Who ordered the tampering or withholding of evidence ?

APD announced it is investigating reports of doctored lapel camera footage and is telling the City Council that they will be getting a hold of the federal prosecutors and cooperate “if necessary” when in fact they will not have a choice but to cooperate. What is at the heart of the allegations and which is the most serious is who ordered the erasing, altering or corruption of the lapel camera videos? The allegation by the former records custodian include that it was high ranking members of the APD command staff and the City Attorney’s office who ordered the erasing, alteration or withholding of evidence in civil cases filed over police officer involved shootings.

In the meantime, APD tells the City Council they are going to investigate, on their own, allegations that members of the department improperly erased, altered or corrupted video footage taken by the lapel cameras worn by officers. Our feckless Chief of Police Gordon Eden defends APD and discounts the allegations of the former records custodian by saying “We are not a television or movie production company”. Chief Eden, the City and APD do have their own production studio and they produce Duke City Blues and APD TV. The City Attorney tells the City Council “there has not been any evidence so far to substantiate these allegations”. How can there be when the investigation has not even started?

The City Council bought it hook, line and sinker commending APD for their efforts and saying the investigation by APD was appropriate. Councilors, NO it is not appropriate for APD to investigate itself when that investigation just may lead to high ranking members of the command staff, City Attorney’s office and perhaps even the Mayor’s office. The City Council did not stop to think that what APD command staff may be doing is trying to determine and identify exactly who at APD did the dirty work for them so that person can be discredited, disciplined or prosecuted. In other words, looking for a scapegoat to blame for this fiasco and perhaps cover up wrongdoing.


It is time to clean out APD’s and City Hall’s sewer lines. After two years, and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, not much has been accomplished with the Department of Justice reforms. A former APD records officer is alleging illegal alteration of police videos, records and evidence tampering ordered by top APD command staff and the City Attorney’s Office in police shooting cases apparently under the nose of the Federal Monitor and the Federal Court responsible for enforcing the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Many in APD’s current command staff created, participated or did not stop the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.

Aggressive, sweeping personnel changes are required to repair the Albuquerque Police Department, implement the U.S. Department of Justice reforms and reduce Albuquerque’s dramatic increase in crime rates.


Since 2010, Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates have dramatically increased by 14% to 20% percent. According to the FBI, in 2015 violent crime and property crime in Albuquerque increased in by 9.2% and 11.5%, respectively. APD officers have shot over 41 people with $50 million paid in police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases. In 2015, murders in Albuquerque spiked by 53%.

The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 850 over the past seven years. Only 430 sworn officers are assigned to field services responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls a year. The City needs 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community based policing that will reduce crime.

APD is severely understaffed and struggling to implement expansive and expensive Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to and mandated reforms. The Federal Monitor has found that “APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force has failed and the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem”. The Federal Monitor has also found that the “deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture of low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews.”

More must be done to aggressively implement the DOJ reforms, solve the staffing shortages and address APD’s leadership crisis.


The City Council by ordinance can create a Department of Public Safety with an appointed civilian Police Commissioner. The Police Commissioner would be appointed by the Mayor with advice and consent of the City Council. The Chief of Police would be appointed by the Police Commissioner but serve at the pleasure of the Mayor with advice and consent of the City Council. The Police Commissioner would assume direct civilian oversight, management and control of APD.

A national search for a Police Commissioner and Chief of Police needs to be conducted. A Police Commissioner and Chief with extensive and proven leadership in managing a municipal police department must be hired, not political operatives.

The civilian Police Commissioner would assume primary responsibility for implementation of all the DOJ-mandated reforms and only be removed for cause by the Mayor. The Police Commissioner would completely overhaul and restructure APD, appoint new chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager and each would report directly to the Chief of Police, with the Police Commissioner in the Chain of Command as the Commissioner determines to be necessary and appropriate to carry out his or her duties.

The civilian Police Commissioner would be responsible for preparing budgets, personnel management and enforcement of personnel policies and procedures and imposing personnel disciplinary action. The Chief of Police would be responsible for day-to-day operations of APD, public safety initiatives and management of sworn staff and report directly to the civilian Police Commissioner.

The Public Safety Department would consist of four civilian staffed divisions and managed by the Police Commissioner:

1. Personnel and training, for recruiting, hiring, internal affairs investigations and police academy;
2. Budget and finance;
3. Information technology support and crime lab; and
4. 911 emergency operations center with a civilian manager.

