NM Hemp Industry Has First Year Growing Pains

During the 2019 New Mexico Legislature that ended in March, House Bill 581 passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The legislation established permits and regulations allowing the manufacture of hemp products in New Mexico.

New Mexico State Representative Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, a supporter of the legislation, said hemp as an agricultural cash crop had the potential to immediately rival alfalfa as a cash crop in New Mexico. According to Lente, New Mexico has the right climate for hemp cultivation and noted “Agriculture is the lifeblood of New Mexico.” Hemp grown in New Mexico can easily be sent to in-state manufacturers, who could turn it products such as clothing and CBD oil products.

According to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), the harvest of the state’s first crop of industrial hemp since legalization has surged. The NMDA as of December 22, has issued more than 400 licenses, including 276 licenses to grow outdoors totaling 7,540 acres, and 132 licenses for indoor growers totaling 8,334,424 square feet. The 400 state permits in New Mexico are in 19 of 33 counties from Rio Arriba in the north to Doña Ana in the south. The largest growers are concentrated in southern New Mexico. The number of hemp license applications was more than double what the NMDA expected for a beginning program. Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said federal legalization has resulted in a burst of new farmers all over the country with acreage dedicated to production approach half a million acres.

GROWING PAINS AND WITH NO PROFITS TO SHOW

Notwithstanding the surge in licenses to grow hemp, the first year of operation for hemp farmers has been extremely difficult for them. The biggest challenge to the industry is to find hemp strains and growing techniques that will thrive in New Mexico’s climate and that will turn a profit. Complicating the situation is growing plant strains that have THC levels that are below the limit allowed by law. (THC is the hallucination chemical also found in hemp’s cousin, marijuana, but at much higher levels.) It was reported that some farmers had to destroy part or all of their harvest because the level of THC was higher than the 0.3% allowed under federal and state law. Plants that are above the limit of allowed THC must be destroyed resulting in losses.

A challenge to the industry is that a number of people went into hemp farming which resulted in an oversupply within the market. It is being reported that many New Mexico farmers who are growing hemp are struggling to make a profit with the commodity. New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said there have been many “novices” trying their hand at hemp farming, who have never farmed and who have had to cope with issues all farmers face from labor shortages to pests and weeds resulting in reduced production.

Many New Mexico farmers despite the problems have said they plan to grow hemp again. Others hope to apply the hard lessons learned this year can be applied to growing marijuana if recreational use of marijuana is legalized in the up coming 2020 legislative session. Governor Michelle Lujan has already announce that the legalization of marijuana will be on the agenda in the 2020 legislative session that begins January 21.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1403520/nms-hemp-growers-still-waiting-to-strike-gold.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1383276/hope-and-headaches-for-hemp-in-nm.html

HELP FROM THE STATE

On December 5, the New Mexico Economic Development Department announced plans to invest $400,000 in a hemp production and processing business. The investment commitment will be made to 420 Valley LLC represents in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The company is a CBD products supplier that cultivates hemp then extracts and refines the oil from the hemp into manufactured products such as oil, edibles and topical ointments, and even pens. The $400,000 state investment comes from the Local Economic Development Act. The city of Las Cruces has also pledged $150,000 for the project.

420 Valley LLC expects to begin hiring upwards of 55 employees beginning early 2020 and continuing over a 3 year period. According to a news release, employees will earn an average of over $33,000 annually. The company expects its payroll to be $2 million in three years. According to the Economic Development Department the investment is part of the state’s continuing effort to target sustainable agriculture and other economic sectors to help diversify the economy.

In making the announcement, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement had this to say:

“Hemp production and sustainable agriculture are essential components of our mission to expand New Mexico’s economy. We must think broader than one industry and one industry alone; we must create opportunity for New Mexico entrepreneurs and residents of all ages who are eager to find fulfilling work and launch sustainable careers. … [T]hrough our Economic Development Department and other key initiatives we will do exactly that.”

Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes for her part said that agriculture and related enterprises have always been part of the economic base in Southern New Mexico.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1397856/latest-business-news-104.html

HISTORICAL BACKDROP OF A NEW INDUSTRY

A common public misconception is that hemp is somehow a part of marijuana cultivation, which is totally and 100% false. Marijuana and hemp are varieties of cannabis that developed with selective breeding. Hemp is used fiber and oils while marijuana is used for its narcotic components. Hemp is a “relative” of marijuana, but it has none of the chemicals in marijuana that causes people to become high like marijuana.

In 1937 Hemp production was banned throughout the United States, with the passing with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act. Although it was illegal to sell or grow hemp in the US, it was legal to buy from international sources. Hemp was later added as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. Hemp is the non-psychoactive variant of the cannabis plant.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 removed hemp, defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, from Schedule I controlled substances and made it an ordinary agricultural commodity. The United States farm bill became law on December 20, 2018. The growing of hemp is now legal throughout the United States subject to state regulation on agricultural crops. The federal law defines hemp as cannabis with concentrations of THC, the compound most associated with getting a person high, no greater than 0.3%.

Hemp has a long history of being used in textiles, paper and other material. The modern industry is largely centered on the production of cannabidiol, a compound that claims to have curative properties.

IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE TO NEW MEXICO

New Mexico is home to 23,800 farms and 43.9 million acres of farmland.

The New Mexico’s top commodities include beef cattle and calves, pecans, hay, sheep, onions, chiles, greenhouses and nursery products, cotton, and corn.
Agriculture is deeply rooted in New Mexico and in the top 10 of its industries.

