“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
This blog article is a tale of two cities. A tale of two young, highly educated, up and coming, charismatic, progressive, Democrat Mayors. Two Mayors essentially coming from white privilege backgrounds.
Both cities are the largest cities in their states with large minority populations, one African American and the other Hispanic. Both cities have police departments roughly the same size and each city spends about $200 million a year to fund their police departments. Both cities are dealing with excessive use of force and deadly force killings by the police, one city with an extensive history of it and the other with a recent killing. Both cities are dealing with protests, sometimes peaceful, sometime violent, sparked by the killing of African American George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The first Mayor had the murder of George Floyd occur in his city. The second Mayor is dealing with a police department struggling to implement sweeping federal court mandated reforms relating to “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” after the US Justice Department investigation found a “culture of aggression”. Both Mayors consider themselves civil rights advocates, condemn racism, want inclusion and racial equality. It is highly unlikely they themselves have ever experienced racism to the extent their cities minority populations have. Both Mayors are having difficulty walking a tight rope and juggling police relations under their command and public outrage and protests over the murder of African American George Floyd. Both are being confronted with cries to “defund the police” and demands to do much more to deal with racism in their cities.
MINNEAPOLIS AND MAYOR JACOB FREY
The population of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020 has a population of 437,069, and it is the largest city in Minnesota and the 45th largest city in the United States.
The Minneapolis Police Department budget for 2020 was $193.3 million with funding for 892 sworn officers and 175 civilian employees for a total of 1,067 employees.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, 38, announced his candidacy for Mayor of Minneapolis on January 3, 2017, and won the November 7 municipal election. Frey was a Minneapolis City Councilor from 2013 until his election as mayor in 2017. He is a 2004 graduate of William & Mary and a 2007 graduate of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Frey was a civil rights attorney when he ran for Mayor. Much like Mayor Tim Keller, Frey was swept into office on promises to fix the broken relationship between the community and police reforms.
Soon after being elected, Mayor Frey successfully pushed reforms to the Minneapolis Police Department’s body camera policy. The changes tied non-compliance to stricter disciplinary consequences for the first time. Following the changes, officer compliance with the body camera policy reached record highs.
In 2019, Frey announced the banning of “warrior trainingz” for police officers, which had been taken by the officer who killed African American Philando Castile. It was on July 6, 2016, that Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American man, was fatally shot during a traffic stop by Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, a 28-year-old Hispanic-American police officer.
Castile informed the officer that he was carrying a hand gun in his car. The police car dash camera shows the moment when Castile is shot and killed. It shows Castile complying with police officer orders to show proof of insurance and also telling the police officer that he had a gun in his car and he had a license to legally carry it. The police officer ostensibly took the disclosure as a threat, drew his gun and shot Castile point blank killing him. On July 6, 2016, the police officer was acquitted of Second-degree manslaughter by a jury. A link to the police dash cam is here:
THE MURDER THAT SPARKED A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
On Monday, May 26, around 8 p.m., African American George Floyd, 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The video of George Floyd being arrested is extremely difficult to watch. The video clearly shows he did not actively resist arrest. Floyd did not have a weapon on him when the arrest was made and he was handcuffed. Police Officer Derek Chauvin took Floyd to the ground and he was subdued with his stomach and face on the ground.
Officer Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and he used his full body weight to suppress George Floyd’s head and body to the ground. The take down suppression lasted for almost a full 9 minutes, during which time George Floyd begged for his life saying at least 14 times “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Paramedics were called and when they arrived, Floyd was none responsive and was dead. Police Officer Chauvin has been charged with murder and with manslaughter and arrested.
You can view the video here:
The murder of Floyd at the hands of police officer has been the catalyst for change, not only in the United States but in many European countries. “I can’t breathe” has become a battle cry to end racism and police killings of unarmed people of color. Protest in the United States, Canada and Europe have broken out as anger and rage become the fuel for change in police practices.
Last month, Mayor Frey ordered a police station to evacuate as rioters burned it to the ground. Frey is also seeking federal and state aid for his city, citing more than $55 million in damages from the riots.
