18.pdf

https://www.abqjournal.com/1261926/apd-release-crime-stats-for-2018.html

https://www.dps.nm.gov/index.php/107-uniform-crime-reports