Following is a listing of New Mexico’s top 10 agricultural products and what they generate in cash receipts for New Mexico:

1. “According to the New Mexico State University Dairy Extension, just over 77 percent of the milk in New Mexico is produced on the eastern side of the state in Curry, Roosevelt, Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties. Milk and dairy products generated $1.3 billion in cash receipts.”
2. “About 10,000 families across the state raise beef cattle, and New Mexico lays claim to approximately 387,000 beef cows. Cattle and Calves generated $823.8 million in cash receipts.”
3. “New Mexico is second only to Georgia when it comes to pecan production in the U.S., and in 2017, the state’s farmers produced a record-breaking 92 million pounds of pecans. Pecans generated $220.8 million in cash receipts.”
4. “New Mexico is a major alfalfa hay producer, with 190,000 acres of the crop harvested in 2017. A legume hay, alfalfa is an excellent source of good-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Hay generated $109 million in cash receipts.”
5. “New Mexico farmers harvested an estimated 7,100 acres of onions in 2017, and the state is one of the largest summer-onion producers in the nation. Onions generated $106.6 million in cash receipts.”
6. “Considered New Mexico’s signature crop, chile peppers have been cultivated in the state’s Rio Grande Valley for four centuries. New Mexico’s warm, dry climate and 350 days of sunshine each year make it an ideal place to grow chile peppers. Chile peppers generated $44.6 million in cash recipes.”
7. “New Mexico is one of 17 states that produce cotton, and production (in bales) ranks the state 16th. The Land of Enchantment’s upland cotton production is largest in Lea, Doña Ana and Eddy counties. Upland cotton generated $31.9 million cash receipts.”
8. “New Mexico farmers planted about 125,000 acres of corn and harvested 43,000 acres of corn for grain in 2017, resulting in a production value of more than $22 million. Corn generated $22.4 million in cash receipts.”
9. “In 2017, farmers across New Mexico harvested 135,000 acres of wheat. Wheat generated $15.7 million in cash receipts.”
10. “Sorghum is an energy-efficient, drought-tolerant crop, perfect for New Mexico’s climate. New Mexico producers planted 85,000 acres in 2017, yielding 187,000 tons. Sorghum brought in $7.65 million in cash receipts.”

Following is a link with information on New Mexico’s agricultural commodities:

https://www.farmflavor.com/new-mexico/new-mexicos-top-agriculture-commodities/

CONCLUSION

New Mexico’s top agricultural crops include pecans, hay, sheep, onions, chiles, greenhouses and nursery products, cotton, and corn. Within a matter of just a few years, hemp can be yet another major cash crop in the New Mexico economy. Despite a difficult first year and all the setbacks, New Mexico still has a bright future in the hemp agricultural industry. The state needs to continue with its efforts to help the industry grow and prosper.

DOJ “Operation Relentless Pursuit” Includes Albuquerque; City Needs To Ask AG Barr and DOJ To Dismiss CASA

On December 18, US Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is initiating a major crackdown aimed at driving down violent crime in 7 of the nation’s most violent cities in the country. Not at all surprising is that Albuquerque is one of those cities. The other 6 cities are Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. All 7 cities have violent crime rates significantly higher and above the national average.

At a news conference in Detroit, Michigan, AG Bar dubbed the initiative “Operation Relentless Pursuit”. The federal agencies that will participate and be involved are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Marshals Service.

AG Barr is an ardent backer of law enforcement and had a tough-on-crime approach when he was Attorney General in the early 1990s as the national violent crime rates peaked.

Since becoming Attorney General for a second time in February, Barr has vowed to use the federal government’s resources to drive down violent crime in cities where the crime rate has been rising. Targeting violent crime, prosecuting violent criminals and gun offenders has been a top priority for the Justice Department (DOJ) since Barr took over after his appointment as AG by President Donald Trump.

COMMITTED FEDERAL RESOURCES

The DOJ will intensify federal law enforcement resources in the 7 cities by increasing the number of federal law enforcement officers in each of the cities and add additional officers to federal task forces. According to Barr, the DOJ is committing up to $71 million in federal grant funds that can help fund the task forces, be used to hire new police officers, pay overtime and purchase new equipment and technology.

The federal law enforcement agencies will work with local and state law enforcement agencies to identify and target violent criminals, members of drug cartels and gun traffickers by utilizing available federal resources and intelligence. ATF’s national database known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which can help match images of bullet cases collected at crime scenes to link shootings will be used.

AG Barr, to the surprise of DOJ observers, has embraced a bipartisan criminal justice reform measure known as the “First Step Act”. The First Step Act gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders, eases mandatory minimum sentences and encourages inmates to participate in programs designed to reduce the risk of recidivism, with credits that can be used to gain an earlier release.

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics/justice-dept-plans-crackdown-on-violent-crime-in-7-cities/

During a press conference in Albuquerque, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson explained what the money will mean for Albuquerque and said:

“We are committed to bringing the weight of federal charges against the most dangerous violent criminals plaguing our city. … We will deploy all the tools at our disposal to bring an end to the plight of gun violence in our city.”

The Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said they both welcomed the extra help from the federal government. BCSO Sheriff Manny Gonzales had this to say:

“… everybody in this community is concerned about the escalating violence, and bottom line is that the problem’s been identified. … We have a crime crisis.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/federal-government-offers-crime-fighting-support-for-albuquerque/5583778/?utm_medium=onsite&utm_source=zetaglobal&utm_campaign=thumbnails

ALBUQUERQUE HOMICIDE AND VIOLENT CRIME RATES

According to Attorney General William Bar, Albuquerque has a violent crime rate that is 3.7 times the national average per capita , and the cities aggravated assaults are 4 times the national average per capita.

https://www.koat.com/article/feds-albuquerque-one-of-the-most-violent-cities-in-america/30275742

Albuquerque’s FBI Uniform Crime statistics for the years 2008 to 2018 reveal just how bad violent crime has increased in Albuquerque over the last 10 years. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults and have all increased. The hard numbers for the last 10 years reflect that crime has not declined much and that like a waive on a beach, it had “ebbed and flowed” over the years but have risen none the less to all time highs.

As of December 18, there have been 77 murders in Albuquerque. On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, the all-time record of homicides in one year in the city’s history. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

The total number of violent crimes and aggravated assaults have ebbed and flowed over the last 10 years, but still have reached historical highs. You can review the hard numbers in the below postscript.

Mayor Keller and Chief Michael Geier have announced 4 separate programs within nine months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Those programs are: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “public health” issue, “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP) and the Metro 15.

OBJECTIVES, SPIRIT AND INTENT OF CASA ACHIEVED

It has now been over a full 5 years since the city entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ) after the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” within APD and after 18 police officer involve shooting. Upwards of $64 million has been paid out in settlements for 32 police officer involved shootings and excessive use of force or deadly force. APD has now been operating under the watchful eye of the Federal Court and a federal court appointed monitor costing the city taxpayer upwards of $6 million for 10 audits.

