In 2018, there have been 8 APD police officer involved shootings with 5 people shot and killed and with 3 wounded.
According to an Albuquerque Journal report, 2½ months after Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers shot a man who they said was holding “about 80 people” hostage in a Chinese restaurant, APD has not released any information about the shooting, has not identified the suspect, has not said what condition he is in, has not said what charges he is facing or identified the APD officers who shot him.
You can read the full front-page Albuquerque Journal report here:
It turns out APD has released limited information about 7 other police officer involved shootings that have occurred over the past year.
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos in response to Albuquerque Journal questions about delays in releasing information about the shootings had this to say:
“[APD has] been slower than we aim to be to keep up with the public release of information related to recent officer-involved shootings. … We understand the public interest in officer-involved shootings, which is why we strive to produce details sooner … That is difficult when other law enforcement agencies are involved, or when we sometimes have 50 to 100 witnesses to interview and hundreds of hours of video to review. In one instance, the offender who survived the shooting was hospitalized until recently, and was not able to be interviewed by investigators.”
Peter Simonson, the executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said APD’s withholding information about “excessive force” and “deadly force” cases raises questions about why APD is withholding the information by saying:
“It’s important to remember that APD was shooting and killing someone about every month and actively resisting the public’s efforts [to get information on the killings] … We don’t want to return to those days. It threatens to erode the trust that APD has built with the community over the past year and it sends a message that not much has changed inside the department [since the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement.]”
When the very first police officer involved shooting of the year occurred, Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Michael Geier said they were committed to “transparency”.
Both Keller and Geier said that APD would release information about police officer involved shootings as soon as possible.
Mayor Tim Keller proclaimed:
“Government only works when it is accountable to the people it serves, but historically there have been several gaps in this area at the city. We’re working to make our city more open and transparent across all departments. … .”
APD’S SPORADIC DISCLOSURE ON USE OF FORCE CASES
Examining all the police officer involved shooting cases for the year reveals APD has a very poor record and is very inconsistent on how they release details on police “excessive use of force” and “deadly force cases”.
On January 7, 2018, Daniel Saavedra-Arreola was shot and killed by APD but it was only until January 16, 2018 when APD Police Chief Geier held a news conference and released videos and gave a comprehensive briefing.
On June 16, 2018, APD police officers fatally shot robbery suspect Richard Rivera. A few days later, federal authorities filed a criminal complaint against Rivera’s girlfriend which identified Rivera but APD held a media briefing on the incident a full week later.
On July 18, 2018, APD SWAT shot and killed homicide suspect Arthur Lujan in a confrontation and his name was released the next morning by APD. It was more than a month later that APD held an official briefing on the shooting.
On August 19, 2018, Lambert Joe was shot and injured but it was three and a half weeks later that APD held a briefing and released his name and the name of the officers involved.
Regarding the October 7, 2018 police shooting at Lin’s Grand Buffet, APD has not identified the suspect shot and has not identified the officers who shot him.
On November 4, 2018, APD officers shot and killed 18-year-old Anthony Chavez, who police say was armed, after a confrontation in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the mid heights. APD has not identified the three officers who shot Chavez nor has APD said if the officers are leave until the investigation is complete.
On November 18, 2018, APD officers shot and injured Anthony Juarez, 30, during a domestic violence call at his house. Police reports reflect Juarez fired multiple times at officers and one returned fire. Suspect Juarez was booked into jail after spending a month in the hospital. APD have not identified the officer who shot Juarez.
December 12, 2018, APD officers shot and killed a man they say robbed a woman at gunpoint and killed a dog in a backyard in a nearby neighborhood. APD has not released the deceased man’s name nor identified the officer who shot him.
APD Spokesman Gallegos claims APD is working toward returning to the practice of providing information in a timely manner and has scheduled a press conference to give an update on the shootings.
