Congratulations are in order for former New Mexico State Treasurer James B. Lewis and his appointment by Mayor Tim Keller as “Senior Advisor for Public Safety”.
I have known James B. Lewis for at least forty years when we both started our careers working for the County in the basement of the old District Courthouse on Roma Street, James working in the County Finance Department and me as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney working for District Attorney Steve Schiff.
James is a real gentleman and every position he has held he has served the people of New Mexico with honor, dignity and without scandal.
Over the years, James B. Lewis has held many titles and won many elections and appointed to positions including Bernalillo County Treasurer, New Mexico State Treasurer, Chief of Staff to Governor Bruce King, Chief Administrative Officer for Mayor Marty Chavez not to mention working for President Barrack Obama at the Department of Energy and appointment to work on Mayor Keller’s transition team.
As Senior Advisor for Public Safety, he will be working on a $72,000 a year contract with the Albuquerque Police Department and his duties will include help implementation and oversight of the Department of Justice mandated reforms, working with the APD command staff and help with returning to community-based policing.
Mayor Tim Keller has committed to a national search for a new permanent APD Chief.
I suspect one of the first tasks James Lewis will be involved with is a national search for a new police Chief to take over from Interim Chief Michael Geier.
Dealing with the restructuring APD in order to continue with the implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms will likely be difficult and intricate part of his job given what the previous administration did to APD.
FEDERAL DEPARTMENT Of JUSTICE CONSENT DECREE LOOMS LARGE
The next Federal Monitor’s report is due to be issued in a few months.
Hopefully, James Lewis will find that the new APD command staff is cooperating with the reform process.
It has been reported that the Albuquerque Police Department’s former command staff under former APD Chief Gorden Eden so obstructed APD’s reform effort that the department basically has to start much of the reform process all over again.
During a February 8, 2018 status conference in the DOJ consent decree case, Federal Monitor James Ginger told Federal District Court Judge James Brack, who is overseeing the case, that the prior command staff never developed a plan to comply with the settlement agreement the city signed in late 2014 with the U.S. Department of Justice.
As a result, Dr. Ginger is now frantically working to get APD’s new command staff up to speed on the reform process and help them develop a complete compliance plan but the new plan to go forward has yet to be fully planned out.
“To make a long story short, the reason we’re in the mess right now is we never could get a real plan out of the old APD,” Federal Monitor James Ginger told the Federal Judge during the February 8, 2018 status conference in the case.
Ginger also told the Court:
“At this — at this stage of the game, I think everybody understands they [APD] are seriously off track. That had nothing to do with this new command staff that is present. They’ve sort of inherited the mess. And what I’ve tried to do is design a way forward that will allow the new APD to pick up the pieces and start making progress relatively rapidly and, basically, to help the Court understand what I’m recommending happen, is a highly compressed and highly focused process that was provided originally to the old APD when this project first started.”
Dr. Ginger went on to say:
“I’ve designed a process that I think, based on my experience, will allow the new APD to pick up the pieces — I mean, there’s a lot of things that have been developed that we – quite frankly, we just need to throw away and start over again, but that’s not everything. We can — we can salvage some of the work that was done in the first couple of years.”
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
While the iron is hot on his appointment as Senior Advisor of Public Safety, James B. Lewis should seriously consider exploring and recommending to Mayor Tim Keller the creation of a Department of Public Safety by executive order.
The Department of Public Safety overtime would 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.
Implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms needs to be a top priority to 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.
There is a need for a complete overhaul and restructuring of APD with the appointment of a new chief, commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager.
Every single APD felony unit needs to 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 it should be increased to at least 650 out of a fully staff department of 1,200.
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.
“Deadly use of force” cases need to continue to be investigated by the Critical Incident Review Team and the final reports with finding and recommendations.
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 should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators.
The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should 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.
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.
Mayor Keller has been given a mandate by voters to make change at APD, and he should seize the opportunity to make real change with the creation of a Department of Public Safety.
The appointment of James B. Lewis was smart in that he has the administrative skills to get the job done.
James B. Lewis has the skills do a fine job as he undertakes the important task for the City of Albuquerque: The Department of Justice mandated reforms and working with APD and the command staff to return to community-based policing.