New “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies were written and implemented with all APD sworn receiving training on the policies. All APD sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force cases.

Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning choke holds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and have been completed. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents. Personnel procedures have been implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated. APD has also revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.

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 or assigned to the investigation bureaus.

From all appearances, and from review of all the Federal Monitor’s reports, the City and APD have completed the following mandated reforms under the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement:

1. The new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented. All APD sworn have received training on the policies.
2. All sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training.
3. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.
4. The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use of force incidents.
5. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning choke holds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implementation in new use of force and deadly force policies have been completed.
6. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training.
7. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated.
8. APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.
9. The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.
10. Police Oversight Board has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director has hired been hired and his contract renewed.
11. The Community Policing Counsels have been created in all area command and the counsels meet monthly.
12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
13. The CASA identified that APD was severely understaffed. APD has gone from 850 sworn police to now 980 and intends to add an additional 300.
14. The federal monitors 10th report issued on November 1, reported APD met 100% of CASA-established primary compliance requirements during the reporting period. Secondary compliance rates (training) were reported at 81%, up from 79% and overall compliance rates are at 63%, the same as the 9th audit report.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Given Albuquerque’s skyrocketing violent crime rates, there is no reason to doubt the reason why Albuquerque is one of the 7 cities to be included in the DOJ’s “Operation Relentless Pursuit”. Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier are probably extremely happy that the DOJ will be helping with “Operation Relentless Pursuit” in an attempt to bring down the cities violent crime rates.

One thing Keller and Geier probably also realize is that what APD is doing with the 4 programs they have announced to reduce violent crime are simply not getting the job done, and neither is APD. There is no guarantee that the DOJ’s “Operation Relentless Pursuit” will be any more effective than what APD has been doing, but it’s worth a try. What is also worth trying is for the City to approach US Attorney General William Barr and ask the DOJ to agree with a stipulated dismissal of the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

Now that AG Bar has acknowledged just how bad violent crime in Albuquerque has become, now is the time to approach Barr and the DOJ about the dismissal of the federal cause of action that resulted in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). In addition to the resources AG Bar is committing to the City, he should be willing or want APD to do more. Sworn police assigned to DOJ compliance should be reassigned to do actual law enforcement. The duties and responsibilities of the 40 sworn police in the compliance bureau can be performed by civilian staff with the Office of Inspector General and the Department of Human Service to continue withe the DOJ reforms.

With the continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, especially those reforms involving the mentally ill, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been achieved and for these reasons every effort should be made to seek a dismissal of the federal lawsuit. The city should commence negotiations immediately with the DOJ for a stipulated “Order of Compliance and Dismissal” of the CASA, and all causes of action the DOJ has against the city and APD.
______________________

POSTSCRIPT

The number of HOMICIDES reported each year from 2008 to 2019 are:

2008: 38
2009: 56
2010: 42
2011: 35
2012: 41
2013: 34
2014: 30
2015: 42
2016: 61
2017: 72
2018: 69
2019: 77 homicides as of December 18, 2019

The number of AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS (assaults with deadly weapon) reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 2,960
2009: 2,597
2010: 2,971
2011: 2,910
2012: 2,740
2013: 2,803
2014: 3,121
2015: 3,273
2016: 3,846
2017: 4,213
2018: 3,885

The total number of VIOLENT CRIMES (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined) reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:

2008: 4,718
2009: 4,082
2010: 4,291
2011: 4,207
2012: 4,151
2013: 4,322
2014: 4,934
2015: 5,405
2016: 6,245
2017: 7,686 (Aggravated Assaults: 4,213, Non-Fatal Shootings: 470)
2018: 6,789 (Aggravated Assaults: 3,885, Non-Fatal Shootings: 491)
https://www.cabq.gov/police/annual-reports/uniform-crime-reports

“A Day Late, But NOT A Dollar Short”; Behavioral Health Tax Collected But Few Programs Funded; Leadership “Void” Created With Departure of Hart Stebbins

This is what you call being “a day late, but not a dollar short.”

On Feb. 26, 2015, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a 1/8 % gross receipts tax increase on a 3-2 vote to fund new behavioral and mental health services to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county. The tax generates approximately $20 million annually.

When enacted, the county commission announced the intent for the tax was to invest the funding “in proven ways to better manage the high cost of addiction, homelessness and mental health problems”. According to a county commission announcement, “these issues impact families throughout the community and drive up the cost of public services, especially at the Metropolitan Detention Center.” The gross receipts tax costs shoppers one cent on a $10 purchase of goods and services.

https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/BH%20news%20release%20PDF.pdf

The 1/8th% gross receipts tax was supposed to be used for the purpose of providing more mental and behavioral health services for adults and children in the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County area. The intent is to provide a safety net system for those in need of mental health not otherwise funded in New Mexico.

Since enactment of the tax in 2015, the tax has generated $91.6 million. The county has spent $20 million of the money but has earmarked the bulk of what it amassed for one-time expenditures. Those expenditures include $30 million for a new crisis triage center, $12 million for supportive housing and $4 million for the Bernalillo County CARE campus, formerly known as the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services center, or MATS. The renovations to the CARE campus when complete will create an outpatient behavioral health clinic and living room space for peer-to-peer counseling sessions.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1401895/county-detox-center-evolving.html

On February 26, 2015, the county issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking business plans and proposals from the private sector for suggestions on how to create a framework to deliver mental health services to the community. Since 2015, Bernalillo County has collected $89.5 million worth of taxes in the name of behavioral health programming, but there are no plans on how it should be applied.

MILLIONS OF TAX DOLLARS ACCUMULATE BUT NO PROGRAMS

On February 17, 2015, when the Bernalillo County Commission approved the tax, it failed to develop a plan on how all the money would be used, including not identifying services to be provides, location of facilities and qualifiers to obtain the services offered. As a result of having no spending plan or identifying priorities, the tax has been collected but not spent.

