On Monday, January 7, 2019 Joe Monahan on his blog “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” posted an article on Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney and the affects Albuquerque Crime rates are having on their careers.
As usual, Joe Monahan makes insightful political observations that goes beyond reporting facts and ties a few things together.
Following is Joe Monahan’s article followed by the link to the full blog and followed by further commentary and analysis:
“Monday, January 07, 2019
Fortysomething Angst: Crime Wave Testing Mettle Of Mayor Keller And DA Torrez; Murder And Drugs Continue Their Relentless March Into New Year: Keller Struggles With APD; Torrez Shifts Blame And Gets Taken Down
“The ABQ metros two young political hotshots continue to get tripped up by the ongoing ABQ crime wave, a reminder that advancing in statewide politics from the big city looks easy but really isn’t.
First, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, 41, fresh off a high in announcing a decline in a number of crime categories, including auto theft, is now haunted by yet another misstep by his APD that has prompted yet another internal affairs investigation. This one is over the drowning death of a one year old baby girl whose parents are now charged with child abuse resulting in death:
. . .Family asked police to check on the baby on Dec. 18 and an officer did a welfare check on the baby at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment, but Romero told the officer the baby was with her sister, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday. At that point, the baby was still missing, and it’s unclear why police did not seek the public’s help in finding the family sooner. “That’s under internal affairs investigation, that’s what we’re looking into,” a police spokesman said.
The problem is that back in May the same APD failed to fully investigate the abuse of a 7 year old girl whose drug-addled parents turned her into a child prostitute. The girl’s blood-stained underwear was collected by an APS teacher but APD rejected it as evidence and had it thrown away. A shocked city saw Keller order an internal affairs investigation and be forced to make a public mea culpa over his initial support of his department’s actions.
But here we are again. And that raises the question of whether Keller and his police chief Michael Geier have command and control over the department, which operates under the purview of the Department of Justice because of its checkered past.
It also again raises the question of APD’s culture and whether Keller and Geier are making enough progress with needed reforms. It also raises the more disturbing question of whether Keller and/or Geier have become part of the defensive/rogue culture that got the city in such a law enforcement mess in the first place.
And all of that raises questions about Keller’s decision early in his term to reject choosing a new police chief from out of state to reform the rotted culture. Is it now time? Or is the Mayor going to continue to absorb the slings and arrows from an agency that seems largely unresponsive (or impervious) to his will for major reform?
Meantime, Dr. James Ginger, the highly compensated overseer of the DOJ decree governing APD, pronounces himself pleased as punch because, in part, unlike the Mayor Berry administration at least Keller and the chief talk with him. But that’s not reform, Doc. That’s ego stroking. And pretty darn expensive stroking at that.
UNRELENTING MACABRE VIOLENCE
The late ’18 and early 2019 city violence has been unrelenting. We don’t know if the parents of that one year old boy left to drown and then callously buried in a backyard forever to be forgotten were doped up, but isn’t that usually the case in these twisted sagas?
And then there’s the two teenaged boys–14 and 15–who were slain and buried in shallow graves near Rio Rancho over an apparent drug deal gone awry. The crime began in the ABQ foothills then went to the West Mesa where the boys were beaten to death, with the horror inexplicably being shown on Snapchat.
Then there was the killing of a young girl on the west side last week identified only as a “juvenile” whose 15 year old cousin went berserk, killed her and left the body in an arroyo. Drugs? No word yet.
The cops can’t necessarily stop deranged cousins, but it’s highly important to note that in the span of a couple of weeks we have a one year old dead and the parents charged; two teens in the grave because of drug abuse and a little girl aged unknown murdered and lying in an arroyo.
Those are the children of this city and state and this is not new. It is a continuation of the wickedness that began creeping up on us with the economic decline and increase in drug usage and trafficking.
ABQ has made some progress in reducing auto and property crime, but the fact remains that violence continues at historic and unacceptable levels–and it is the city’s youth who seem to be in its crosshairs.