On May 27, 2020, following and during protests sparked from the killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin, Frey demanded the firing of polic officer Chauvin Floyd and said:
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes we watched as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help.”
Mayor Frey later called for criminal charges to be filed against Derek Chauvin, the arresting officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for upwards of 9 minutes while Floyd cried out 14 times “I can’t breathe”. Chauvin was later charged with third-degree murder, which was later upgraded to second-degree murder, he was arrested and bond has been set at $1 million dollars.
MAYOR FREY’S APPEARANCE AT PROTEST GOES SERIOUSLY WRONG
On June 6, 2020, a march was held in Minneapolis, pushing for the abolishment of the Minneapolis Police Department attended by hundreds. Mayor Frey attended the protest. Looming above the mayor on a stage set up in the middle of the street, an African American woman with a microphone asked Frey point blank if he would commit on the spot to defunding the Minneapolis Police Department. She shouted to the Mayor, “It is a yes or no.” She then bellowed to the protesters to be quiet but reminded the protesters that Frey is up for re-election next year. She said “And if he says no, guess what we’re going to do next year,” adding an expletive for emphasis.
The microphone was handed to Mayor Frey, who said in a barely audible voice because it was muffled by a face mask:
“I do not support the full abolition of the police.”
After Frey answered the question, protesters booed him loudly and began chanting “Go home, Jacob, go home!” and “Shame! Shame!” Frey then turned and left slowly and walked through hundreds of protesters. A video of the interaction hit social media and the next day the story was on the national news, including the New York Times.
In a subsequent interview with a local TV station, Frey addressed the issue of “defunding” the police department this way:
“I’ll work relentlessly with Chief Arradondo and alongside community toward deep, structural reform and addressing systemic racism in police culture. We’re ready to dig in and enact more community-led, public safety strategies on behalf of our city. But, I do not support abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Frey prefaced his comments by saying he was “coming to grips” with his “own brokenness,” and promised to put the police union “in its place.” Protesters clearly were not convinced, yelling “It’s not about you!” and “Go home Jacob, go home!”
MAYOR FREY FACES SERIOUS ATTEMPT TO DEFUND MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT
On Thursday, June 4, Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison said on TWITTER:
[Minneapolis will] “dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together.”
On Sunday, June 7, a majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said they support disbanding the city’s police department. Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at an afternoon rally in a city park and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Lisa Bender, the president of Minneapolis City Council said:
“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe. … Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”
ALBUQUERQUE AND MAYOR TIM KELLER
In 2020, Albuquerque has a population of 561,188, it is the largest city in New Mexico and the 32nd largest city in the United States. The Albuquerque Police Department’s budget for the 2020 fiscal year was $205 million with funding for 1,513 full time positions that included funding for 1,040 sworn police officers and 473 civilian employees. APD is spending $88 million over 4 years to add 100 new police officers each year of the 4 years with and additional $33 million in non recurring expenses. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD, return to community-based policing and to reduce the city’s high crime rates.
Mayor Tim Keller, 41, was elected on November 7, 2017, the same day as Mayor Jacob Frey, and was sworn in on January 1, 2018. Keller attended St. Pius High School, has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Norte Dame and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. Prior to being elected Mayor, he was elected New Mexico State Auditor in 2016 to a 4-year term, ran for Mayor while serving as State Auditor, and resigning less than 2 years serving as State Auditor once he was elected Mayor. Prior to being State Auditor, Keller was a New Mexico State Senator for 6 years, and ran for State Auditor in the middle of his second 4-year term as a NM State Senator and once again resigned in the middle of an elected 4 year term as a State Senator when he was elected State Auditor.
When then State Auditor and candidate for Mayor, Tim Keller campaigned on the platform of fully implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms, increasing the size of the police department, returning to community-based policing, reducing skyrocketing high crime rates, economic development and raising taxes only with a public vote. The Keller Administration is implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period.
“HE’S EVERYWHERE, HE’S EVERYWHERE” AND ALWAYS ON THE MOVE
Since being sworn into office, Mayor Tim Keller, 41, has taken photo ops to an all new level by attending functions 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, enjoying reliving his high school glory days, and posting pictures and videos of his press conferences on FACEBOOK.