Approved programming should eventually cost the county $18.9 million annually, but more than $70 million in tax revenue has accumulated and the amount is growing. According to the latest figures from the Department of Behavioral Health Services, most of that money is encumbered for one-time expenditures including $30 million earmarked for a future crisis triage center and $12 million for supportive housing.

In November, 2019, County Manager Julie Morgas Baca asked the Bernalillo County Commission to approve a resolution that permits “stakeholders, providers, community members, staff, commissioners, or other interested parties” to propose behavioral health service ideas through a website. Up until now, only county staff had been authorized to propose behavioral health service ideas. All program appropriations will require final approval of the County Commission.

According to County Manager Morgas Baca:

“I just really think it needs to be opened up, and we need to realize there’s a lot of people out there who have real life experience. … I want to solicit their input to see how much of a difference we can make in addition to what we’re already doing.” On Tuesday, November 12, the resolution passed by a 5-0 vote unanimous vote.
Margarita Chavez-Sanchez, acting director of the county’s Department of Behavioral Health Services had this to say about the enactment of the resolution:

“I am in favor of the formalization of this process and creating an additional avenue for meaningful community input. … We absolutely welcome the submission of concepts through our online portal for review.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1391385/county-to-welcome-behavioral-health-program-suggestions.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1393913/berncos-got-895m-taxpayers-get-mental-health-suggestion-box.html

APPROVED PROJECTS

Since enactment of the tax in 2017, Bernalillo County has approved a mere $10 million toward Behavioral Health Initiative projects with $70 million in tax revenue having accumulated but not spent. According to the Bernalillo County “Public Health Projects” webs site, link provided below, 9 projects that have been approved and committed annual funding of each of those projects are as follows:

1. Transition Planning and Re-entry Resource Center – $1,341,188 in year one; $1,041,188 annually thereafter

“On a daily basis, the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) releases individuals back to the community who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders, among other complications. In most cases, the continuity of care provided to these individuals is fragmented, at best, and more often entirely interrupted within the first hours and days following release back to community. The lack of a system for coordinated care as incarcerated individuals’ transition from jail to community contributes to recidivism and impedes efforts to generate more positive health outcomes for these individuals. The project includes funding transition planners at MDC and creating a Re-entry Resource Center (RRC) for an effective front door into a network of services. The operational cost of the project is divided into the two components, with a one-time renovation cost for the RRC, located at the Public Safety Center … .”

2. Mobile Crisis Teams – $1 million BC/$340,000 ABQ

“The creation for this pilot project is a city/county collaboration. The mobile crisis teams will respond to individuals experiencing a nonviolent behavioral health crisis that necessitates a 911-response. There will be three teams formed, one by Bernalillo County and two by the City of Albuquerque. Each team will consist of a crisis intervention unit deputy paired with a masters’ level, behavioral health clinician.”

3. Expansion of the County’s Community Connections Supportive Housing Program – not to exceed $1 million

“This expansion will focus on individuals with behavioral health issues residing in the community who are homeless or precariously housed and is estimated to provide a minimum of 55 housing vouchers with case management service.”

4. Community Connections Re-entry Supportive Housing – $1.3 million from Bernalillo County; $503,000 from City of ABQ

“This project provides intensive case management and services linked with scattered site housing to a target population of homeless or precariously housed persons with mental illness or co-occurring disorders or other disabilities and whose lack of community-based services have resulted in criminal justice system involvement. The program provides high quality intensive wrap-around services and housing subsidies to support the individual’s successful reintegration and long-term stability in the community after incarceration. Providing comprehensive intensive services linked with housing creates community stability and reduces recidivism and is life changing.”

5. Community Engagement Team – not to exceed $1 million

“Community Engagement Teams (CET) help people and their families voluntarily cope with the effects of mental illness and substance abuse disorders, whether individual or co-occurring, in the comfort and familiarity of their homes and communities. The CET helps individuals avoid the criminal justice system and emergency mental health systems whenever possible. The CET in Bernalillo County requires an individualized, recovery-focused approach that promotes wellness, self-management, personal recovery, natural supports, coping skills, self-advocacy and the development of independent living skills. CETs can be considered part of a continuum of services rendered outside institution walls that include assertive community treatment, the crisis intervention unit, crisis outreach and support team, public inebriate intervention, and law enforcement response.”

6. Youth Transitional Living Proposal – not to exceed $650,000

“A new service intended for at-risk youth who are precariously housed or homeless with a mental health or addiction diagnosis. The funding provides youth transitional living services for clients with behavioral health diagnosis who are not currently under any state Children Youth and Families Department, Bernalillo County or other third party-funded program. This funding is available for non-third-party reimbursement.”

7. Reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – not to exceed $3 million

“Bernalillo County wishes to develop a cohesive system that utilizes all available resources to assist children who have been identified as at-risk by using adverse childhood experiences (ACE) scoring methodology. Through program coordination and the procurement and enhancement of services, Bernalillo County wishes to develop a system that maintains a strong collaboration of professionals who work with children across the full continuum of services for at-risk children and families including primary prevention, identification, early intervention, support and treatment, harm reduction, outreach, and services in children’s homes and within communities. The funding is to pay for services and family supports not currently reimbursed by Medicaid or third-party payers.”

8. Behavioral Health Advisor – up to $140,000 per year

“The behavioral health advisor will provide guidance on the development and implementation of the behavioral health initiative. The behavioral health advisor will provide written standardization of the governance and subcommittee structure, data analysis service evaluations and reports implementation. The behavioral health advisor will provide other services including developing internal staff capacity on understanding behavioral health best practices and targeting and changing new initiatives to continue to meet the needs of Bernalillo County’s behavioral health priority populations.”

9. UNM’s Institute for Social Research (UNM/ISR) Contract – not to exceed $246,553 per year

“Bernalillo County seeks to implement a behavioral health system that measures the effectiveness of implemented programs and constantly strives to improve the performance of programs. In pursuit of this performance management strategy, data analysis and program evaluation will be critical components of the system. Data analysis and evaluation will happen to inform what services are needed and how those services are performing. Data analysis and evaluation will occur to assess the impact of the entire Behavioral Health Initiative on the entire population of users of behavioral health services, including individual program evaluations of the effectiveness of each contracted and/or directly delivered program.”

https://www.bernco.gov/health-and-public-safety/behavioral-health-approved-projects.aspx

HOW NEW PROCESS WILL WORK

Under the new ordinance passed by the County Commission, each idea from stakeholders, providers, community members, staff and commissioners will go through a vetting process. A county commission appointed committee will ensure each proposal meets the criteria for an expenditure based on the behavioral health tax language approved by voters. A separate subcommittee of stakeholders and subject matter experts will also review the idea and recommend the next steps.

