You always know when a Mayor has taken a very serious public relations hit whenever they make a special trip to the Albuquerque Journal Center and subject themselves to a wide-ranging interview with the Journal Editors and its reporters on a single topic.
It is called “political damage control” usually taken in the wake of a self-inflicted controversy to make things right with the public and to salvage what is left of your image or repair a reputation.
This past week, Mayor Tim Keller did just that when he felt compelled to go and talk to the Journal editors and reporters about his backtracking from defending APD in the evidence gathering of a child abuse case where the blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child was collected by the child’s teacher.
The APD officer refused to take the child’s blood-stained garment and tag it into evidence.
Initially, both Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier insisted that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures, including when an APD officer tossed out the evidence.
Keller and Geier then doubled down when they said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time.
Only after a week of intense media coverage did Keller order APD to launched an Internal Affairs investigation to provide a more complete accounting of the department’s interactions related to the incident involving the parents and the child.
The events occurred last year, before they took office, was something they could not do anything about other than get to the truth about what actually happened to a 7-year-old child.
WHAT KELLER TOLD THE JOURNAL EDITORS
On June 2, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published its front-page story on Keller’s interview entitled “Keller walks back defense of APD in child abuse case; Mayor: ‘Bunker mentality’ stalls reform in department”
The full story can be read here:
Mayor Keller is quoted in the article as saying:
“It was premature to go out with those kinds of statements [that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures and that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time] … We should have waited. … What we learned is that you can’t make a few phone calls and say you have the entire picture, and we’re not going to do it again. I think we learned a lot through this. … There are still lots and lots of issues at APD. The deep-seated bunker mentality culture goes right down to every unit and shows up in a different way. It’s just a realization that reforming APD in reality is going to be a unit-by-unit exercise and that is going to take years.”
Mayor Keller’s admissions are stunning both in scope and substance.
The admissions are a reflection of the true character of an elected official.
What is important is that it shows clearly the willingness of an elected official to admit they are wrong and not engage in denial spin tactics in an attempt to change the subject and avoid accountability.
This is what is called leadership.
Mayor Keller is commended for his leadership actions for finally doing the right thing to correct a broken system.
Maybe, just maybe Mayor Keller has learned not to presume and believe everything to be true he is told by law enforcement and the APD command staff.
This is a lesson many prosecutors and juries learn quickly only after all the evidence is gathered and presented to them in a trial and court of law.
Keller’s mistakes in this case can be understood given his “greeness to the job”, lack of understanding of law enforcement procedures and the fact he is not an attorney and is ignorant of the law of evidence.
However, Interim Chief Michael Geier should have known better given his 40+ years as a cop and his knowledge of the law.
Further, based on this experience, Mayor Keller should realize he needs to recruit and appoint a new permanent APD Chief and Deputy Chiefs with no prior servie with APD who will bring real reform to the department and who are fully committed to and trained in constitutional policing practices.
Only time will tell how much was actually learned from a public relations nightmare of Keller’s and his Interim Chief’s own creation.