“Deadly use of force” cases would continue to be investigated by the Critical Incident Review Team and the final reports with finding and recommendations submitted to the Police Commissioner.

The APD Internal Affairs Unit would be abolished. The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm would be done by “civilian” personnel investigators. The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police would be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit where necessary. The Office of Independent Council would make findings and recommendations to the Police Commissioner for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.

The city needs to fund and implement a non-negotiated major hourly rate increase of up to 15% to 20% percent for sworn officers, excluding management, to improve recruitment, retention and morale. Sign on bonuses, tuition debt payoff and mortgage down payment bonuses need to be offered to new recruits. Yearly experienced officer retention bonuses must be made permanent.

APD needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year.

If necessary, the City Council needs to consider a public safety tax to pay for APD’s staffing expansion, pay incentive programs, needed training programs, DOJ-mandated reforms, equipment acquisitions and 911 emergency operations, staffing and equipment.


Until aggressive action is taken with APD and the Department of Justice mandated and agreed to reforms, APD will continue to spin out of control, violent crime will continue to rise and Albuquerque will continue to see dramatic spikes in crime.

Is City Setting Monitor Up to Ask for His Removal?

I attended the November 18, 2016 four hour hearing held by US. District Judge Robert Brack and listened to Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger make his fourth report on APD’s progress implementing the Department of Justice reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The courtroom was packed with concerned citizens.

The Federal Monitor reported to the court that “across the board, the components in APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force, for the most part, has failed.” The Monitor also said “the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem and the deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews.”

US Attorney Damon Martinez addressed the Court and informed the Court that the Mayor and City engages in a disturbing pattern of conduct where press conferences are held regarding changes at APD never discussed with the Department of Justice that may be covered by the consent decree. The example given was when Mayor Berry held his press conference with APD announcing his “crime fighting” plan prepared after his $65,000 “crime study” to pay a private company approximately $1.5 million dollars a year to employ 25 retired police officers to assist APD with interviews and evidence processing. The question raised by the US Attorney was if the retired cops would be governed by the consent decree requirements for constitutional policing?

Judge Brack was also told how the City posted on its web site and made public a confidential letter between attorneys disparaging the Federal Monitor. The Court was also told that the City has a disturbing pattern of criticizing the Federal Monitor, taking issue with him and challenging his audit findings to the extent of demanding changes in the audits.

What surprised me was when well known and respected civil rights attorney Peter Cubra told the Court that from his vantage point, APD was disparaging, taking issue with and is critical of the Federal Monitor in order to lead up to asking that he be removed and replaced. That is exactly the tactics I warned the Federal Monitor back in January that the City would use against him.

I also noticed that Tim Keller, Brian Colon, Deana Archuleta, Dan Lewis, Mitchell Garcia, Wayne Johnson and Rob Perry did not even bother to attend the hearing.

ART Bus Project Destroys Historic Route 66

Forgetting mistakes of the past in the interest of a construction project is what is happening with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) Bus project that will have an adverse affect on historical areas of the city. The ART bus project reminds me of “urban renewal” when entire residential neighborhoods were condemned to construct the Convention Center and Civic Plaza without a public vote. I also remember the demolition of the historic Alvarado Hotel and the historic Franciscan Hotel, both on Central in downtown Albuquerque. The majestic Franciscan Hotel was torn down for a parking lot.

The Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) bus project is a $120 million dollar construction project that will have a very short term impact on Albuquerque’s economy but will have a long term negative impact on historic Route 66. The ART bus project was never put to a public vote for approval, but instead was crammed down taxpayer’s throats by Mayor Richard Berry and the Albuquerque City Council.

The City insists ART will increase bus usage up and down central. It will not. The overwhelming majority of the demographics the City says it is targeting rely too much on their own vehicles to travel to and from work all over this entire city. A mere ten mile stretch of ART is not going to reduce people’s reliance on their vehicles. The truth is, the City already spent millions on the “Rapid Ride” system up along Central which is just as effective if not more as ART. ART is an expensive and glorified version of Rapid Ride but with a dedicated lane and canopies down the center of historic Route 66. The designed elevated bus stops and canopies do not conform nor fit into and will destroy the historical character of many parts of Route 66.