County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins said Bernalillo County has been especially “responsible” with the tax revenue but said the previous process was limiting valuable input from many stakeholders. Hart Stebbins acknowledge opening the application process up will likely result in some ideas that are not workable or worthwhile. According to Hart Stebbins, every citizen should have the opportunity to make recommendations for programs that would close gaps in behavioral health services. Hart Stebbins has acknowledged the behavioral tax revenue has not reached the community as was intended.

The commission recently approved up to $6 million in one-time appropriations for startup or capital spending that would create or expand behavioral health services. Providers will be able to apply for the funding through a request for proposals.

DESPERATE NEED FOR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES

One of the cruelest things that former Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named” did was when she ordered an “audit” of mental health services by nonprofits in New Mexico based on questionable information. The audit eventually devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In June 2013, under the direction of the former Republican Governor, the Human Services Department (HSD) cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health nonprofits operating in New Mexico. In 2014, more than 160,000 New Mexicans received behavioral health services, with most of those services funded by Medicaid, according to the Human Services Department.

After the audits were completed, the former Republican Administration said that the outside audit showed more than $36 million in over billing, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud. Under the orders of the Republican Governor, Human Services Department agency brought in 5 Arizona providers to take over from New Mexico providers.

In early 2016, following exhaustive investigations, the Attorney General cleared all 15 of the healthcare providers of any wrongdoing and exonerated all of them of fraud. Even though the NM Attorney General found no fraud and cleared the nonprofits of fraud, the damage had been done to the nonprofits. With the Medicaid funding freeze, many of the 15 nonprofits could not continue and just went out of business leaving many patients without a behavioral health service provider.

Lawsuits against the state were initiated by 15 mental health care providers. The administration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced it has entered into settlement agreements with at least 10 of the behavioral health care providers whose Medicaid funding was frozen in 2013. The process to rebuild the state’s behavioral health care services will be a slow process that no doubt will take years. Bernalillo County’s efforts for behavioral health programs is critical to rebuilding in part the system destroyed by the previous Republican Governor Administration.

DEPARTURE OF COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRPERSON MAGGIE HART STEBBINS

On December 10, 2019 it was announced that after 10 years on the Bernalillo County Commission, Maggie Hart Stebbins is resigning from the 5 person commission. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed as the state’s natural resources trustee. Hart Stebbins has started her job in the $110,000-a-year and said she intends to step down from the County Commission some time mid-January.

Commissioner Hart Stebbins has one year left on her term and she is “term limited” and prevented from seeking a third term. Two highly progressive Democratic candidates have already announced they are running in the Democratic primary for the position and they are Democratic party activists Adriann Barboa and Adrian Carver.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has the exclusive authority to appoint her replacement. Governor’s spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the Governor will solicit applications, conduct interviews and intends to choose someone who will not pursue the office in the next election as way of “ensuring voters have every opportunity to choose” the permanent replacement.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1400618/bernalillo-county-commission-chair-leaving-for-state-job.html?fbclid=IwAR3k-wPKk1V4K2LyYJZYabbWInNiHKMucmfMOfQfvWbC3BQHedkMDP_hKyg

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Bernalillo County Commission Maggie Hart Stebbins has been a major force on the County Commission when it comes to behavioral health programs and the behavioral health tax. Once she leaves, a leadership void will be created that will be very difficult to fill when it comes to behavioral health programs.

The county can be commended for the 9 programs initiated including a housing program for releasing inmates into housing, the “tiny homes” project, deploying one or two mobile crisis teams, and adding beds to the campus of MATS, a drug and alcohol detoxification center in Southeast Albuquerque. But far more is needed and sooner rather than later.

It is downright pathetic that after enacting the behavioral health tax on February 17, 2015, and more than $90 million collected in taxes, very little progress has been made with implementing needed mental health care programs. What is difficult to comprehend is that after 4 years of collecting the tax, the County only now is trying to figure out how to spend all the taxes that have been collected.

County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins, a strong proponent of the mental health tax, admitted the revenue has not made it into the community as promoted and had this to say:

“There are still a lot of people in this community who need services, and we need to provide those services. … That’s what we promised the taxpayers.”

After more than four years of collecting the tax and collecting $90 million in taxpayer funding, the County Commission needs to step up the process, be far more aggressive in identifying and implementing behavioral health programs so desperately needed after the decimation of the all the programs by the former Republican Governor.

NM’s Mental Health Crisis; APD’s Handling Of Behavioral Heath Calls; Rebuilding A Decimated Behavioral Health Care System

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Announces More Behavioral Health Provider Settlements

State Senator Richard Martinez Found Guilty Of Aggravated DWI; 30 Day Jail Sentence Would Send Message No One Above The Law

On Friday, June 30, 2019, State Senator Richard Martinez was arrested for suspected drunk driving. Police reported that Martinez admitted to drinking after rear-ending a car in Espanola. A driver told police Martinez rear-ended him at a red light at Paseo de Onate and Fairview Lane in Espanola late at night. The arresting officer said he could smell alcohol coming from Martinez’s car and that when he asked Martinez how much he’s had to drink, Martinez changed his story a few times.

The incident report said the state senator failed field sobriety tests and while being booked into jail, he told officers in part “are you serious,” and refused to take a breath test. According to the incident report, he first said that he had one or two beers. He then said that it might have been more than that then claiming he “actually drank three glasses of wine.”

https://www.krqe.com/news/new-mexico/state-sen-richard-martinez-arrested-for-aggravated-dwi/

FOUND GUILTY; URGED TO RESIGN

On December 17, after a two-day bench trial, Senator Richard Martinez was found guilty of aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving. According to news reports, he will be sentenced on January 7, 2020 and he faces a minimum sentence of 7 days in jail and a maximum of 180 days in jail.

