Mayor Tim Keller and Interim APD Chief Mike Geier announced major personnel changes that were being made to “restructure” the Albuquerque Police Department and command staff and to promote community policing.
(See December 15, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-9, “APD restructuring called unprecedented; Mayor is promoting community policing”)
The restructuring announced is a good start, but nothing new.
To call the current APD restructuring “unprecedented” is an exaggeration.
About three years ago and soon after Gordon Eden was appointed APD Chief, he also announced a major “reorganization” of APD.
Eden created the positions of Assistant Chief, created the positions of Major, went to a decentralized management approach, eventually replaced the academy director, attempted to increase by 100 sworn officer’s assignments to the various substations and tried to restructure Internal Affairs.
CURRENT RESTRUCTURING EFFORT
The changes announced by Keller and Geier include requiring all of the 18 commanders to reapply for their positions and reorganizing some of the bureaus and units within the department.
The concern raised is that the “restructuring” is nothing more than just musical chairs to give the impression that change is occurring, when it will not, and the current command staff will remain intact and just reassigned different area commands.
Interim Chief Geier also announced that the command staff would no longer be eligible or be paid retention bonuses which funding was originally intended for rank and file.
At least three (3) area commanders have now decided to retire instead of reapply for their positions.
The positions of Assistant Chief and Majors have also been abolished.
Two of the units that desperately need the assignment of more police officers or detectives are the Homicide Unit and the Auto Theft Unit.
The Homicide unit currently has 5 detectives investigating the 73 homicides that have occurred this year.
Albuquerque is also number one in the country for auto thefts, and the Auto theft unit has about 5 detectives with each detective caring an open case load of 100.
FAR MORE MUST BE DONE
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” and command staff who resisted the DOJ reforms 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.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
Mayor Keller should consider creation of a Department of Public Safety by executive order with the appointment of a Public Safety Commissioner as a permanent and long-term solution to the City’s public safety needs.
The Department of Public Safety 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.
The Public Safety Commissioner would assume direct civilian oversight, management and control of APD and the Fire Department and would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor with advice and consent of the City Council.
A Public Safety Commissioner and an APD Chief with extensive and proven leadership in managing a municipal police department must be hired, not political operatives.
The Public Safety 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 Public Safety Commissioner, with support assistance from the police Chief, would assume the responsibility for interacting and reporting to the Police Oversight Board and the Community Police Councils.
APD needs to be completely overhauled and restructured with the appointment of new chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager.
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 Public Safety 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 and Fire Chiefs would be responsible for day-to-day operations of the departments, public safety initiatives, tactical plans and management of sworn staff and they would report directly to the Chiefs.
The Public Safety Department would consist of four civilian staffed divisions and managed by the Public Safety 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.
ABOLISH APD INTERNAL AFFAIRS
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.
“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 Public Safety Commissioner.
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 Public Safety Commissioner for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
APD STAFFING SHORTAGE
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.
As an alternative to the payment of hourly wages, a salary structure with step increases could be implemented with the elimination of overtime substituted with accrued annual leave at a reduced hourly rate.
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 should consider enactment of 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.
Mayor Keller has been given a mandate by voters to make change at 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.