Mayor Keller began increasing his press conferences even more so when Governor Lujan Grisham issued pandemic quarantine and emergency health orders to deal with the pandemic. Keller also issued his own emergency health orders to deal with the city’s response to the pandemic. Appearing as though he is competing with the Governor, Mayor Keller began daily news briefings and conducting virtual town hall meetings by phone calling upwards of 14,000 residents to answer questions and to talk about the city’s response to the pandemic.
When African American George Floyed was killed by a Minneapolis Police officer and protest broke out across the country, including Albuquerque, Mayor Keller kick his public relations into even higher gear. Mayor Keller is conducting press conferences on how the city is dealing with the protests from a law enforcement perspective.
Keller has been seen and interviewed by the news media at Black Lives Matter protests and has spoken at protests events, but has not been met with the absolute hostility Mayor Frey has endured, that is until recently. At a vigil for George Floyd, after Keller was introduced he took to the podium and began by quoting George Floyd by saying “I can’t breath”. As Keller continued to speak, he was heckled with the chants and the slogan “defund the police”. The chant was coming from a number of young protesters in the back that had attended a rally the night before.
Not to be deterred, Keller ignored the heckling, proclaimed his “Office of Equity and Inclusion” and police reforms are working, but he cut his comments short. Based on the surprise look on his face when he was interrupted, Keller ostensibly did not understand the chant or was at least puzzled why he was being interrupted, something he is not use to. It was reported Keller left after being questioned about defunding Albuquerque police. On FACEBOOK, where Keller posted his speech, Keller was excoriated with many comments with some critics asking why he was invited in the first place seeing that APD used tear gas to disperse a crowd the night before.
KELLER TOUTS SUCCESS OF DOJ REFORMS, BUT FAILS TO DISCLOSE RESISTANCE TO REFORMS AND WHAT HE INTENDS TO DO ABOUT IT
On June 4, Mayor Tim Keller, Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) command staff, the City’s Attorney office and Ed Harness, the Director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency in a one hour press conference, touted progress made by APD in implementing the reforms mandated by the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The reforms deal with excessive use of force and deadly force by APD that resulted in 32 deaths and $62 million in civil settlements.
The press conference was held in part in response to the protests over the murder of George Floyd. Albuquerque has not been spared the protests. The protests by and large have been peaceful but on two occasions property damage and violence has erupted. The city is seeing its Police Department exhibit a remarkable amount of restraint and professionalism that so far has resulted in no one getting killed. How APD is handling protests is evidence that all of the training and all the reforms that were mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) are working. The Albuquerque Police Department and the officers of APD are commended and credited for the manner and approach they are taking in handling the protests.
During the June 4 press conference, Keller showcased how APD is measuring up to a national effort known as the “#8 Can’t Waite” program targeting 8 specific policy changes, or metrics, that reform advocates say can help reduce police violence by 77%. According to Keller and Nair, APD has achieved 6 of the “#8 Can’t Wait” policy changes because of implementation of the DOJ reforms.
What Mayor Keller did not publicly disclose during his June 4 press conference is that the “counter CASA effect” is impeding DOJ reforms. It is also by extension impeding the “#8 Can’t Wait” metrics. The “Counter CASA effect” was explained by the Federal Monitor on September 10, 2018 during a federal court hearing. Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger told the federal judge that a group of “high-ranking APD officers” within the department were trying to thwart reform efforts. The Federal Monitor revealed that the group of “high-ranking APD officers” were APD sergeants and lieutenants. Because sergeants and lieutenants are part of the police bargaining unit they remained in their positions and could not be removed by the Chief.
In his 10th Auditors Report, Dr. Ginger stated:
“Sergeants and lieutenants, at times, go to extreme lengths to excuse officer behaviors that clearly violate established and trained APD policy, using excuses, deflective verbiage, de minimis comments and unsupported assertions to avoid calling out subordinates’ failures to adhere to established policies and expected practice. Supervisors, sergeants, and mid-level managers, lieutenants, routinely ignore serious violations, fail to note minor infractions, and instead, consider a given case “complete”. … Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) disciplinary timelines, appear at times to be manipulated by supervisory, management and command levels at the area commands, letting known violations lie dormant until timelines for discipline cannot be met.”
