APD announced four top commanders are either leaving the department, getting transferred or getting demoted.
Full news accounts can be reviewed here:
Changes were announced to the Valley Area Command and the Southwest Area Command.
The Valley Area Command is getting a new commander because it’s previous commander retired.
The Southwest Area Command is also getting a new commander because its previous commander is going to APD’s Compliance Bureau.
Normally, such changes would go totally unnoticed, but one demotion and one forced retirement are raising more than a few eyebrows and smacking of politics and that nothing has changed at APD when it comes to holding people truly accountable for their actions.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS COMMANDER JENNIFER GARCIA
Internal Affairs Commander Jennifer Garcia has been demoted to Lieutenant and now assigned to the Field Services Bureau.
What the press does not report and what the general public is probably is not fully aware of is that Jennifer Bell Garcia is not only a high ranking cop but is also the wife APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia.
Deputy Chief Garcia is a holdover from the previous administration and is now in charge of implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms.
In 2015, Jennifer Bell Garcia became the Lieutenant in charge of Internal Affairs and then her position was upgraded to Commander of Internal Affairs by Chief Michael Geier.
Internal Affairs is responsible for providing fair, thorough, and comprehensive administrative investigations of claims relating to police misconduct and evaluation of department policies, practices, procedures, and training.
All sworn police officers assigned to the Internal Affairs Unit are supposed to be held to a higher standard in order to have any credibility investigating police misconduct cases.
A few months ago, the City of Albuquerque hired a private agency to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against APD Internal Affairs Commander Jennifer Bell Garcia.
Because of the conflict, the city was forced to hire an outside private investigation agency to do the investigation no doubt costing upwards of $5,000 if not more.
APD is refusing to release the private investigation report to news agencies, even though it is considered a public record.
It was found that Jennifer Bell Garcia altered documents during the course of an internal affairs investigation to comply with a deadline spelled out in the APD union agreement.
Under New Mexico law, it is a fourth-degree felony for any public officer or public employee to knowingly tamper with or falsify any record or file. (30-26-1. Tampering with public records.)
Normally, altering public documents is considered a very serious felony offense for any police officer to do and would be grounds for termination and revocation of a police officer’s law enforcement certification.
An APD internal memo said APD Chief Mike Geier sustained the findings of the private investigation agency.
Initially, confidential sources said that Chief Geier was going to suspend Garcia for 15 days and allow her to keep her job as head of Internal Affairs and keep her $95,000 a year salary.
In announcing his decsion, Chief Geier said that aside from altering documents, Garcia has had a clean 15-year career with APD.
Instead of a 15-day suspension, Chief Geier decided to demote Jennifer Garcia to the position of Lieutenant in the Field Services Bureau.
The Field Services Bureau oversees the job performance of patrol officers and includes making sure that police offense reports are prepared in a timely manner, are complete and adhere to standard operating procedures and would include making sure the reports do not contain any falsehoods or alterations.
APD ACADEMY COMMANDER SULLIVAN FORCED TO RESIGN
APD also announced that APD Training Academy Commander John Sullivan has retired.
Sullivan was replaced by Commander Angela Byrd, the former Chief of the Bosque Farms Police Department.
Byrd had been the Chief of the Bosque Farms Police Department for a mere 8 months.
There was no national search conducted for a new director of the APD academy which is normally done.
The Bosque Farms Police Department is one of the smallest law enforcement departments in New Mexico employing less than 20 officers.
According to Byrd, APD reached out and recruited her because of her experience in law enforcement training.
Byrd has been a certified law enforcement officer since 1994, with her job experience being mostly teaching.
Byrd was the Deputy Director of the Southeastern New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy in Hobbs, New Mexico from 2008 to 2016.
APD revealed the reason behind the leadership shakeup at the Albuquerque Police Academy.
Geier was going to demote John Sullivan for “failing to meet performance standards” that were connected to implementing DOJ reforms and changing the culture at APD.
The problem is that Sullivan had only been on the job as Academy Director for a few months.
APD gave no specifics on Sullivan’s failures to meet his job performance standards.
Instead of accepting the demotion, Sullivan chose to retire.
On July 12, 2018, Commander John Sullivan submitted a two-sentence retirement letter to Geier that said:
“Per your directive, I am involuntarily retiring from the City of Albuquerque without waiving rights to any legal action I may pursue in the future. I will be moved to early retirement status effective July 21, 2018.”
It is clear from the resignation letter that Sullivan was forced to retire by Police Chief Michael Geier.
The forced resignation of Sullivan came just one month after Sullivan testified before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack presiding over the DOJ consent decree reforms that he had ended what he called a “good-ol’-boy” testing practice at the academy where cadets were told what questions would be on the tests.
Sullivan told the Court APD Academy cadets were allowed to take tests in a group and pretty much every cadet passed with a 95%.
During the June 12, 2018 status conference, Sullivan told Brack that Court Appointed Independent James Ginger found an unusually high rate pf passing grades for the academy’s cadets.
“We were doing the good-ol’-boy testing. The instructor would say, ‘This could be something you might see later,’ and everybody was allowed to kind of sit there and do the testing with each other and a group test environment took place.”
“They [Ginger’s team] found it interesting that everybody received a 95 percent or higher. … And when I looked at that, I found it kind of interesting, too. And being a police officer now for almost 20 years with the Albuquerque Police Department, I knew in my mind exactly why it was happening; however, I chose to create a completed staff work to address that issue. I did some research, looked at some of the best practices nation-wide and found out what I think we all knew already, but the Academy wasn’t doing testing correctly.”
By virtue of the high-ranking positions held by Deputy Chief Eric Garcia and his wife now Lieutenant Jennifer Bell Garcia, it is difficult to comprehend how APD Chief Michael Geier does not understand nor appreciate the appearance of a decision that smacks of politics and the way things have been done in the past at APD.
Geier must now deal with the ramifications of taking disciplinary action that normally would be a lot more severe than a demotion against one of his appointed Commanders that is the wife of one of his appointed Deputy Chief’s in charge of implementing the Department of Justice mandated reforms.
Based on Jennifer Bells Garcia’s conduct of altering documents which resulted in her demotion, you would think the Field Services Bureau, which is in charge of reviewing police offense reports for accuracy, would be one of the last places she would be reassigned.
Chief Geier’s argument that Jennifer Bell Garcia has a clean 15-year career with APD may be true, but it rings very hollow.
There is no guarantee that this was the first and only time it happened, especially when it comes to Internal Affairs investigations which are done in secrecy, but that it was the first time she got caught.
The reasons for Commander John Sullivan being forced out a mere month after reporting to the Federal Court irregularities at the APD Academy reflects on Chief Geier’s true motivations and his reasons for asking Sullivan to retire are difficult to accept.
Sullivan had only been on the job as Academy Director for a few months and nothing specific was given regarding his failures to meet performance standards.
The way Sullivan was forced out raises serious concerns that he was not terminated for job performance deficiencies but rather for his testimony regarding irregularities in APD academy testing.
Commander Angela Byrd was Chief of the Bosque Farms Police Department for only 8 months and she claims APD recruited her.
Arguably, Geier recruited Byrd so he could replace Sullivan quickly with someone he could control.
Ultimately, it will be Mayor Tim Keller who promised reform and change at APD who will be held accountable for not exercising more management and control over his appointed Chief and allowing APD to be mismanaged once again with reliance on a “good ol boy” system of discipline.