Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. After two full years in office with two remaining, Mayor Tim Keller has not made the significant progress he promised to reduce crime contrary to his repeated claims that crime rates are on the decline in all categories. Further, Mayor Keller has been taking the approach of announcing new initiatives to reduce violent crime after violent crimes shocking the community are reported. It’s time for Mayor Tim Keller to take stock, recognize APD is not getting the job done, reorganize APD and terminate a few of the command staff.
KELLER “COOKING THE BOOKS” WITH “ALL THAT STUFF”
Since taking office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD has released the city’ crime statistics, Mayor Keller has done a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. He did so on July 1, 2019, only 1 day after the second quarter of 2019 ended to report the mid-year crime statistics compared to last year midterm numbers. Mayor Keller reported that crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops in nearly every category, between the first six months of 2018 and the first six months of 2019.
The statistics released during the July 1, 2019 Keller press conference, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reported to the FBI that in the first 6 months of 2019, the property crimes of home burglaries were down and auto burglaries were down. Robberies, sexual assaults and murders were reported as down from the first 6 months of last year. Double-digit drops were reported during the last 6 months in violent offenses included robberies, down, aggravated assaults, and rapes.
On Sunday, December 1, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front-page story that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in Keller’s July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed and not accurate. According to the report, both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.
At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics to it but failed to report that the numbers had changed drastically no doubt believing no one would notice. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal.
Here are the corrected statistics:
Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
In February, 2019 APD reported very different numbers to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which collects and publishes the data. The data reported shows violent crime had actually increased 3.7% between 2017 and 2018 driven by aggravated assaults.
According to the FBI report:
Aggravated assault increased 21%, rather than decreasing 8% as announced during Keller’s July news conference
Rape increased by 3%, rather than decreasing 3%
Auto theft decreased 14%, not the 31% reported by Keller
Homicides remained basically the same decreasing by a single murder
Robbery decreased 32% and Keller reported it decreasing by 36%
APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos had this to say about the corrected statistics:
“We have different software programs that are antiquated and are not very conducive to pull crime stats on a real time basis … There are also issues with how officers input information. I believe there were problems with the software that were later discovered in which large data categories were not reflected in real time when we pulled those stats. ”
Mayor Keller for his part said:
“When I came in, I wanted to be as transparent as possible with where we’re at on crime and I think that intent is still the right thing to do. … But it is much more complicated because of all these different databases and these classifications and all that stuff.”
You can read the full December 1 Journal story at this link:
ASKING FOR MORE MONEY
During a November 19 press conference to announce his Violent Intervention Program (VIP), Mayor Keller announced that he plans on asking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system. Keller said $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one. Keller said:
“We’re dealing with systems that are decades old and older. It’s a situation that is holding back everything that we are trying to do as a department. It’s essentially a deferred investment that I wish we would have made a decade ago and that we have to make now.”
The other $10 million would go to the city’s new violence intervention program.
ANOTHER RECORD HIGH HOMICIDE RATE, ANOTHER NEW CRIME FIGHTING PROGRAM ANNOUNCED
On Tuesday, November 26, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rate. At the time of the press conference, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.
Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation” and is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program Keller announced the week before. According to Keller and Geier the new program will target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. In other words, it’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. According to Keller, the top 15 will be identified by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. Once a violent offender is caught, another violent offender will be added to the list.
Under the program APD is partnering with the Attorney General’s Office, the Bernalillo County District’s Office, the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and the state’s Probation and Parole Division. The multi-agency effort will also work with the FBI and U.S. Marshals.
During the press conference, Keller had this to say about Metro 15:
“Today isn’t about data, or technology, or planning. It is about bringing all hands-on deck for a crackdown on the worst perpetrators of violent crimes in our city. It’s about going after someone at the right time, with the right set of information so that we can arrest them, keep them in jail, and bring justice to what they have done to our community. … I want to remind everyone the Metro 15 is not about necessarily data or technology; this is about going after the most … we think perpetrators of violence in the Albuquerque area.”
According to APD Chief Geier, the Metro 15 the operation is different from similar tactics because the agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and state Probation and Parole, have narrowed their focus to where they believe they’ll have the most impact.
APD Chief Geier had this to say about the Metro 15 Operation:
“We have all had enough. It’s time to take back our city. … We’re working with the District Attorney to put more thought into this in terms of the violent offenders we should be targeting. … We don’t want to use our precious resources and manpower just to organize short-term tactical plans or warrant roundups and put a Band-Aid on the problem.”
Keller said the program has been in the works for the past nine months. However, during the press conference, it was revealed that only two offenders were actually identified and placed on the list. Another 13 offenders will be added. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is working on the list of violent offenders to target and will be going after those who continuously commit violent offenses.
