Below is a front page Albuquerque Journal article, followed by a link to the article, written by Martin Salazar, one of the papers main editors:
“A HERO’S SEND-OFF; APD OFFICERS GATHER TO HONOR DECEASED LIEUTENANT DESPITE PANDEMIC”
BY MARTIN SALAZAR / JOURNAL CITY EDITOR
Published: Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 10:00pm
“ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — David Rogers spent his life in service to others. The 56-year-old was a Navy veteran who went on to a long career with the Albuquerque Police Department, retiring as a lieutenant a couple of years ago.
He died too soon following a battle with leukemia, and he got a hero’s send-off on that April 2 morning, with dozens of APD officers showing up at his house to escort the hearse carrying him to the funeral home.
The touching tribute was captured on video, set to the song “Over the Rainbow.”
[The link to the video here was taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwI7ktZgQ0E&feature=emb_title Another link to the video without the sound can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksWO80TblRM ]
Officers greet one another and even pose for group photos. Police Chief Michael Geier shows up to provide solace. Officers stand shoulder-to-shoulder outside the house and salute as Rogers’ flag-draped body is carried from his home for the final time. No one appears to be wearing a mask.
Throngs of motorcycle officers then begin the procession through tree-lined streets as the white hearse from Daniels funeral home joins in.
The scene played out in the midst of a pandemic and at a time when mass gatherings have been banned and citizens have been told to stay at least 6 feet apart due to the threat of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The virus has infected 1,597 New Mexicans and killed 44. Worldwide, it has infected more than 2 million people and killed more than 143,000, including doctors, nurses and, yes, police officers.
Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, told a Journal reporter he recognizes that the officers are not distancing themselves but says it was the bare minimum that could be done to honor Rogers, whom he described as a great man.
“I think that it’s really important to understand that, as police officers, we’re just human beings, we’re struggling, just like everybody else is, to not shake hands, to not give a friend a hug, and to not be there for family members when they are in need or they are sad,” Willoughby said. “I would have been disrespected as a police officer if the department had done nothing. I think it is a show of strong leadership and essence of our police family to make sure that we recognize his service to this community and this police department.”
To be clear, Rogers deserved the procession he got and so much more.
But the gathering came a week and a half after the state secretary of health issued a public order banning mass gatherings, defined as – among other things – public or private gatherings that bring together five or more individuals in an open outdoor space where individuals are within 6 feet of one another.
It’s a message that state and local officials have been driving home over and over again – a message that, they insist, is aimed at saving lives. And it’s an order that authorities say is being enforced. In Albuquerque, open space managers are teaming up with volunteers and police to ensure people are following social distancing rules on public trails.
“It’s extremely important that everyone is following the public health orders to keep us all safe,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a news release earlier this month, this one about how APD, Albuquerque Fire Rescue and the city’s Code Enforcement Division would be working together to ensure that nonessential businesses were complying with the governor’s public health order. “We all have to remember the goal is literally to save lives.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, meanwhile, has acknowledged that the orders her administration has issued are causing hardships, but just this week, she thanked New Mexicans for stepping up during the Easter weekend and following them.
“People made sacrifices all over the state to do incredible social distancing which, as we all know, is critical to protecting our first responders, our health care system and saving lives, so we’re going to keep doing that,” she said during a news conference Wednesday.
But when Journal reporter Elise Kaplan asked about the video showing APD officers standing close to one another outside Rogers’ home, neither the mayor nor the Governor’s Office expressed concern.
The Mayor’s Office did not answer questions posed by the Journal, including whether Keller knew about the gathering for the procession or thought such a gathering was advisable. Instead, a spokeswoman sent a statement about measures the department has taken to keep officers safe while fighting crime.
Tripp Stelnicki, the governor’s spokesman, did address the video.
“It would seem in my view that efforts were made to adhere to social distancing as best it could be while still providing Lt. Rogers a respectful escort worthy of his service to the city,” he wrote.
Chief Geier would not do an interview with the Journal about his own decision to attend the gathering, but APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos confirmed that the officers had organized the escort procession from Rogers’ residence to the funeral home to honor his service the morning he died.
“Chief Geier reminded officers at the residence to practice social distancing,” Gallegos wrote in an email.
Willoughby said the police escort was the only way they could honor a friend and former colleague because it wasn’t possible for anyone to attend a funeral or memorial service. He said Rogers served in the Navy before his long career with APD and he retired in the past couple of years. He said that shortly after Rogers retired he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“This is a man that gave his entire life to service,” Willoughby said. “… With social distancing and the inability to have an actual funeral, I was proud to see the Albuquerque Police Department do what they did, which was they basically did an escort from his home to the funeral home on the morning that he was deceased.”
There’s no question Rogers deserved the send-off his former colleagues gave him. He was a public servant in the truest sense, and that service deserves to be recognized.
But it’s worth noting that there are countless families throughout our community and throughout the country who are grieving by themselves because large gatherings aren’t allowed and because ignoring those orders puts lives at risk. And it’s worth noting that this is a moment of shared sacrifice that’s affecting everyone, from workers who have lost their livelihoods to those dying alone in hospitals.