Senator Richard Martinez has said he will not resign and will seek reelection next year. While attending a legislative hearing in Los Alamos, he was asked if he plans to remain in the Legislature and he responded:
“Of course. I have no intention to resign and I’m running for reelection, too.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/new-mexico-senator-plans-to-stay-in-office-following-arrest/5468958/?cat=500

After the verdict was announced, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham urged Martinez to resign and issued the following statement:

“As I said at the time of this incident, Senator Martinez was obligated to reflect on his actions and how best to reconcile them with his position as a public servant in the state Legislature, in particular his status as chairman of an influential committee. The senator’s defense of himself does not suggest to me that any such personal reckoning has taken place – and given the judge’s unambiguous ruling this afternoon, I urge him to resign his seat. There is no way to square the circle: Drunken driving is an intolerable scourge in our state, and our elected leaders must hold themselves to the highest possible standard of behavior.”

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces said in a statement that they will recommend that Martinez no longer serve as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and issued the following statement:

“Whether or not Senator Martinez continues to serve in the Senate will be left for Senator Martinez and the voters in his district to decide. … Now that the court has made its decision, the time has come for the New Mexico State Senate to take appropriate action. Based on the court’s ruling today, we will be recommending to the Committee’s Committee when it meets in January that Senator Martinez not continue to serve as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/sen-martinez-found-guilty-on-dwi/5580802/?cat=500

COMMENTARY

When Senator Richard Martinez was first arrested for his DWI, Governor Lujan Grisham did not call for Martinez’s resignation but said no one is above the law and that elected officials should be held to a higher standard. The Governor added the longtime lawmaker should think about his position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the message that the case sends to a community besieged by crime related to alcohol and drugs. She expressed hoped that Martinez “does the right thing.” He has not.

https://www.apnews.com/e969ad37a9444f5f8d5b01b0f3faa135

Now that he had been given due process of law and found guilty, Senator Richard Martinez should do the right thing and resign from the State Senate. At a bare minimum, Senator Martinez should be removed immediately as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The 30 New Mexico Legislative session starts in mid-January. An appropriate sentence is 30 days in jail commencing the first day of the legislative session.

A 30-day sentence would send the clear and unmistakable message that no elected official is above the law an certainly not a State Senator who is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a retired Magistrate Judge.

APD “Blackhole” Statistics Fiasco Explained; Mayor Keller Holds No One Accountable

Since taking office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD has released the city’s crime statistics, Mayor Tim Keller has done a press conference to release the statistics. He did so on July 1, 2019 to report the statistics for the 2019 second quarter and to compare them to the 2018 midterm year numbers. Keller reported that crime was down significantly , with double-digit drops in many categories including violent offenses such as robberies, aggravated assaults, and rapes.

On Sunday, December 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published a front-page story that all the crime rate reductions Mayor Tim Keller reported in a July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed and false. 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, of more incidents than were initially reported.

The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased, and in many categories the crime rates only dropped in single digits and not the double digits reported by May Keller. At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics but failed to report that the numbers had changed drastically. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics.

You can review the corrected statistics in the postscript after this article.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335502/crime-declining-in-albuquerque-new-numbers-show.html

APD CHANGES IN HOW IT HANDLES CRIME STATISTICS

On December 13, APD officials held a news conference to explain what went wrong and what they are doing to prevent it from happening again. APD announced changes in how it handles and reports crime statistics. The officials said that the Keller Administration had been unintentionally releasing incomplete data for the last two years

It was during the December 2 City Council meeting that Deputy Chief Armijo for the first time blamed the inaccurate statistics on different software programs that are antiquated and that are not fully integrated. At one point, Armijo told City Councilors that when APD converted its data system in 2018 from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system to the National Incident-Based Reporting System(NIBRS), APD’s crime statistic “numbers went into a black hole”. National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBERS) is more sophisticated and is an incident-based reporting system used by law enforcement agencies for collecting and reporting data on crimes. When the glitch was discovered, the system was re-calibrated and the numbers were downloaded onto the new system

Prior to 2018, APD reported data using the Summary Reporting System, which included eight categories and counted only the most serious offense during an incident. Starting in January 2021, the FBI will no longer accept data in this format. The FBI is requiring crimes to be counted through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which uses far more specific categories and counts virtually all crimes within a single incident rather than just the most serious.

During the December 13 press conference, APD Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth Armijo said APD realized in the last few months that all the quarterly briefings done by Mayor Tim Keller had been comparing the previous year’s final numbers for each time period to the current year’s preliminary numbers. According to Armijo, the Keller Administration is evaluating how it will release data to make sure it’s as accurate and up to date as possible. She said they’re not sure yet how frequently it will be provided and explained it this way:

“Moving forward, the data that is released will be that finalized data where everything has been analyzed. … The margin of change will be much more minute.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1401152/apd-explains-incomplete-crime-data.html

APD Deputy Chief J.J. Griego Deputy is in charge of the records division and explained that the new system collects more detailed information. He also revealed a huge backlog of cases that were not included during the counts and said:

“At one point, that backlog that I was talking about was up to 25,000 reports that had not been processed all the way through the system. … Due to the efforts … of the records division it’s below that now, at 6,700 reports.”

According to Greigo, there are 15 positions in the records unit but, at some point, it had been reduced to five employees but as of the beginning of December, there are 11 employees in records. The goal is to increase the records unit to 20 full time records keepers.