Links to related news coverage are here:
APD UNION RESPONDS TO METRO 15
In a Channel 4 News Report, Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association president Shaun Willoughby was quick with sarcastic and sharp criticism of the Metro 15 Operation and he had this to say:
“This Metro 15 – it’s a great concept. It’s a rebranding of a concept we’ve been doing for years … We work well with the DA’s office and I find it good and powerful that all of these entities are coming together because they just told everybody that their credibility is on the line too. … We need to focus on that. Less PR (public relations), less puff, more actual, basic police work. ”
Willouby also said community policing and bike patrols are great, but he wants to see more officers patrolling and investigating homicides and said:
“[Community policing is] a great thing for the community. We love taking a group of kids to see a Frozen movie. We want to have relations with this community and we want to build and focus on community policing but the number one attribute of community policing is policing.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Keller told KOB 4:
“Despite resistance from the union leadership, APD has made great strides in meeting the requirements of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement [CASA] and we continue to restore public trust in our officers.”
The Keller Administration also issued the following statement:
“The first thing Mayor Keller did when he took office was overhaul the police department to more effectively fight crime and invest in officer salaries to make APD recruitment more competitive. We inherited the smallest police force in recent memory at fewer than 850 officers, and we are on track to meet our goal of hiring 100 new officers a year for 4 years. The additional officers allowed APD to more than double the number of homicide detectives, while providing investigative training for all detectives. We created Problem Response Teams in every Area Command, brought back bike patrols, created the Downtown Public Safety District, re-opened community substations, tackled the rape kit backlog, resulting in the prosecution of serial rapists, and created the Violence Intervention Program that has officers who are dedicated to reducing violent crime. Our focus on recruiting is unrelenting.”
It is worth remembering that during the 2017 Mayoral race, the APOA Union strongly endorsed Tim Keller to be elected Mayor. For his part and during his first two years in office, Keller has increased APD officer salaries and retention bonuses dramatically to make APD recruitment more competitive and has increased the size of the department from a low of 850 to 980. When Mayor Keller and Chief Geier take steps to address a crisis in homicides, what they get from the Union leadership is “what have you done for us lately” attitude and nasty sarcasm of “We need to focus … less [on] PR (public relations), less puff, more actual, basic police work.”
A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME
If much of the Metro 15 initiative sounds familiar, it should. It is the 4th time in 9 months that Mayor Keller has announced a “new program” to combat violent crime and reduce our murder rates. The other programs Keller announced were the “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP), the “Shield Unit” and declaring violent crime “public health” issue.
“VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PLAN” (VIP)
On November 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative is in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime.
According to Mayor Keller:
“This is a first-of-its kind program for Albuquerque that pairs law enforcement and public health working together to put the drivers of violent crime behind bars while creating paths away from violence for those who are not yet drawn into the cycle of violence or are looking for a way out. Our partners in the program include the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, Bernalillo County District Attorney, New Mexico State Police, Probation and Parole, ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshal, US Attorney, Family & Community Services, Bernalillo County Community Health Council and more.”
Mayor Keller acknowledged the “VIP” program is modeled after other such programs in other cities and that APD has been working on the program since spring. According to Keller, in other cities, it has brought down violent crime rates by as much as 10%.
DECLARING VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE
On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems.
APD is tracking violent crime relying on the same methods used to track auto thefts, weekly reports summarizing shootings, refining policies, and learning from best practices used by other law enforcement agencies. One goal is for APD to examine how guns are driving other crimes, such as domestic violence and drug addiction.
THE SHIELD UNIT
In February 2018 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created the “Shield Unit”. The Shield Unit assists APD Police Officers to prepare cases for trial and prosecution by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. The unit originally consisted of 3 paralegals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.
According to a June 6, 2019 press release issued by the city expanding the Shield Program:
“In addition to providing police reports [to the DA’s office], the unit orders and provides the audio from 911 calls and dispatch logs, all reports and dispatch records mentioned in any report, all documents referenced, copies of any photos/CDs/DVDs/USBs which are tagged into evidence, and copies of any items tagged into evidence which can be copied, … They often contact businesses for any surveillance video of events, and receipts for damage which occurred. All of this together provides the DA with a solid case to prosecute.”
The city press release proclaimed that throughout 2018, the Shield Unit provided discovery documents for 2,871 felony cases and in 2019 it has provided discovery for 2,787 felony cases. The Shield Unit works on felony cases for officers across the department, except in cases involving homicide, vehicular homicide, gangs and vice. The unit is expected to work on discovery for about 6,000 cases by the end of the year.
THE AleRT Program
Over two years ago, the previous Republican administration created the ALeRt Program to work in conjunction with the City’s Real Time Crime Center. ALeRT stands for Analysis-Led Recidivism Team. Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI partner for the project and it is based out of the City’s Real Time Crime Center.
The AleRT program is a team of crime analysts working at APD headquarters whose aim is to quickly flag people who are arrested that police considered “habitual offenders” and alert prosecutors and detectives so that they can aggressively prosecute the case. Fifty people were originally flagged by ALeRT analysts. To narrow the list of targets, the team consider only the previous three years when studying a person’s criminal history to see if he or she should be flagged upon arrest.
