Keller Should Not Let APD’s Serious Crisis Go To Waste

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

On June 2, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published a front-page story on Mayor Tim Keller’s interview entitled “Keller walks back defense of APD in child abuse case; Mayor: ‘Bunker mentality’ stalls reform in department”

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 were stunning both in scope and substance.

Keller’s mistakes made in his dealing with APD and its “deep-seated bunker mentality” can be explained by his short time in office, lack of experience with police management and no understanding of law enforcement procedures and police culture.

Keller needs to buckle down and act on his words when he said the APD “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”.


Because of developing events, Mayor Keller has already laid a new foundation to rebuild APD with a renewed justification for it provided that he has the political backbone to do it.

Mayor Keller has appointed an Interim APD Police Chief and Interim Deputy Chiefs who are either retired or from within APD and shuffled and reorganized the APD command staff and personnel staff

The interim appointments are a reliance on the past management of APD and that alone should disqualify them from being retained permanently in the positions of Chief and Deputy Chiefs.

Keller has appointed a five-member Chief Selection Committee who are collecting resumes and doing interviews and whose duties can be expanded to include Deputy Chiefs.

Mayor Keller needs to recruit and appoint a new permanent APD Chief and Deputy Chiefs with no prior service with APD who will bring real reform to the department “down to every unit” and who are fully committed to and trained in constitutional policing practices.

The Keller Administration has proposed an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program over 4 years increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period.

The 2018-2019 approved budget calls for APD to increase its ranks to 1,040 officers in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2018.

The Keller Administration APD expansion will be over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 officers and expand APD from the current 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers.

The Keller Administration will be implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD.

At a minimum, the APD expansion plan calls for $32 million dollars in recurring costs.

The $88 million dollars for expanding APD will include expanded academy training and the vehicles and other equipment that additional officers will require.

Keller has vowed to return to community-based policing.

The Keller Administration successfully negotiated a two-year contract with the police union providing for $12.2 million dollars in hourly wage increases and longevity pay increases to experienced police officers.

The new contract should assist APD in becoming more competitive to attract and retain a new generation of sworn police.

Keller now has a major opportunity to build on the new foundation that has been laid to rebuild and reform APD “unit by unit”.


Mayor Tim Keller should create a Department of Public Safety by executive order and appoint a civilian Police Commissioner who would eventually become the Public Safety Commissioner.

The national search for a permanent APD Chief should be expanded to include a search for a civilian Police Commissioner and Deputy Chiefs.

A Police Commissioner and a new APD Chief with extensive and proven leadership in managing a municipal police department must be hired, not political operatives.

Overtime, the Department of Public Safety 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.

A national search should be conducted to identify qualified candidates to serve as Public Safety Commissioner who have a firm understanding on constitutional policing practices.

Implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms would be the top priority of the Public Safety Commissioner.

The duties of the Public Safety Commissioner 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.

There is a need for a complete overhaul and restructuring of APD with the appointment of a new chief, new commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager beyond what has already occurred.

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 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 needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year.


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 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.

“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 for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.


Hopefully, Keller has learned from his mistakes in handling a public relations nightmare of his own creation with the help of his appointed interim Chief.

One way Mayor Keller can show he has learned from his mistake is by creating of a Department of Public Safety to rebuild APD.

Rebuilding APD will take the kind of leadership Keller exhibited by admitting to his mistakes when he talked to the Journal.

A Public Safety Commissioner and a new APD Chief would ensure that APD is reformed and “be a unit-by-unit exercise and that is going to take years.”

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.