And even brushing all that aside, Albuquerque can ill afford to lose any more heroes.”
The link to the Albuquerque Journal article is here:
APD PERSONNEL POLICIES ADOPTED AFTER THE FACT
During the week of April 14, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier announced that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) were adopting personnel programs from other law enforcement departments across the country to deal with the corona virus. Although no APD officer has yet tested positive for the corona virus, both acknowledged that it is just a matter of time before a police officer dealing with the public becomes infected.
According to Keller:
“I think the unfortunate thing is at some point this is probably going to happen. Some of our officers and some of our first responders are going to come down with corona. The key is that we’re able to contain that spread. So that’s what we’re setting up now, and that’s what, unfortunately, a lot of these other departments did not have in place in advance.”
According to APD Chief Geier, the city has implemented a “three-tiered system” personnel policy to replace field officers who have to be put in quarantine due to the virus with police officers in investigative units as officers have to be isolated after possible exposure or put in quarantine due to the virus.
Under the policy announced, uniformed officers or civilian staffers who think they have been exposed to coronavirus, either on or off the job, are told to report it to a lieutenant who has been designated to coordinate the department’s response. The officers or staffers are then isolated, sometimes in hotel rooms away from their families, until they can be tested.
Taking officers out of the field periodically can greatly reduce the ranks. According to an APD staffing report, the department has a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers in the field patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, there are 340 active-duty field officers, with 12 to 26 staffing each shift, depending on the time of day and area command.
Chief Geier said that, in the first tier, the department has identified 135 officers and 35 supervisors who can be pulled without affecting any investigative units. The second tier taps further into investigative units and includes an additional 39 officers and six supervisors. The last tier utilizes both Tier 1 and Tier 2 and adds 215 more officers 50 supervisors.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The Albuquerque Journal front page article entitled “A Hero’s Send Off” and subtitled “APD officers gather to honor deceased lieutenant despite pandemic” is well written. It reflects 100% respect and dignity to an APD Police Officer who passed away, a man who served his country well in the military and then served his community to protect it. Lt. David Rogers without a doubt was a hero in every sense of the word. Sincere condolences go out to the family Lt. David Rogers during this difficult time.
Journal Editor Martin Salazar is commended for handling the very difficult subject matter while at the same time raising serious questions and issues that failed to be addressed by the Governor, the Mayor and APD Chief Michael Geier. Its speaks volumes’ that the Governor and the Mayor declined to give a direct quote, preferring a spokesman to speak for them instead. The Governor and the Mayor are giving daily press briefings and answering question about their efforts, yet they decline to comment for the story preferring spokes people to comment for them. Mayor Keller has also been conducting telephone “town hall meetings” where thousands participate and call in and ask him questions directly. APD Chief Geier simply refuses to comment.
Nationwide police are having to adjust how they handle funerals and processions. For example in Indiana, the police honored an officer killed on a domestic violence call by holding a procession at the local race track where all officers stayed in their vehicles and if outside their vehicles were at least 6 feet apart.
When you review the entire video, it is clear no safety precautions were taken as ordered by the Governor and the Mayor in their emergency orders. The links to both the Governor’s and the Mayor’s emergency declarations are found here:
It has been extensively reported by the national and local news media that people with underlying health conditions are at the greatest risk for the corona virus. New York city for example had to update its statistics by adding an additional 3,000 who passed away at home. There is no report if the decedent past away from his underlying health conditions complicated by the corona virus.
APD Chief Michael Geier and the 40+ police officers in attendance failed to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the corona virus with their failure to practice social distancing, to wear masks and to congregate with more than 5 people. APD has also been ordered by Mayor Keller to enforce and issue citations to businesses and citizens for flagrant violations of the orders. Links to the enforcement stories are here:
WHO GAVE THE ORDER?
The Governor’s and the Mayor’s quarantine, stay away orders and social distancing mandates do apply to funerals and people must adhere to social distancing and the 5 person crowd size requirements. A Livestream of the funeral so people can attend remotely is allowed. Immediate family may be there in person while others participate from home. Live chat for those who may not have a webcam at home but still want to be involved can be used.
It must be noted that the video reflects that the entire APD Traffic unit of some 40+ APD police officers participated in the escort . Chief Michael Geier, or someone in his command staff, had to order the entire Traffic Unit to respond for the escort. If such an order was given to the Traffic Unit, the order violated the governor’s and the mayor’s directives. APD’s activity, if the Governor and the Mayor are to believed regarding the seriousness of the corona virus, clearly put all of the officers, their families and the community at risk.
According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, there are 340 active-duty field officers assigned to 3 shifts and 6 area commands. The participation of 40+ sworn police to participate in the escort no doubt placed a strain on APD to respond to calls for service.
There is no doubt that Lt. David Rogers was deserving of the honor bestowed him and his family. It is difficult to understand why the APD command staff and in particular Chief Geier and the police union could not find and implement a better and safer way to honor one of their own.
Union President Shawn Willoughby can always be counted on to say something whenever the Keller Administration does some thing that he believes places his union membership in harms way, but not this time. His expressed grieve is understandable. When police union President Willoughby says the police escort was the only way they could honor a friend and former colleague because it wasn’t possible for anyone to attend a funeral or memorial service, the assertion is blatantly false on so many levels.
