On Wednesday, December 6, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller did a press conference along with his newly appointed Police Chief and command staff as they stood alongside him to talk about the work ahead of them to reform the Albuquerque Police Department.
Before the Mayor Keller discussed his plans for APD, the mayor announced he had a few apologies to make.
WHAT MAYOR KELLER ACTUALLY SAID
Following is what Mayor Keller said at the press conference:
“I’m a believer in community policing, and that includes one of the pillars of community policing, which is about truthfulness with the public. And in that spirit, I want to start by offering an apology on behalf of City Hall to our community. Our community deserves an apology for its historical tone at the top of the department and a culture of excessive force that has hurt our community.”
“I also want to tell the victims of families who have been hurt by unnecessary use of force that I am sorry, and that we are sorry as your city government. We will work every day to restore trust in our community.”
“Secondly, we also need to apologize for our skyrocketing crime rates. I have heard from hundreds of folks who don’t feel safe and who worry about their families every day. And I want to acknowledge to all the victims of crime in this city and to all the families who have fallen victim to crime that we have let you down in many ways. Public safety is a critical function of government, and we must do better and it starts with owning up to that today.”
An apology for City Hall’s failure to bring down our high crime rates and the “culture of aggression” and the unnecessary use of force found within APD has been long overdue.
To be perfectly blunt, an apology for the destruction of one of the finest police departments is something the previous Mayor and his Chief never had the political backbone or courage to do as they refused to take any responsibility for our rising crime rates.
The previous Mayor and Chief would never apologize or admit just how much they let this city and the victims’ of crime down.
The APOA union has never issued any sort of an apology when one of its own members has broken the law or has used unreasonable or unnecessary force or unnecessary deadly force even after large judgments have been paid out for the police misconduct.
A few days after the Mayor’s press conference, Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) President and APD Police Officer Shaun Willoughby claimed his membership were upset that Mayor Keller apologized to the citizens’ of Albuquerque for APD’s “culture of excessive use of force” and claimed his phone had been ringing non-stop from angry cops since the apology.
Willoughby went on to say that the Mayor’s apology was a “global apology” or a blanket apology for all use of force by the rank-and-file police officers, which it was not.
Willoughby was not even at the press conference and did not hear the words spoken by the Mayor.
(See December 9, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page C1, “Keller ‘mistep’ irks APD officers; Blanket use-of-force apology rips open old wounds, union chief says”)
Willoughby also claimed that the rank and filed felt “discredited” by the Mayor.
WHO IS REALLY ACTING DISHONORABLY?
Willouby apparently suffers from political amnesia on a few levels.
It was the Department of Justice (DOJ), not Mayor Keller, who discredited APD four (4) years ago when it did an investigation of APD.
The Department of Justice investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
In the last eight (8) years, there has been 41 police officer involved shootings, and the city has paid out over $63,000,000 million dollars in settlements for police misconduct cases and excessive use of force and deadly for cases.
Three years ago, the DOJ investigation resulted in a consent decree with mandated reform measures that included a complete re write of APD’s “use of force” and “deadly force” policies.
What is downright laughable and embarrassing is when Willoughby said on camera:
“It’s important to understand that the APOA is not a political organization. I’m actually employed by the cops that we serve. … I don’t think that the APOA having discontent is wrong or reminding anybody that we felt that, that was dishonorable to apologize for a group of police officers.”
What truly is dishonorable is Willoughby’s political motivations and he has forgotten the union’s involvement in the last election.
If APOA is not a political organization as Officer Willoughby claims, it had absolutely no business endorsing anyone for Mayor.
The police union endorsement in many respects politicized APD even further.
Willouby also forgets that Mayor Keller is an employee of the City of Albuquerque and has taken oath to serve and represent all citizens, and not to just promote the APOA union agenda.
Willouby is the same union President who had no problem with the union paying $2,000 to police officers who were placed on administrative leave after a police involved use of deadly force incident and before the killing was determined “justified”.
Willouby also did not like the fact that the District Attorney brought criminal charges against police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez for the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd.
Recently, Willouby said that Perez was acquitted of the murder of James Boyd which was not the case seeing as that the jury could not reach a verdict and the District Attorney decided not to retry the case.
Officer Willouby apparently feels the citizens who pay his salary are not entitled to any sort of apology for the actions of members of his union who are found to use unreasonable force, or unjustified excessive use of force or unjustified deadly force.
THAT UNION ENDORSEMENT
The police union had no business endorsing any candidate for Mayor in the last election.
Under normal circumstances, union endorsements are common place, but when it comes to the Albuquerque Police Department, it is a department in crisis and for the first time in its history is under a Department of Justice consent decree.
The APOA Union understands full well the consent decree in that the police union leadership, including Willouby, has attended and has sat at counsel table during court hearings and Federal Monitor presentations.
The union leadership was at the negotiating table for the full year assisting in the drafting of the “use of force” and “deadly use of force” policy.
The APOA has made it clear that it does not like the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree nor the mandated reforms.
The police union and its leadership feels that the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to performing their jobs.
During the November 16, 2017 status conference before Federal Judge Robert Brack on the Federal Monitor’s sixth report, Willouby told the court that the use of force and deadly force policies that he help draft are unworkable and that “his” officers were having difficulty with the mandated reforms.
Keller’s acceptance of the APOA endorsement will no doubt be brought up during union contract negotiations and the Union will argue that Keller wants to fully support the salary demands of the police union.
The APOA endorsement is one that Mayor Keller should not have sought and one he should have said no thank you to, and I hope a lesson has been learned.