According to Deputy Chief Griego:

“The next time we release stats, what we’re going to do is make sure we validate those statistics before we release them to the public. … We want to release the most complete data as we can. We want to be transparent in that release of data, and what we’re striving for is to get congruence in those two factors and ensure that we are releasing data that may change but it should not change as dramatic as it changed in this particular release.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-promises-better-reporting-of-crime-statistics/5578323/?cat=500

MORE ON WHAT WENT WRONG

Alarmed by the December 1 Albuquerque Journal report that crime statistics were dramatically understated, the Albuquerque City Council during its December 2 meeting confronted the Keller Administration. The City Council asked Keller Administration Chief Administrative Office Sarita Nair and Deputy APD Chief of Staff Liz Armijo what caused the statistics fiasco, how many years had it been going on and what is being done to correct the problem. You can review the entire exchange and discussion here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsAOmTRsT0M&fbclid=IwAR2u1UdcKadW_RsygeRZSadJ6FIqGuGgyQJVkdZsa07lQet3vvGSbuV0tzo

During the exchange with city councilors, Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair cited several major reasons for the false numbers. The reasons cited include:

1. Antiquated data collection systems, inefficient technology and the lack of an “across the board integrated data reporting system”.
2. Delayed reporting of crimes to APD by victims
3. A shift in how APD categorizes certain crimes
4. Human error in labor intensive manual record making and record keeping process
5. A shortage of 8 employees in the APD records division.

The Keller Administration is also asking the NM Legislature for $20 million to modernize “crime fighting” technology, including an updated record management system.

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 downright embarrassing is when the Mayor’s own Police Department is incapable of compiling the information reported to the FBI.

It is doubtful that Mayor Keller intentionally wanted to mislead the public. No doubt Keller did not question the numbers because he was so anxious and had the desire to show reduced crime rates so he could take credit for progress in reducing crime when he runs for reelection in 2021. Keller went forward with the quarterly press conferences proclaiming he was interested in transparency. Mayor Tim Keller had the correct data at the end of September, but Keller did not hold one of his famous crime statistics press conference for the third quarter while APD provided the corrected statistics to the Albuquerque City Council without any fanfare. It’s called at the very worst being deceptive and at the very least being sneaky.

The “statistics reporting fiasco” is a lot more serious than what Mayor Keller wants to let on or care to admit. The City relies heavily on Federal Law enforcement grants, often in the millions of dollars, to conduct operations, tactical plans such as DWI, and fund programs. Often, federal funding is based upon the statistics that the city provides to the FBI. It is more than just possible but highly likely the feds will withdraw funding or demand refunds of funding if the city is found to have submitted bogus crime statistics in applications for grant funding.

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”.

Notwithstanding, Mayor Tim Keller’s reputation for honesty and integrity has taken a serious hit that will take time for him to recover from, if in fact he ever does.

___________________________________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

The corrected statistics as reported by the Journal are:

Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not the 38% as previously announced by Mayor Keller
Auto theft decreased 22%, not the 39% 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 broken the all time record and is at 76 as of December 17.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not the 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not the 33% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault increased 21%, rather than decreasing 8% as announced during Keller’s July news conference
Rape increased by 3%, rather than decreasing 3% as announced by Keller
Auto theft decreased 14%, not the 31% reported by Keller
Robbery decreased 32% and Keller reported it decreasing by 36%

“Burque’s Dos Amigos” Nowhere To Be Found When APD Falsely Accuses & Jails Child For Murder; Always Available For Photo OP To Take Credit For Reducing Crime Rates

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque Police Sergeant after 20 years of public service. He has been a small business owner in the private sector now for 15 years. Mr. Klein has been a reporter for both on line news outlets the ALB Free Press and ABQ Reports.

On Sunday, December 15, the Albuquerque Journal published the following guest column written by Dan Klein:

Who’s there for Gisell?

BY DAN KLEIN / RETIRED APD SERGEANT
Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Albuquerque can add 17-year-old Gisell Estrada to a long list of innocent people falsely accused and jailed by inept police work at APD.

It’s a story we have heard before, where the district attorney and judge who approved APD’s arrest warrant either didn’t read the warrant or just rubber-stamped it. In Gisell’s case, her warrant lacked the basics of probable cause. The detective leaves out many important facts and incorrectly states that a witness to the murder identified Gisell as the suspect.

What the witness did do, which is not explained in the warrant, was to identify a Facebook picture as a person who took part in the murder, as “Lexi.” The witness never stated that Lexi was Gisell, but that is not how the APD detective wrote the original arrest warrant. Without question or concern, an assistant district attorney and judge – the check and balance in our system – signed off, therefore ensuring that Gisell would be put into a place (a Dec. 10 Journal editorial) called “the pokey,” but those of us who have worked there call hell on earth.

APD PIO Gilbert Gallegos compounded this mess by stating that if Gisell would have spoken to the detective instead of invoking her constitutional right to silence, she would not have been arrested. Apparently, the DOJ consent decree and all the promises of constitutional policing are just catch phrases for APD. Gallegos doesn’t seem to understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and Chief Michael Geier is AWOL.

DA PIO Michael Patrick confirmed what everyone knew when he said the DA’s office just follows APD’s lead, confirming the DA is just a rubber stamp for law enforcement.

It’s not supposed to be. The DA’s office is supposed to be a check and balance to ensure innocent people are not prosecuted. Hasn’t DA Raúl Torrez learned anything from Victoria Martens and Jayden Silver-Chavez, to name just two screwed-up investigations by APD? Where are you Raúl?

The office of the court has not made any statement about why one of its judges signed Gisell’s arrest warrant. This is what we get from public officials? Silence when they screw up.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller rightfully cried tears of rage at the Mexico/America border camp for the children of detainees who were locked up. Where are his tears for Albuquerque child Gisell Estrada, who his police department wrongfully incarcerated? Can’t you cry for her, mayor?

Kellers’ first term is looking a lot like Richard J. Berry’s second term. Tim, is this what you want?

What is truly stunning about Gisell’s case is the lack of basic human compassion from Geier, Torrez, Keller and the judge who signed the warrant. Why haven’t any of them publicly apologized to her? Is it the fear of bad PR? Are they missing the gene of human caring in their DNA?

If Gisell’s arrest doesn’t spark change, nothing will.
Geier should retire; his missteps are many. From defending APD for not protecting the 7-year-old child with bloody underwear, to not terminating his Internal Affairs commander for tampering with documents, to ignoring the civilian police oversight when it recommended terminating his past spokesman for time-sheet violations, to his inability to reduce crime, his inaccurate crime stats and now Gisell. How many times will Keller stand with Geier at a press conference, only to have to retract it? Why can’t Keller find his inner former-Mayor Marty Chavez and remove him?

