On December 13, the Albuquerque Journal published my guest column on APD. Below is the column with the link and a postscript added at the end.
It’s past time to reorganize APD – once again
BY PETE DINELLI / FORMER PROSECUTOR, ALBUQUERQUE CITY COUNCILOR AND CHIEF PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER
Friday, December 13th, 2019 at 12:02am
Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of implementing the U.S. Department of Justice-mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department, returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. For two years, Keller has tried to take credit for crime rates being on the decline. It turns out the numbers were inflated, with Keller blaming it on antiquated software. The city has recorded 74 homicides in one year, an all-time record.
Mayor Keller and Chief Michael Geier have announced four separate programs within nine months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Both are beginning to look desperate to portray themselves as being proactive. They also are beginning to look foolish when they hold press conference after press conference to announce new programs that are nothing more than rebranding of existing programs, such as the “Shield” and ALeRT programs, and calling it the “Metro 15.”
Keller has been given everything he has wanted from city council for public safety – and then some. Keller now wants another $30 million from the governor and New Mexico legislature to “modernize” police records and data department. The request is made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipts tax increase enacted by the City Council that raised taxes by $55 million a year, breaking his promise not to raise taxes without a public vote.
What is very troubling is that all the increases in APD budget, personnel and new programs are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel or resources, but of a failed personnel resource management issue.
Within a few months of taking office, Keller and Geier completely reorganized APD and put their own management team in place. At Keller’s midterm, another reorganization of APD is in order because what APD is doing now is simply not cutting it, nor getting the job done when it comes to crime rates.
It is also obvious that the APD command staff Keller handpicked is not getting the job done. Major personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations – starting with the APD command staff Keller picked. The reorganization would include increasing the number of officers sworn to patrol the streets and increasing the various units, such as the homicide and investigations units.
A reorganization 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. There are 40 detectives involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement. Those 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 the Inspector General would make findings and recommendations to the APD chief and Police Oversight Board for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
Sooner rather than later, citizens 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. The problem with Keller is his inability or reluctance to hold his appointees accountable for failures, ostensibly out of a sense of extreme loyalty. The Keller-Geier situation is identical to the Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Gorden Eden relationship. Keller and Geier just may leave City Hall under similar public disdain as Berry and Eden did two years ago.
The City Council has approved Keller’s plan is to spend $88 million dollars over a four-year period on APD, with $32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. Since Keller took office, APD has added 116 sworn police officers and the department now has 970 sworn police officers.