In his 11th Audit Report, the Federal Monitor made it clear once again that there are many within APD that are still overtly resistant to reforms and said:
“Since the beginning of the CASA compliance process that there were a few at APD who were overtly resistant to the CASA. [The Monitor] in the past [has] found evidence of a “counter-CASA effect” among some at the supervisory, mid-management, and command levels at APD. Those who knowingly or subconsciously count themselves in this group are beginning to face pressure to change their assessment of the value of the CASA. In some cases [they] have faced reasonably prompt and appropriate corrective efforts from the current executive levels of the APD for behavior that is not congruent with the CASA.” According to the report, “this as an essential “way forward” if APD is to move into full compliance. The remaining issue is that this pressure is neither uniform nor persistent.”
See page 303 of 307 of Monitor’s 10th report.
In his 11th report, the monitor stated that APD personnel:
“were still failing to adhere to the requirements of the CASA found in past monitoring reports, including some instances moving beyond the epicenter of supervision to mid- and upper management levels of the organization. … Some in APD’s command levels continue to exhibit behaviors that “build bulwarks” [or walls] preventing fair and objective discipline, including a process of attempting to delay and in some cases successfully delaying the oversight processes until the timelines for administering discipline had been exceeded. [The] delays prevented an effective remedial response to behavior that is clearly in violation of established policy.”
See page 4 of 307of Monitors 11th report.
The entire 11th Federal Monitors report can be found at this link:
MEANING OF “DEFUND THE POLICE”
Disbanding entire police departments has happened before in the United States cities. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its entire police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, California, took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County. Like it or not, the same thing could easily happen here in Albuquerque.
The “defund the police” movement can be defined in simple terms as meaning taking funding away from police forces and invest or reallocate those funds into social programs to address the real causes of crime. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement put it this way:
“It’s not just about taking away money from the police, it’s about reinvesting those dollars into [minority] communities. Communities that have been deeply divested from, communities that, some have never felt the impact of having true resources. And so we have to reconsider what we’re resourcing. I’ve been saying we have an economy of punishment over an economy of care.”
Advocates of “Defund the Police” insist that it is not about eliminating police departments or stripping police agencies of all of their money. What they do say is that it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the United States need such as housing, education and economic development and job growth.
In Minneapolis the group MPD150 says it is “working towards a police-free Minneapolis,” and the group wrote on its website:
Defund the Police is more about strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention. The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises, [not the police]”
United States Representative Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said part of the “defund the police” movement is really about how money is spent and had this to say in an interview with CNN:
“Now, I don’t believe that you should disband police departments. … But I do think that, in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities. … Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety,”
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press said:
“Why can’t we look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities, so people don’t have to be in the streets during a national pandemic?”.
Activists acknowledge that to “defund the police” will be a long and drawn out process, predominantly because law enforcement in general are supported by their communities. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city would move funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services, while keeping the city safe, but he didn’t give details. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to cut as much as $150 million that was part of a planned increase in the police department’s budget.
Links to news sources and related news coverage are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and the 32nd largest city in the United States. Minneapolis, Minnesota is the largest city in Minnesota and the 45th largest city in the United States. Both city’s police departments are roughly the same size and both police departments have nefarious pasts when it comes to police brutality, excessive use of force and deadly force. The problems with the Minneapolis, Minnesota police department deal with systemic racism. Systemic racism within APD was not the problem found by the Department of Justice investigation. The city’s DOJ consent decree reforms deal predominantly with APD’s interactions with the mentally ill and a culture of aggression found within APD dealing with all citizens encountered.