According to Gallegos:
“Chief Geier has directed all APD staff involved with these investigations to get back on track to meet his goal of providing media briefings in a more reasonable time period so the public can be assured we will be transparent with our investigations …”
Not at all surprising, the Albuquerque Journal did an editorial on APD’s failure to disclose information on the excessive use of force and deadly force cases.
You can read the entire editorial here:
The Journal gave “kudos” to Keller and then proceeded to slam APD and Chief Geier for the lack of transparency and went so far as to tell Keller he needed to have a sit-down talk with Geier.
The editorial noted that back “In September, Mayor Tim Keller gave one of those rousing transparency speeches public officials are so fond of – especially those who are relatively new in their terms.”
The Journal Editors gave a somewhat tongue in cheek compliment to Mayor Keller with a little sarcasm thrown in when they said:
“No doubt the mayor was sincere in his comments about transparency. To prove it, he needs to have a sit-down with APD Chief Michael Geier that results in a change in this wrong-headed “keep ’em in the dark” policy that has been so effectively implemented at APD.”
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
You grow mushrooms in the dark with an excessive amount of fertilizer.
When it comes to police officer involved shootings, APD treats the public and media like mushrooms they want to keep in the dark and feed us a healthy dose of fertilizer with excuses and deflect and delay tactics.
There is absolutely no excuse that APD does not have more formalized process for disseminating information on police officer “use of excessive force” or “deadly force” cases given the fact that APD has now been under a federal court consent decree for over 3 years because of such cases.
The City of Albuquerque has paid out $61 million in settlements over the last 9 years involving 41 police officer involved shootings for excessive use of force, deadly force and civil rights violations.
Just one big reason there is no excuse for APD’s failure to release information on “excessive us of force” and “deadly force” cases is the number of public information officers that APD has, what it spends on press relations, not to mention having an APD Deputy Chief in charge of community relations.
On October 16, 2018, ABQ Report published an investigative report that APD’s Public Information Officer and Patrolman First Class Simon Drobik has earned $146,000 so far this year and is on track to make $200,0000 this year as a result of overtime pay.
You can read the ABQ Report here:
APD claims that APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik works full-time as PIO during weekdays as his primary assignment, working 7 days a week, and he also works as a patrol officer entitling him to be paid for that position as well, in essence holding down and being paid for two positions.
Simon Drobik has become the face of APD given his repeated-on camera and media appearances, briefings and interviews and by all accounts is the main spokesman for APD over all other PIO’s for the department.
On October 18, 2018 Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of Elizabeth Armijo as a Deputy Chief of Staff at APD in charge of public and media relations.
Elizabeth Armijo served as Lieutenant with the New Mexico State Police in the division of Community Outreach and Public Affairs.
Deputy Chief’s are paid between $125,000 to $140,000 a year in salary, not including benefits.
It is difficult justifying making an APD Deputy Chief essentially a public information officer, unless you want to insulate the Chief, the Deputy Chief’s and perhaps the Mayor from adverse publicity and dealing with cases that are high profile involving police officer shootings such as the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd or from APD “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” cases, especially after you brag about how much progress has been made with the DOJ consent decree reforms.
Between Deputy Chief Armijo and APD Spokesman Drobik, APD is shelling out at a minimum $325,000 for “public information” dissemination.
The truth is APD is falling back on old habits of withholding information and keeping the public in the dark.
The way APD has handle all 8 of the police officer involved shootings described herein reflects that despite what Mayor Keller and Chief Geier say about transparency, nothing has really changed within APD.
APD has always had a problem with civilian oversight, transparency and tends to ignore what elected officials tell them.
Keller needs to do far more than just have a “talk” with Chief Geier as the Albuquerque Journal editors suggest.
Mayor Tim Keller needs to have a blunt talk with Chief Geier, Deputy Chief Elizabeth Armijo, PIO Spokesmen Simon Drobik and Gilbert Gallegos and tell them to do their jobs when it comes to transparency and releasing information on police officer involved shooting or they need to move on and find another job.