“Trash Talking” Public Safety

The Bernalillo County Commission has decline to authorize $50,000 to match the Albuquerque City’s Council’s allocation of $50,000 for a study to look at the feasibility of consolidating the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and city and county fire departments.

(See Albuquerque Journal story, Metro & NM Section, page A-6, “City County police consolidation is off the table” and https://www.abqjournal.com/1019790/citycounty-police-consolidation-is-off-the-table.html )

The Bernalillo County Commission gave a resounding no to the idea of City-County law enforcement consolidation in large part to the settlement agreement between the Albuquerque Police Department and the United State Department of Justice (DOJ).

City Councilor Ken Sanchez, one of three city councilors pushing for the study, said he was disappointed the County Commission decided not to move forward with exploring consolidation because it would have outlined “possible” benefits, including significant savings for taxpayers.


It’s pathetic that after over twenty (20) years of being an Albuquerque City Councilor as well as a Bernalillo County Commissioner, Ken Sanchez shows little understanding of APD, the BCSO, the Albuquerque Fire Department and the Bernalillo County Fire Department.

What Ken Sanchez does not understand is you are dealing with two very distinctive law enforcement agencies and two distinct fire protection services that will need far more to consolidate than an agreement by the City Council and the Bernalillo County Commission.

The Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department is a law enforcement agency that is created by the New Mexico constitution and headed by a publicly elected official, the Bernalillo County Sherriff.

The Bernalillo County Fire Department is managed by the County Manger and a Public Safety Director appointed by the New Mexico constitutionally created County Commission with the appointment of a Bernalillo County Fire Chief.

APD the Albuquerque Fire Department are city departments, created under the authority of a voter approved City Charter, not the New Mexico State Constitution, and are headed by an appointed Chief of Police and Fire Chief who serve at the pleasure of a civilian, the Mayor of Albuquerque.

At least Bernalillo County Sherriff Manny Gonzales showed a little common sense about law enforcement consolidation when he said “I think that just based on the state of the city’s law enforcement agency, it wouldn’t be the wisest thing at this point. … Maybe in the future when they get out from underneath the Department of Justice and their compliances.”

The Albuquerque City Council has no understanding of the meaning of a Federal Court Order.

The city has no business even talking about law enforcement consolidation until APD is out from under the Federal Court Order.

In 2015, after the Department of Justice did a yearlong investigation of APD and found a “culture of aggression”, APD is under a federal court order that mandates upwards of 300 reform measures that APD is still struggling to implement under a Federal Court appointed monitor.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office is relatively scandal free and under no mandated reform measures.

The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget.

Ken Sanchez has done nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and has never challenged the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.

Each time the Federal Monitor has presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, Ken Sanchez has declined to demand accountability from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.

Ken Sanchez has failed to attend any number of the federal court hearings on the consent decree.

Ken Sanchez is part of what is wrong with City hall today.


Republican County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who is now running for Albuquerque Mayor, expressed reservations about any merger by saying “[APD is] a very good department, but, on the other hand, they do have some problems that we don’t need to buy into at this point” saying the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has an excellent reputation, and he wouldn’t want to see the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department tarnished.

Johnson went on to say “I in no way want anybody to think I’m trashing APD, because I’m not. … There are some very good men and women working there, but the undeniable fact is they have some issues that need to be resolved.”

There are some very good men and woman working at APD and some issues needing to be resolved?

Wayne Johnson plays voters for fools when he says he is not “trash talkin” APD.

Wayne Johnson has a very bad habit of ignoring the undeniable “problems” of APD while he wants to be the Mayor of Albuquerque.
At the first Mayor forum held this year in March, 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.

Where there is no mistake is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) just a little over three (3) 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 $61 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.

In early March, 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.

Some of the issues APD needs to resolve are the 300 reforms APD must implement under the consent decree as well as hiring 150 police officers.

At the March forum Wayne Johnson said, “I think we all agree (that APD) is understaffed and under siege”.

One thing that Republican candidate for Mayor Wayne Johnson refuses to acknowledge is the truth that APD has been is poorly managed by Republican operative Chief Gordon Eden and Republican Mayor Richard Berry.

I do not think it’s trash talking to say that Wayne Johnson has no business running for Mayor of Albuquerque.


City-County consolidation of governments is nothing new and consolidation studies “ad nausea” have been done in the past and have shown a major benefit to such consolidation.

Many years ago, a task force was also formed at considerable cost that studied and recommended consolidation of City-County Government.

When put to a vote, city voters favored consolidation while county voters rejected it by a large margin.

Consolidation of the law enforcement functions of the City and County is not a novel idea and was proposed by former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White.

White’s proposal was nothing but one enormous power grab by White in that he wanted to take control of APD, take charge of APD and all of its staff and law enforcement resources.

Consolidation of the law enforcement functions of the City and County would require a public vote and would require passage separately by both City and County voters.

Another option that is far more feasible and realistic would be the creation of a City-County Public Safety Department by the New Mexico legislature, but it would probably be at the detriment of the City of Albuquerque and the benefit to Bernalillo County because of the sure lopsidedness of the agencies.

There is precedent for such action by the New Mexico legislature.

Approximately twenty-two (22) years ago, former powerhouse and south valley Democrat State Senator Manny Aragon sponsored and pushed through the New Mexico legislature state laws that created the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWA).

The ABCWUA is governed by a Water Utility Board with City and County elected officials and an appointed manager.

The legislation gutted and seized all the City’s water utility assets and Bernalillo County got the better of the deal with extended services paid for by city resources.

The New Mexico legislature, either by enabling laws or by constitutional amendment could create a City-County Public Safety Department mandating the consolidation of APD with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and city and county fire departments.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.