The Alb Free Press reported what the eight (8) candidates for Mayor say they will do to bring down our crime rates as well as their plans for the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) if elected.
(See also the following Alb Free Press articles: July 7, 2017 “Citizen Offers Mayoral Candidates Crime Fighting Plan; Begs Them To Steal it”, July 10, 2017 article “Candidates to Release Crime plans”, July 11, 2017 article “Colon Crime Plan: New Police Chief and 1,200 Officers”.)
Frankly, what all the candidates have said what they intend to do with APD is very weak at best.
Many of the candidates for Mayor have shown a lack of understanding and ignorance of the fact that the Federal Court has complete authority and total jurisdiction over the Albuquerque Police Department and the implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree mandated reforms.
Not a single candidate for Mayor has ever attended any presentation made by the Federal Monitor to the Federal Court on the Court Approved Settlement Agreement, and whatever changes that are desired with the reforms by the candidates must be approved by federal court order.
Many of the candidates say they will terminate APD Chief Gordon Eden and hire more police officers.
A few of the candidates say the City needs 1,200 sworn police not saying how they will pay for the staffing increase and presuming more sworn police will reduce crime.
All eight (8) candidates for Mayor show a surprising ignorance of the Albuquerque Police Department, how it operates and the extent of the law enforcement and crime crisis we are facing.
The cold statistics reveal the extent of the crime crisis.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that in 2015 violent crime and property crime in Albuquerque increased in by 9.2% and 11.5%, respectively, murders in Albuquerque spiked by 53% and the metro area ranked number one in car thefts per capita in the country.
According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, from 2009 to 2015, Albuquerque’s violent crime rate jumped 21.5% and the city is fifth-most violent city in the country on a per capita basis while the nation’s violent crime rated dropped by 13.7%.
All eight of the candidate’s proposals border on political negligence with their failure to provide any real specifics or solutions as if saying, “I have a plan, trust me, I know what I am going to do”.
What will reduce our crime rates will be a return to community based policing, a massive rebuilding, restructuring and reform of APD and resolving APD’s “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
WHERE APD WAS AND WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO
Seven years ago, Albuquerque had a police department that was fully committed to community based policing and APD employed 1,100 sworn police officers, the most sworn police officers in its history.
Seven years ago, APD was the best trained, best equipped and the best funded department in its history and crime rates were going down.
Today, APD cannot recruit and hire enough sworn officers to keep the department at the 1,000 level already funded let alone the 1,200 suggested by a few of the candidates for Mayor, even though APD is one of the best paid departments in the country.
The average and normal yearly salary paid APD Police Officers First Class after one year on the job is $56,000 a year.
The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 836 over the past seven years in large part because of extensive retirements, extreme low morale resulting in experienced officers deciding to retire sooner rather than later, changes in the Public Employee Retirement Association benefits, failed APD management, heavy workloads and intense scrutiny by the Department of Justice resulting in the DOJ consent decree.
Although APD has 836 sworn police officers, only 436 are assigned to the field services, less those on annual leave or sick leave, spread out over three shifts, and taking 69,000 911 priority one calls a year not to mention priority 2 and 3 calls for service.
Recruiting a younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department has become very difficult and unachievable for any number of reasons.
The APD Police Academy is unable to keep up with retirement losses and for many years graduating classes have averaged 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.
The overwhelming number of police academy applicants fail to get into the academy for any number of reasons including failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications, unable to pass criminal background checks, unable to make it through psychological background analysis or they fail polygraph tests or perhaps even lie on their applications.
Once in the police academy, many cadets are unable to meet minimum physical requirements or unable to handle the training and academic requirements to graduate from the academy.
The “pool” of recruits must be increased by increasing entry level salaries, offering more incentives to join APD and reevaluate whether entry level pay is commensurate with entry level requirements and minimum qualifications.
The City needs 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community based policing that will reduce crime, but to accomplish that will take time, major changes in management and a major financial investment.
Every effort should be made to avoid the hiring of lateral hires with concentration made on hiring a new generation of police officer fully trained in constitutional policing policies and procedures.
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COURT APPROVED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
From 2010 to 2016 the City has paid out $63.3 million to settle law enforcement civil rights violation cases, deadly force cases and excessive use of force cases.
Since 2010, APD officers have shot over 41 people in police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases.
In April, 2014, the United States Department of Justice found a culture of aggression within APD that resulted in a Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement and the appointment of Federal Monitor to oversee and audit the implementation of close to 300 agreed to mandated reforms.
The Federal Monitor has made five damaging reports and findings that APD is not committed to the mandated reforms justifying the appointment of a Special Master to take over APD, which is not likely, or the removal and replacement of the entire command staff of APD.
In the July 1, 2016 third progress report, the monitor found “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.”
In the November 1, 2016 fourth progress report, the monitor found that when “excessive use of force” incidents are investigated by the APD Critical Incident Team, it “[deploys] carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions” and “[uses] language and terminology apparently designed to absolve officers and supervisors of their responsibility to follow certain CASA related provisions”.
The May 1, 2017 fifth report is the most damning and critical report to date when the monitor found that APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.
More must be done to aggressively implement the DOJ reforms, solve the staffing shortages and address APD’s leadership crisis.
Dramatic, sweeping changes with a new approach to APD management is in order.
A PROPOSED SOLUTION
Upon being sworn in, the new Mayor needs to seek a hearing with the Federal Court, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor, the United States Department of Justice, the United States Attorney and City Attorney and the Chief of Police to outline all changes to be made to APD and seek a court order approving modifications to the consent decree if needed and seek restructuring of APD in order to continue with the implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms.
The entire APD chain of command must be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.
The command staff who created, contributed or who did not stop the “culture of aggression” need to be replaced.
A national search must be conducted to identify and hire a new management team to take over APD, including a new Chief of Police, new Deputy Chiefs and a new chain of command to assume control of APD.
The City Council by ordinance needs to create a Department of Public Safety, which would overtime include both the Police and Fire Departments, both Police and Fire Academies, and 911 emergency dispatch center, the emergency operations center with the appointment of a Public Safety Commissioner.
Until the creation of the Public Safety Department, a Police Commissioner needs to be appointed immediately to assume civilian control of APD.
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 and could only be removed for cause and would not serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.
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.
Implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms would include continued formulation, writing and implementation of standard operating procedure and changes agreed to under the consent decree, expansion of crisis intervention mandates and certified training of APD department personnel in constitutional policing practices.
The Police Commissioner, with support assistance from the Chief, would assume the responsibility for interacting and reporting to the Police Oversight Board and the Community Police Councils.
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 their duties.
The positions of APD Majors would be abolished and the chain of command would be streamlined where necessary.
Every single APD felony unit would be increased in personnel by anywhere between 40% and 60%, including the following APD units: Armed Robbery, Auto Theft, Burglary, Homicide, Gang Unit, Narcotics, Property Crimes and Sex Crimes Units and the Criminal Nuisance Abatement Unit.
The number of sworn police officers patrolling the streets is currently 436 and would be increased to at least 650 out of a fully staff department of 1,200.
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, tactical plans 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.
APD has consistently shown over many years it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by the Office Independent Council.
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 for entry level 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 enact 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.
Every candidate for Mayor needs to articulate a clear platform on what they will do with APD.
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, crime rates will continue to rise and Albuquerque will continue to see dramatic spikes in violent crime.