Keller doesn’t try to spin that. But after 13 months in office difficult and potentially painful decisions about this city’s policing and its rampant drug dealing have yet to be made. Hiring more cops is not the sole solution, if the culture is not revamped. That’s like putting more salt in an already over salted sauce. The more the decisions are delayed by the 11th Floor the more pain it will bring to victims and to the future of the city.
The mayor has hired several old hands as consultants but we need fresh perspectives–from out of this region and state.
TORREZ TAKE DOWN
Now over to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, 42, whose political future appears to be getting swallowed up by perhaps the most horrific child murder in city history–the 2016 killing and dismemberment of 10 year old Victoria Martens.
Democrat Torrez has worked furiously during his tenure to shift blame for the crime wave to the judges. But his blame shifting has caught up with him in the Martens slaying which threatens to go unpunished under his watch and has the DA facing possible court sanctions over his public statements regarding the case. As is his custom, those statements worked to blame others for shortcomings in the case. (Has a DA ever been sanctioned here?)
This week Jessica Kelly’s trial for Victoria’s murder begins but Torrez has already alarmed the public by saying there could be “an unidentified” man who may have committed the killing and is still on the loose. And the DA has now had to drop the rape charges against her. And Kelley is being prosecuted against that backdrop? Truly this is bizarro world.
Late Monday morning Kelly copped a plea, perhaps lessening a bit of the political pressure on the DA:
One day before the first trial in the Victoria Martens case was scheduled to begin, the defendant, 34-year-old Jessica Kelley pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly caused, resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault.
There is already talk that Torrez could face a Dem primary challenge in 2020 when he is up for re-election. The sanctions threat and the bungling of the Victoria Martens case make him all the more vulnerable–even if he plans on running against the judges for the rest of his career.
They often say the 40’s are the “worry free years,” usually blessed with good health and career climbing. But for fortysomethings Tim Keller and Raul Torrez they are years when their mettle is being tested like never before. For them their 40’s is when your hair starts to turn gray.”
Following is the link to Joe Monahans blog:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Tim Keller (41) and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez (42) have so much in common other than their age to the point they should be referred to as “BURQUE’S TWO AMIGOS”.
Both Keller and Torrez thus far have high positive name identity and strong support within the progressive wing of the Democratic party who got them elected to the positions they now hold.
Both Keller and Torrez were able to raise significant amounts of money to get elected, Torrez $500,000 and Keller $1.3 million with help from measured finance committees.
In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned on a platform of reducing crime arguing that crime rates were too high, our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy to fix it.
Torrez during his first year in office blamed judges for our high crime rates because of reduced sentences given to violent criminals and dismissal of cases until it was revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts.
Notwithstanding, thus far Torrez is perceived by the public as doing a very good job and likely will get elected again in 2020 if he runs because of the extensive media coverage he gets, unless of course the news coverage becomes negative as with what is happening in the Victoria Martens murder case prosecution.
In 2017, the State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned for Mayor on a platform of reducing crime, police reform and community-based policing.
Keller has taken public relations to all new levels, but he has not shaken the perception that the city is way too violent, that he has not done enough with the city’s struggling economy and APD.
With Keller replacing the Chief and the command staff, APD is now fully his and yet APD still is plagued with problems involving high profile cases.
It has been reported that Albuquerque crime rates for the first time in nine years are now on the decline and both Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez are taking credit for it.
According to political insiders and observers, both men have a burning ambition for higher office that motivates them and a lot of what they do in their jobs.
Both have mentioned they are interested in higher office, including United States Congress, United States Senate or Governor.
Now that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Congresswoman Debra Haaland have been elected and Senator Tom Udall is saying it is a sure bet he will be running for US Senate for another term, both Keller and Torrez’s options have now been reduced to running for another term, if they want it.
One thing both men have in common is that their leadership is clearly being tested and both will be defined by how much progress they make in reducing crime over the next few years.
Both Keller and Torrez in all probability will be facing each other for higher office one day, unless of course they stumble tremendously and are voted out of office after serving only one term.