Both Mayor Jacob Frey and Mayor Tim Keller are up for election to a second term in 2021. Over a year and a half remains in their terms, not to mention reelection bids that likely will be brutal. It is likely both will be favored for reelection. However, in these difficult times of both the corona virus and a civil rights movement that has been ignited and gone global over the killing of George Floyd, a year and a half is a lifetime in politics where anything can and will likely happened for the worst before it gets better.
Pandering to the public and making appearances at protests to speak, as has been done by both Mayor Frey and Mayor Keller, is not governing and not making the hard decisions. Nor is it the time for both politicians to try and say what they have done in the past, how good they are doing and what they are doing now to solve systemic racism. What is happening in both cities is the protesters movement and moment in time, not any politicians time. Both Mayors need to just listen to the concerns of the minorities that they are not a part of but nonetheless represent as Mayor of their respective cities. Attend the protest and just listen for a change.
MAYOR JACOB FREY’S CROSSROAD
Mayor Jacob Frey is now at a crossroad. He needs to decide if he should stand by his decision not to defund the Minneapolis Police Department and take the road to veto any legislation. With a veto, Frey risks an embarrassing override and the accusation he could not control or manage his police department and such a drastic move as “defunding the police” is necessary. The other road he could take is to go along with the City Council and do whatever it wants as to defunding the police. As a former civil rights attorney, you would think Frey would not think twice about defunding the police department. But leading and making decisions on public safety is a lot harder than the practice of law. Frey is to be commended for not having a knee jerk reaction just to score political points at a protest.
MAYOR TIM KELLER’S CROSSROAD
Thus far, Mayor Keller has resisted imposing a curfew as well resisting asking Governor Lujan Grisham to call out the National Guard. Where the city goes from here and what APD management is doing with the police reforms needs to be address by the Keller Administration.
Mayor Keller is faced with APD sergeants and lieutenants that are part of management but they are not “at will” employees and they are allowed to join the police union. The APD sergeants and lieutenants being in the police bargaining unit creates a clear conflict within management and the union they are a part of and sends mixed messages to rank and file sworn police officers.
In Albuquerque, APD police sergeants and lieutenants need to be made “ at will” employees and removed from the police union in order for Keller to get a real buy in to management’s goals of police reform and the CASA reforms. For 6 years under the consent decree, APD Police sergeants and lieutenants have been serving two masters of Administration Management and Union priorities that are in conflict when it comes to the CASA reforms and the #8 Can’t Waite metrics. Until sergeants and lieutenants are removed from the union and made at will employees, Mayor Keller and the public should not expect the CASA reforms or the #8 Can’t Waite” metrics to be accomplished any time soon.
Mayor Tim Keller is also at a crossroad. His failure to be more aggressive with removing any and all sworn police who impede the reform process has now caught up because of the passage of time and he does not have much time left. It is not at likely that defunding the APD is being seriously considered by Keller seeing as he continually goes to APD’s defense when mismanagement is revealed and then says progress is being made with the reforms. Mayor Keller no doubt will want the police unions endorsement again next year as he seeks a second term.
The very lucrative two-year Police Union Contract that provides for substantial raises and longevity pay increases to rank and file police will soon expire. Mayor Keller should order his administration to seek removal of sergeants and lieutenants from the bargaining unit and refuse to sign another contract with the police union until that is done, or just slam the door on any such discussion and continue to give the Police Union any and all it wants as far as concessions. Mayor Keller should begin the discussions by making it clear he will not seek, nor does he want, the APOA Union endorsement at least until the Court Approved Settlement Agreement reforms are 100% implemented and the case is dismissed, along with all causes of action, with prejudice.
In both Minneapolis and Albuquerque, the law enforcement community, must understand with complete clarity that police brutality, excessive use of force and deadly force based on racial profiling and the presumption of guilt because of a person’s color and not evidence will not be tolerated. Police must recognize that the motto “serve and protect” is not based on skin color.
Come election day November 2, 2021, it will be interesting to see if both Mayor Frey and Mayor Keller are still Mayor of their cities, if only one is still mayor or if both will be looking for a new job. What will be even more interesting is what will happen with the Minneapolis and Albuquerque Police Departments and how both departments will look in a year and a half presuming the departments will still be in existence.