Thus far announced candidates for Mayor have said if elected that they intend to remove Chief Gordon Eden.
It is as if the Mayor candidates are saying removing Eden is all that is needed to solve the problems of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). It will not in that APD’s problems are severe and deeply rooted.
A few candidates running for Mayor appear to be seriously uninformed about APD and think they can gloss over APD’s problem by saying “trust me, I know what needs to be done”.
For the last three years, I cannot recall seeing anyone of the 14 candidates for Mayor attending any of the Federal Court hearings on the Department of Justice Consent decree and presentations of the Federal Monitor’s reports to the Court.
OTHERS NEED TO BE REPLACED
Terminating Chief Gordon Eden is a good start to reforming APD, but you also need to terminate the Chief Administrative Officer and the City Attorney who have been interfering with implementation of the Department of Justice mandated reforms.
Additionally, the entire APD command staff all the way down to commanders and lieutenants is what needs to be done so that APD can truly have a fresh start with a new generation of leadership who has a firm understanding of “Constitutional’ policing.
The April 10, 2014 Department of Justice Investigation report that found a “culture of aggression” within APD as well as the reports of the Independent Federal Monitor show that APD cannot police itself and for that reason the Internal Affairs function of APD should be taken out of APD and civilianized.
RESISTANCE TO FEDERAL COURT APPOINTED MONITOR
A little over a year ago, Federal Monitor James Ginger in his second report to the Federal Judge accused the City Attorney of what he called, “delay, do little and deflect” tactics saying his relationship with the City Attorney was “a little rougher than most” compared with top attorneys in other cities and states where he has overseen seen police reform.
The July 1, 2016 third APD progress report of Federal Monitor James Ginger was the most revealing when it comes to identifying APD’s management resistance to change and the DOJ mandated reforms.
The July 1, 2016 monitor’s report states: “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 serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. … The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews. … [F]ostering the constitutional use of force is the primary goal of this entire effort [of police reform]”.
The Federal Monitor’s third report reflects that you get failed law enforcement management when you appoint a Chief of Police who has absolutely no prior experience managing a municipal police department and who is considered a “political operative”.
The Federal Monitor’s third report reflects what happens when you keep or return management who created, participated or who did not stop the culture of aggression and the “deeply-rooted systemic problems” found by the Department of Justice.
During the January 5, 2017 status conference with US District Court Judge Robert Brack on the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), bitter divides and disagreements over the role, authority and expectations of the Independent Federal Monitor James Ginger were revealed and lead to heated and emotional exchanges between the City’s attorneys and DOJ attorneys. (See January 11, 2017 Albuquerque Free Press article “APD-DOJ Deal Cratering”)
During the January 5, 2017 hearing before Judge Brack, DOJ Attorney Luis Saucedo accused the City of unfairly attacking the independent Federal Monitor and said “The parties [including the city] have a responsibility and a duty to the Court to assist and support the monitor in carrying out his duties under [the settlement agreement]. This … does not include attacking the monitor or blaming implementation problems at APD on the monitor.”
TRAINING, TURNOVER, TIME NEEDED TO SOLVE “CULTURE OF AGGRESSION”
Even when the entire command staff is removed, it will not solve the “culture of aggression” that took at least 10 years to permeate APD.
The “culture of aggression” found by the DOJ will be reduced in part with the Department of Justice mandated reforms and training.
The “culture of aggression” will not be truly resolved until there is a 100% turnover of APD sworn police officer staffing and with a new generation of police officers trained in constitutional policing which will only be achieved overtime with retirements and replacements with newly trained, young police officers.
The solution to APD’s shortage of sworn officers is not to recruit “experienced” officers from other agencies which has been attempted in the past with the “lateral” hiring classes.
Such hiring of “laterals” is what contributed to APDs problems in the first place because lateral hiring increases the risk of hiring problem officers from other agencies.
Very few good and experienced police officers from other law enforcement departments even want or are they willing to come to a department with such a poor reputation.
Allowing the return to work of retired police officers and allowing them to “double dip” and collect their pensions and salary only encourages the return of an older generation of police officer not fully trained in constitutional policing of who may have contributed to the culture of aggression.
APD needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year.
A PROPOSED SOLUTION
A Department of Public Safety needs to be created with the appointment of civilian Police Commissioner.
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.
What needs to be recruited with a national search is an entire “management team” to come in and assume control of APD.
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 and City Council approval.
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.
CIVILIANIZE INTERNAL AFFAIRS FUNCTIONS OUTSIDE OF APD
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.
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.