The ART project is very poorly designed. The construction has destroyed and eliminated the median improvements made in the ten mile stretch. An estimated 300 storefront parking spaces will be eliminated and no left turns will be allowed along the route. ART will significantly increase traffic congestion when there will be only one dedicated lane for traffic in each direction. Emergency vehicle travel will also be seriously impaired because of traffic congestion and the dedicated bus lanes system with elevated bus stops in the middle of the road.

The ART project will destroy thriving businesses especially in the East Downtown (EDO), Hunning Highland and Nob Hill areas. Many businesses have already been force to close because of loss of business caused by ART construction. The Berry Administration has described proposed mitigation efforts to lessen the impact of construction on businesses, including offering “bridge loans”, which are not at all compelling nor convincing. Why would a thriving business want a “loan” to make up for business losses caused by this ill advised City project?

$69 million dollars of funding for ART is suppose to come from a Federal Transportation Grant which the Berry Administration says is a sure thing. During the grant application process, the Berry Administration falsely claimed the project would not be controversial with the public yet 250 businesses along the bus route oppose ART as well as 40 neighborhood associations voicing opposition. Significant public opposition surfaced at 5 public hearings. Two federal lawsuits were filed to stop the project. An environmental impact study was never performed for the project which forms part of the basis of the civil lawsuits.

The United States Congress has yet to vote on the funding allocation and Congressional Committees are proposing major cuts of up to $20 million dollars in the grant. The City Council voted to spend the grant money that has yet to be appropriated by Congress. Any shortfall in the grant will have to come out of the general fund which will in turn affect basic essential services such as police and fire protection.

Mayor Richard Berry and the Albuquerque City Council need to be held accountable come election time for this ill advised and poorly designed project that destroys historic Route 66.

We Must Fix What is Behind the Crimes

Republican State Representative Monica Youngblood’s proposed legislation to reinstate the death penalty is the Republican response to the heinous killing of 10 year old Victoria Martens a few months ago.

Following is my September 2, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Letter to the Editor entitled “We must fix what is behind the crimes”:

There are times the death penalty is simply not good enough to render justice upon violent, immoral people who commit crimes against the most innocent, defenseless and helpless people, especially children, in our so called civilized society. I believe this to be true about the death penalty for those people who commit heinous crimes against their own defenseless children of tender years. The drugging, raping, murder, dismemberment and the burning of the body a 10 year child by her mother, her boyfriend and another is one such crime. Even life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is not enough for some violent crimes such as this, but justice is what needs to be sought by a civilized society, not vengeance by imposing the death penalty.

Thirty five years ago, I did a grand jury investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by a state agency, and to this day I can recall too many details of those crimes and the people I prosecuted. Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 22 children, 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.) Study after study has shown that children from lower economic homes have a higher risk to suffer severe physical abuse and sexual abuse from their parents. Cool heads must prevail and ensure swift justice is bought upon those who killed 10 year old Victoria Martens.

Our criminal justice system presumes innocence until proven guilty and demands due process of law, even for the most heinous of crimes, and not an “eye for an eye” approach to criminal justice reflected by the death penalty. Even more important, Albuquerque and New Mexico must find solutions to what contributed to or caused this most horrific crime: 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, a failing economy. We need to confront our demons and find solutions to the problems that caused this horrific crime against a child.

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus

Political Pandering At Its Best

Republican State Representative Monica Youngblood will again be sponsoring legislation to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico in the upcoming 2017 New Mexico legislative session. Proposing to reinstate the death penalty is political pandering and grandstanding at its best when she knows it has little or no chance of passing. But hey, she got her front page headline in the Albuquerque Journal that wants the death penalty reinstated. Someone needs to tell Representative Youngblood she already won re-election and please tell her that we are suppose to be a civilized society and that the death penalty is nothing more than an “eye for an eye” approach to criminal justice and it does not deter crime. The trend nationally is that states are abolishing the death penalty with many people on death row being released for crimes they did not commit because of scientific evidence. No mention of how Representative Youngblood is going to pay for the millions it is going to cost reinstating the death penalty and putting people behind bars for longer periods. No mention if she is going to increase the budgets of the Judiciary, DA offices, Public Defenders Office and the prison system to get the job done. But then again, Representative Youngblood you got your front page story.