Torrez needs a strong challenger at the next election. If attorneys care about Albuquerque, they should step up and run for DA.

The court should immediately open a public investigation into Gisell’s false arrest, identifying who failed and holding them all accountable. Ultimately, it was a judge who placed Gisell in jail; we need to know why.

If no one is held accountable for Gisell’s false arrest, I will guarantee you it will happen again.

Next time it could be you or your child.”

The link to Dan Klein’s Albuquerque Journal guest column is as follows:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1401427/whos-there-for-gisell-ex-mayor-da-judge-need-to-come-clean-on-false-arrest.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Tim Keller (42) and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez (43 ) have so much in common, including seeking second terms, they should be referred to as the “BURQUE DOS AMIGOS”. The “Dos Amigos” even like to “tag team” the New Mexico Supreme Court and to take credit for reducing crime.

MAYOR TIM KELLER

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. Mayor Tim Keller has taken photo ops to an all new level by attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying reliving his high school glory days, and posting pictures and videos on his FACEBOOK page.

For two years, every 3 months, Keller tried to take credit for crime rates being on the decline. It turns out the numbers he released were seriously defective. Both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 by Keller had to be revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of more incidents than were initially reported. Keller blamed it on antiquated software. Keller now wants $30 million from the 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. The city has recorded 74 homicides in one year, an all-time record and violent crimes are up.

Mayor Keller has announced 4 separate programs within 9 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Keller is looking desperate to portray himself as being proactive. Keller also looks foolish when he holds press conference, after press conference, after press conference within days of each other to announce new programs that are nothing more than rebranding or renaming of existing programs.

DISRICT ATTORNEY RAUL TORREZ

In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned for District Attorney 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. District Attorney Raul Torrez, like Mayor Tim Keller, has also taken public relations to an all-time high with repeated press conferences and with front-page coverage by the Albuquerque Journal.

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. It was then revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts. Torrez accused the District Court and the Supreme Court’s case management order (CMO) for being the root cause for the dramatic increase in crime and the dismissal of cases.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office under Raul Torrez’ was seriously discredited by a District Court report to the New Mexico Supreme Court reviewing all dismissals and it showed it was the DA’s office that was dismissing the overwhelming majority of cases on its own. In May, 2019, it was revealed that the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raul Torrez has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries. The data presented showed in part how overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the District Attorney’s Office is contributing to the high mistrial and acquittal rates.

The most nefarious conduct to attack the court’s and our criminal justice system is when Torrez promoted a Constitutional Amendment to shift the burden of proof by the prosecution of dangerousness of a defendant to a presumption of dangerousness based on an “alleged” yet to be proven crime. What Torrez wants is a system of “presumption of dangerousness” where a defendant is charged with a violent felony and the person charge be held in custody pending trial. Time and time again, defendants are held in jail for months, at times years, because they are unable to make bond, only to have the charges dismissed.

In 2017, Torrez was able to secure millions more from the legislature to hire more prosecutors and he now has a $21.5 million dollar budget. Torrez has failed to fill over 50 vacant positions within his office, including vacant “at will” attorney, assistant trial attorney, senior trial attorney and trial attorney positions and Secretarial and Legal Secretary positions.

Like Mayor Keller, Raul Torrez has attempted to repeatedly take credit for declining crime rates before business groups, yet since the APD statistics fiasco, Torrez is nowhere to be found to retract his previous claims of reduced crime.

TAG TEAMING THE NEW MEXICO SUPREME COURT

On May 10, 2019, “Burque’s Dos Amigos” Mayor Tim Keller and DA Raul Torrez wrote a joint letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court requesting it to intervene and stop the plans of 2nd Judicial District Court (SJDC) to shift away from the use of grand jury system to a preliminary hearing system. The shift to a preliminary system from a grand jury system had been going on for 3 years. The joint letter included the following claims:

“We write to you with an urgent request that the New Mexico Supreme Court take immediate action to prevent further elimination of existing grand jury panels in the Second Judicial [District Court].

“Together, we have worked to achieve the longest sustained drop in crime in this community in more than a decade, but we are very concerned that these hard fought gains will be reversed if the [District Court] continues to make unilateral decisions which further stress the resources constraints of our respective institutions and causes a potential threat to public safety that may result from the change to our criminal justice system.”

On May 31, 2019, Chief Justice Judith Nakamura politely responded to the Torrez-Keller letter declining to intervene with the District court urging District Attorney Torrez to work with the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (BCCJCC) to resolve his concerns about ongoing cuts to the grand jury system.

CONCLUSION

As the shootings, assaults and murders continue to rise, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller are increasingly focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates. Time is running out for both of them despite their efforts and their public relations campaigns and press conferences. Both DA Torrez and Mayor Keller have initiated programs in an effort to bring down violent crime rates and gun violence and simply put, the programs are not working. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City residents is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at the DA’s Office are not having any effect on be bringing down the violent crime and murder rates.

Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’ s Office is now Torrez’s full responsibility and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates and bungled prosecutions. APD is now fully in the hands of Mayor Tim Keller and his appointed command staff, and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates.

No doubt DA Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller have high hopes that their efforts will bring down gun violent crime and the murder rates as they seek second terms. But “high hopes” do not get one elected to a second term. The only thing that will likely get them both elected to second terms is if they buckle down, work more on doing their jobs of law enforcement, arrests and prosecutions and less on public relations, press conferences and nuance programs that are not working.

When it’s all said and done, both District Attorney Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller may wake up the day after their next election bids to read headlines that they have lost their election for a second term.

Links to related blog articles:

ABQReport “While Albuquerque bleeds, Mayor Keller smiles”

Mayor Keller “Cooking The Books” With “All That Stuff”; Keller and APD Chief Geier Looking Desperate With 4th Program In 9 Months; Time For Another Reorganization And A Few Terminations

District Court Exposes DA Torrez 65% Dismissal, Mistrial And Acquittal Rates; Mayor Keller Tries To “Bail Out” DA Torrez From Preliminary Hearings

DA Torrez: “WHAAAA, I Do Not Want To Play Anymore, I’m Taking My Ball And Going Home!”; DA Torrez Playing With Fire Taking On The Courts