What is occurring not only here but nationwide are live-streaming of funerals so people can attend remotely. Immediate family are allowed to be there in person while others participate from home. Live chat for those who may not have a webcam at home but still want to be involved can be used.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier and APD have shown a level of hypocrisy when they decline to even comment and not demand that APD take far more safety precautions. Mayor Keller especially showed hypocrisy by not commenting when he has said before “Some of our officers and some of our first responders are going to come down with corona. The key is that we’re able to contain that spread.” Mayor Tim Keller and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham are demanding so very much from the general public during these difficult times, but then they both choose to treat law enforcement differently, make excuses or not even express that law enforcement must show more caution.
Just like the general public, law enforcement must honor and respect the requirements of the emergency orders as to safety precautions to halt the spread of the virus. Otherwise the emergency orders are meaningless and law enforcement lose credibility with the public when they try to enforce the orders and shut down businesses and cancel major events and issue citizens citations that result in heavy fines. It becomes an issue of “do as I order, not as I do.”
The following AlbUquerque Journal editorial was published on April 2:
HEADLINE: Editorial: How can leaders remain mum on APD send-off?
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020 at 12:02am
Albuquerque police officers stood shoulder to shoulder at the home of David Rogers on April 2. They wanted to give the retired APD lieutenant a hero’s send-off after he lost his battle with leukemia, and they accomplished that.
They, along with Mayor Tim Keller and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also accomplished sending a strong message there’s a double standard when it comes to following social distancing rules in the age of coronavirus – rules both have vowed to have law enforcement enforce.
Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier, who was in attendance, confirmed through a spokesman officers organized the hearse escort from Rogers’ home to the funeral home but declined to elaborate. A spokesman said Geier reminded officers to practice social distancing.
Photos and a video (since removed from YouTube) of the send-off show that few, if any, listened. Officers did not stay in cruisers or on motorcycles to respectfully follow the hearse. During part of the video, some officers appeared to stand apart. But at times many stood shoulder to shoulder outside Rogers’ home, some even posing for group photos. No masks. No gloves. No other personal protective equipment. Not even by Chief Geier.
Neither Lujan Grisham nor Keller, who have ordered citizens to stay home and away from groups, expressed concern about the send-off. A spokesman for the governor said: “It would seem in my view that efforts were made to adhere to social distancing as best it could be while still providing Lt. Rogers a respectful escort worthy of his service to the city.” Keller did not answer questions, and instead a spokeswoman sent a statement about measures APD has taken to keep officers safe on the job. Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, told the Journal “a show of strong leadership and essence of our police family” was “the bare minimum” that could be done to honor Rogers.
Really? To preserve social distancing, you can’t load your groceries on the conveyer belt at the store until the person in front of you is done. You can’t join with family and friends to celebrate an engagement or mourn a loved one or honor a milestone. But if you wear a blue uniform and badge, you can pose side by side for pics with no protective gear whatsoever? Do our elected and law enforcement leaders think COVID-19 differentiates?
We understand that honoring our fallen police officers is a long-standing tradition. The desire to show respect for Rogers, 56, a U.S. Navy and law enforcement veteran, is commendable. But the way it was done was wholly inappropriate when state residents are told to stay home and remain 6 feet apart. The gathering at Rogers’ home came just a week and a half after the state Department of Health banned mass gatherings, defined as more than five. It’s a message officials and flashing road signs have been driving home. It’s an order police have been enforcing. And then APD blatantly violates it.
The failure of the mayor and governor to denounce the send-off is a glaring failure in leadership. By attending the gathering, Geier gave his approval, and rather than speaking out against the gathering, Keller and Lujan Grisham have backed him up.
No doubt it would have been awkward for Keller and Lujan Grisham to publicly criticize law enforcement for honoring one of its own. But they ordered the shelter-in-place rules, regardless of the personal pain and sacrifice they are causing hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. They should have the backbone to support their own policies – and then brace for any criticism.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.
The following story was published by the Albuquerque Journal on line on April 17 at 8:16 PM
HEADLINE: Dozens of APD officers quarantined after COVID-19 contact
BY MATTHEW REISEN / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Friday, April 17th, 2020 at 8:16pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Police Department has tested 39 officers and two civilian employees for COVID-19 and placed them all in quarantine after being exposed to another law enforcement officer who has the virus.
Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said the officers experienced “different levels of exposure” over several days, which included a multi-agency operation.
“As soon as they were notified of the exposure, officers were immediately placed on quarantine and tested for the virus, as part of our protocol,” he said. “We are waiting for final results of those tests and will consult with our medical director before officers return to duty.”
Gallegos did not say what agency the initial infected officer was with or give the context of their contact with APD personnel.
“This is exactly why we are implementing safety protocols throughout the department to protect officers and prevent the spread of the virus,” Gallegos said. “We have not had any officers test positive.”
He said, in addition to current protocols, area commanders have been directed to spend time ensuring officers are wearing masks during encounters with the public.