It has been reported that in early 2020, thousands of law enforcement officers and other first responders throughout the country have contracted COVID-19 during the worldwide pandemic due to requirements of their job. As of April 20, 2020, at least 19 police officers throughout the country in various cities have died from the corona virus. In New York City, as of March 29, at least 696 New York Police Department employees have contracted the disease and 3 members of the department have died from coronavirus.
FEDERAL COURTHOUSE CLOSED, APD OFFICERS QUARANTINED
On May 4, it was reported that an FBI agent’s positive COVID-19 test on April 15 lead to the closure of the U.S. District Courthouse in Downtown Albuquerque for two days. The closure of the courthouse forced multiple co-workers, other agents and task force officers into quarantine. On April 17, the Albuquerque Police Department said 39 officers and two civilian employees had been quarantined after coming into contact with a federal officer who had the virus during a “multiagency operation.” All APD officers have tested negative and have returned to work.
The disclosures about the FBI agent’s positive test culminating in the quarantines and courthouse closure came to light in two coronavirus-related workplace safety complaints filed against the FBI’s Albuquerque office in the past month, the first alleging that protocols were not up to par with the governor’s public health order and the second, lodged weeks later, claiming a bureau agent returned to work after contracting the virus.
On March 26, the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau sent the FBI a letter saying it had received a complaint from employees “concerned management is ignoring COVID-19 guidance/directives.” The local office of the FBI now says the office is abiding by social distancing guidelines and had distributed numerous N-95 masks, surgical masks and gloves to supervisors and employees by April 10.
APD OFFICERS IGNORE GOVERNOR’S PUBLIC HEATH ORDERS
Under Governor Michelle Lujan Emergency Orders, all non-essential businesses, including barbershops are closed in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It seems that a number of Albuquerque Police Officers (APD) did not get the memo, and neither did APD Chief Michael Geier. On April 24, KRQE news reported that 3 Albuquerque Police Department officers were disciplined for violating the Governor’s and the Mayor’s health care orders after the APD officers were caught getting haircuts at a local barbershop.
An anonymous source sent KRQE News 13 photos taken earlier last week at around 7 a.m. in the morning. It turns out that three APD officers were getting haircuts at the True Barbershop off Osuna and I-25. Other people in the area said they had seen several APD officers at that barbershop each morning, despite the state’s public health orders that say salons and barbershops will be closed for now.
When Channel 13 interviewed people around the city to get their opinion they said APD police officers should be leading by example. Some of the comments by private citizens included:
“Well I can understand that maybe they needed it but they have to abide by the same rules that we do. ”
“I know the struggle because my hair is long now. … I haven’t had a haircut in four months but at the same time, rules are rules.”
Under APD personnel Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), all sworn officers have to maintain “grooming” requirements including keeping their hair clean, combed and neatly trimmed. The personnel rules also mandate that male officers cannot have long hair that goes over their ears.
After KRQE News 13 showed photos of police cars parked outside the barber shop APD declined an interview. However, APD did say the 3 police officers were reprimanded. APD also announced that it was relaxing their “grooming” requirements until barbershops can open back up. APD added that the barber will not be getting a citation because the policy is to first to inform a none complying business about the public health order rather than cite them and if they persist and still remain open APD then issues citations.
APD CHIEF GEIER IGNORES PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS
On April 16th the Albuquerque Journal reported in a front page article that on the morning of April 2 dozens of APD officers showed up at the home of a former police officer who had died earlier in the morning at his home in order to escort the hearse dispatched to carrying his body to the funeral home. A video of the event was posted on YOUTUBE but was taken down. Another posted the video without sound and the link to the video is here:
The video reveals APD officers greeting one another and even pose for group photos. Police Chief Michael Geier shows up in a shirtsleeve uniform shirt to provide solace. Officers stand shoulder-to-shoulder outside the front side walk of the home and then stand at attention and salute the flag-draped body as it is carried from the home and placed in a hearse for transportation to the funeral home.
No one in the video is wearing a mask and the 6 feet in social distancing is not practiced as police and private citizens converse. An escort of up to 40 police officers on motorcycles, arranged in two rows of twenty, begin the procession as a white hearse from Daniels funeral home joins in the middle with 20 in front and 20 in back of the hearse.
On April 22, the Albuquerque Journal published a scathing editorial about the fact that neither Governor Lujan Grisham nor Mayor Keller, who have ordered citizens to stay home and away from groups, expressed concern about the conduct of APD and its Chief and opined in part:
“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.”
The link to the full editorial can is here:
Confidential sources within APD have confirmed that APD Chief Michael Geier and many of his executive staff felt that it did not matter and they simply did not care what the public thought or what news media reported regarding the escort they provided to a former colleague who passed from a terminal disease. The opinion they expressed was they were “willing to take the hit” when it came to the bad publicity that ensued. Such an attitude is a far cry from that shown by other police departments in the country who in fact practice social distancing and worn protective gear when they attend funerals of a fallen colleague.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
APD has been ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to enforce and issue citations to businesses and citizens for flagrant violations of the stay at home orders and social distancing orders. Mayor Tim Keller has also become a fixture on the local news giving daily press briefing on what the city is doing to address the pandemic and going so far as to conducting telephone “town hall meetings” where thousands are called and the public are allowed to ask him questions that are screened by his political consultant who now works for 311.
Mayor Keller is demanding so very much from the general public during these difficult times. However, when it comes to APD, Chief Geier and APD officers, Mayor Keller declines to comment or take any action when asked about APD Chief Michael Geier and the 40+ police officers in attending of the hearse escort and who failed to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the corona virus. Chief Geier and the police officers failed to practice social distancing, failed to wear masks and congregated and socialized with more than 5 people.
Chief Geier nor the 40+ sworn police were not discipline nor even admonished for their own conduct by Mayor Tim Keller. Now Chief Geier allows officers to be discipline for getting haircuts in violation of the very orders he violated. There is no mention if the barber was performing the service free of charge, which is not at all likely given that other police cars had been seen repeatedly for a number of days.
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. Further Keller and Chief Geier with their actions, failures to act, and attitude show a level of hypocrisy that is difficult to ignore. The “willingness to take the hit” of bad publicity in order to do something you want against health orders reflects arrogance and a sense of entitlement.
The emergency orders are meaningless and law enforcement lose credibility with the public when they 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.”
For a related blog article see:
“APD Honors Its Own”, “APD Officers Gather To Honor Deceased Lieutenant Despite Pandemic”; Governor, Mayor, APD Chief Decline Direct Comment; APD Adopts After The Fact Policies; “Do as I order, not as I Do.”