At the time of its creation, APD officials said the habitual offenders in the ALeRT system had been arrested on felony charges about 350 times in the previous three years. Repeated arrests, especially arrests for violent crimes and crimes that are increasing in Albuquerque, such as auto theft, can land someone on the ALeRT list.
It was on June 13, 2017 that the success of the ALeRT program was hailed by the previous Republican Administration as APD’s answer to repeat offenders when two repeat offenders were arrested under the program
Two years later and on April 12, 2019 it was reported that the ALeRt program still exists. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:
“It’s working really well … essentially, it’s a something driven by our real-time crime center but involves a great partnership with a lot of different folks.”
According to Gallegos, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of repeat offenders getting convicted as a result of the program. Additionally, the program prioritizes suspects accused of stealing cars or violent crimes.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
A sure way for any Mayor to lose credibility with the public is to repeatedly announce reductions in crime and then having to admit the statistics announced were dramatically from the truth. What is down right embarrassing is when the Mayor’s own Police Department is incapable of compiling the information reported to the FBI. Keller and Geier had the correct data at the end of September. Keller did not hold one of his famous crime statistics press conference for the third quarter while APD provided the corrected statistics to the Albquerque City Council without any fanfare. It’s called at the very worst being deceptive and at the very least being sneaky. Keller needs to take action to hold someone accountable for the major misstep, but it is likely he will not, given his penchant for positive public relations and adversity to any kind of confrontation or “bad press”.
Keller is probably realizing that after 2 years in office that governing and reducing crime rates takes more than his trademark grin, condolences, press conferences, “nuance programs”, data collection and even more promises to get results. With the announcement of 4 separate programs within 9 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates, Mayor Keller and Chief Geier are looking desperate to portray themselves as being proactive when they are being reactive in the worst way. They are also beginning to look foolish when they hold press conferences and represent that new programs such as Metro 15 Operation is something different or new when in fact the programs are nothing more than renaming or rebranding of existing programs such as the “Shield” and ALeRT Programs and attempt to give the appearance they somehow are being proactive. Adding to the foolishness is having to admit the reductions in crime are not as great as they have been saying.
What is very concerning for voters is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. Do not expect Keller’s VIP program or Metro 15 Program to be any different. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now a failed personnel resource management issue.
KELLER’S REQUEST FOR MORE FUNDING
Mayor Keller has been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some. Keller is now asking for yet $30 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” the police department records keeping. The request is being made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipt increase enacted by the city council that raised taxes by $55 million a year and breaking his promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. It also comes after a mere seven months after the City announced in April a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall, called an “orphan month”, as a result of a change in accounting policy to align the city finances and accounting practices with state government financing and nearly all other governmental entities. It also comes two months after Keller submitted a $29 million dollar lodger’s tax request. On October 7, the City Council approved on a unanimous vote a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city. High crime rates do have an impact on tourism and instead of upgrading sports facilities, perhaps the lodgers tax could have been used to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system and records keeping programs.
A MIDTERM REORGANIZATION OF APD IS IN ORDER
Within a few months of taking office on December 1, 2017, Keller and Geier completely reorganized APD and placed their own management team in place. At Keller’s midterm, another reorganization of APD is needed because what APD leadership is doing now is simply not cutting it.
It is now obvious the APD command staff Keller handpicked are not getting the job done bringing down our crime rates and violent crime. Personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations, starting with the APD command staff Keller handpicked. The reorganization would include increasing the number of sworn to the field to patrol the streets and increasing the various units, such as the homicide unit and the investigations unit.
ABOLISH INTERNAL AFFAIRS
The re organization needs to include abolishing the APD Internal Affairs Unit with its functions absorbed by other civilian departments. Currently, there are 61 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureaus which includes APD Internal Affairs. On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued a “Staffing Snapshot” that reported the extent of resources and personnel dedicated to implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with APD’s Compliance Bureau. According to the staffing report the Compliance Bureau has assigned to it 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants and 40 Detectives for a total of 61 which is 6.28% of the department sworn police officers. The 40 detectives are involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement investigating other officers for standard operating procedures policy violations. The 40 officers would be better utilized in the field services patrolling the streets.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators, not sworn police. 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 the General Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department. The Office of General Council would make findings and recommendations to the APD Chief and Police Oversight Board (POB) for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
TWO YEARS REMAINING TO GET RESULTS
Tim Keller has already made it known he is running for a second term in 2021. It is painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policies have not had much of an effect. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Keller is focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for him despite his efforts. Loosing credibility because he lays claim to bringing crime down by using false numbers does not help an election bid.
Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. No amount of data collection, public relations or nuance programs are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe. A campaign based on “Give more time and another chance to do good” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is still happening with violent crime. But hey, maybe the police union will endorse Keller again expecting even more.
Mayor Tim Keller’s biggest problem is his inability or reluctance to hold his APD command staff accountable for failures, ostensibly out of a sense of extreme loyalty. The Mayor Keller-Chief Geier situation is identical to that of Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Gordon Eden relationship. In the end, Keller and Geier just may leave city hall under similar public disdain as Berry and Geier did two years ago ending the political career of one.
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