Albuquerque had its first mayoral forum and it was an early kick off to the October 2, 2017 city election. (See March 22, 2107 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “Crime emerges as top issue among mayoral candidates.)
The candidates are still in the process of collecting the 3,000 qualifying signatures to get on the ballot, and we will not know for at least another month who will be on the ballot.
In my view County Commissioner Wayne Johnson disqualified himself from being elected Mayor of Albuquerque when he said “I think (the DOJ settlement) was a mistake”.
Johnson said that trying to run a law enforcement department with a 106 page consent decree, a court monitor and a federal judge watching makes it nearly impossible for the department to respond to public safety concerns.
Really Commissioner Johnson?
What was not a mistake is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) just a little over three years ago found a pattern of excessive use of force and deadly force by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
The DOJ also found a “culture of aggression” within APD and a clear pattern of civil rights violations, especially when dealing with the mentally ill.
The DOJ consent decree mandates reforms, policy changes and training, especially crisis intervention, involving the mentally ill, that must be completed by APD.
During the last seven years, there have been 41 police officer involved shootings resulting in 38 deaths and over $50 million dollars paid in police misconduct cases for use of force and excessive force.
Just last year, two police officers were charged and tried with murder of homeless camper James Boyd, and although the officers were not convicted, the city settled the lawsuit for $5 million taxpayer dollars for police misconduct.
Just last week, the City of Albuquerque agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 year old Ashley Browder who was killed in a 2013 crash caused by off-duty Police Sgt. Adam Casaus.
The July 1, 2016 third progress report of Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Federal Monitor James Ginger makes it clear just how poorly managed APD really is when the monitor reported “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 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”.
What has happened to APD is what happens when you keep or return people who created participated or did not stop the culture of aggression and the “deeply-rooted systemic problems” found by the Department of Justice.
Notwithstanding what has happened the last seven years with APD, what you get from Wayne Johnson is “I think we all agree (that APD) is understaffed and under siege” and not the truth that APD is poorly managed.
The next Mayor of Albuquerque must be 100% committed to the DOJ consent decree as written.
The next Mayor of Albuquerque must be 100% committed to implementing all the DOJ reforms and committed to turn APD round with new leadership and a return to community based policing.
If Wayne Johnson cannot accept the authority of the federal court and the federal monitor over APD and the terms of the consent decree, nor be committed to a complete overhaul of APD management he has no business running for Mayor of Albuquerque.