On Friday, December 8, 2017, one week after Tim Keller was sworn in as Mayor, he announced he was eliminating several high-ranking executive positions that former APD Chief Gordon Eden had created. APD’s executive staff historically has consisted of only 4, the APD Chief and 3 Deputy Chiefs. Among the positions eliminated by Mayor Keller were the position rank of Major and an Assistant Chief position. Keller at the time said that APD was “top-heavy,” which was straining crime-fighting efforts of APD and added:
“Making these changes is an immediate step towards reforming the department to support more officers in the field for community policing efforts, while staying on top of the Department of Justice improvements … With a department that is stretched so thin, there’s no reason to have a top-heavy bureaucracy.”
Mayor Keller appointed as Interim Chief, and later made him permanent, APD Chief Michael Geier. Returning to the historical number of 3 Deputy Chiefs, Eric Garcia, Harold Medina and Rogelio Banez were appointed Deputy Chiefs.
APD EXECUTIVE STAFF PAY UNDER FORMER MAYOR BERRY
For purpose of comparison, following were the annual salaries paid to APD Executive Staff under former Republican Mayor Richard Berry who left office on December 1, 2017:
1. APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699.
2. Assistant APD Chief Huntsman was paid $132,435.
3. APD Deputy Chief’s were paid $115,000.
4. APD Deputy Chief Jessica Tyler (APD Academy Director) was paid $105,514
KELLER CREATES HIS OWN VERSION OF A TOP-HEAVY APD BUREAUCRACY
After two and a half years in office, Mayor Tim Keller has created his own version of a “top-heavy executive staff bureaucracy” now consisting of a Chief, First Deputy Chief, Second Deputy Chief, 3 Deputy Chiefs, an APD Chief of Staff and a Deputy Chief of Staff, doubling the size of the traditional APD Executive Staff from 4 to 8.
At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. The City of Albuquerque updated the list for the year 2019. In 2019 there were 7 major employees, including the Chief, that comprised the APD Executive Staff all who report to Mayor Keller and Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. The list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $117,076.80 to $183,378 in the Chief’s Office for 2019 were:
1. Chief Of Police Michael Geier, yearly pay: $183,378.60.
2. Deputy Chief Arturo E. Gonzalez, yearly pay: $140,498.63.
3. Deputy Chief Eric J. Garcia, yearly pay: $140,144.28.
4. Deputy Chief Harold Medina, yearly pay: $136,040.20.
5. Deputy Chief Jon J Griego, yearly pay: $134,522.59.
6. APD Chief of Staff John Ross, yearly pay: $129,304.68.
7. APD Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth Armijo, yearly pay: $117,076.80.
TOTAL 2019 SALARIES PAID APD EXECUTIVE COMMAND STAFF: $980,965.78.
APD EXECUTIVE SALARY INCREASES AND NEW POSITIONS
Mayor Tim Keller has created the positions of First Deputy Chief, Second Deputy Chief, APD Chief of Staff and APD Deputy Chief of Staff with significant raises given to all those appointed.
A city employees total yearly pay is calculated by taking the hourly pay rate multiply by 2080 hours representing 52 weeks at 40 hours a week. The August 18, 2020, City of Albuquerque Pay Rate Report for the Albuquerque Police Department reflects the following hourly and yearly pay for 7 in the Chief’s upper command staff brass as follows:
1. Chief Of Police Michael Geier, yearly pay: $183,378.60
2. First Deputy Chief Harold Medina, yearly pay: $145,017.60 ($69.72 per hour X 2,080 hours a year)
3. Second Deputy Chief Michael Jay Smathers, yearly pay: $143, 000.00 ($68.75 per hour X 2,080 hours a year)
4. Deputy Chief Jon J. Griego, yearly pay: $139,235.20 ($66.94 per hour X 2080 hours a year)
5. Deputy Chief Eric J Garcia, yearly pay: $139, 235.20 ($66.94 per hour X 2,080 hours a year )
6. Arturo E. Gonzalez, Deputy Chief, yearly pay: $139,235.20 ($66.94 per hour X 2,080 hours a year)
7. APD Chief of Staff John Ross, yearly pay: $139,235.20 ($66.94 per hour X 2,080 hours a year)
8. APD Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth Armijo, yearly pay: $118, 331.20 ($56.89 per hour X 2,080 hours)
TOTAL 2020 SALARIES PAID APD EXECUTIVE COMMAND STAFF: $1,007,433.00
Link to pay listing:
JUNE 15 JUAN DE OÑATE STATUE PROTEST
“La Jornada” is a series of bronze statues in front of the Albquqeruque Museum which features conquistador Juan de Oñate, but does not identify him. It was accepted into the city of Albuquerque’s public art collection in 2005. The work of Reynaldo “Sonny” Rivera and Betty Sabo, the sculpture drew controversy during its planning stages, with critics arguing 20 years ago that it was disrespectful to Native Americans. The city, as part of the same project, also commissioned Native American artist Nora Naranjo-Morse to create an adjacent land art installation called “Numbe Whageh.” Together, the sculptures cost the city taxpayer upwards of $800,000.
On June 15, a man was shot in Old Town over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The June 15 event was originally scheduled to be “prayer vigil” for the removal of the Juan de Oñate statue from the Albuquerque Museum. The prayer vigil erupted into a protest riot and a shooting occurred during the protest for the removal of the figure of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture.
During the protest, there were 5 to 6 heavily armed New Mexico Civil Guard members, some dressed in military camouflage, present trying to “protect” the sculpture. It was reported that the shooting occurred when at least 3 of the protesters attacked a person identified as Steven Baca who was walking away from them. Steven Baca was struck in the head with a skateboard and Baca drew a gun, shot numerous times, with one shot hitting one of the protesters. The shot protester was rushed to the hospital and was listed in critical but stable condition. The shooting and violence resulted in the City taking the single figure of Onate in the sculpture grouping down.
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was severely criticized for not stepping in earlier to prevent the protest from escalating from a peaceful protest to a violent confrontation as what happened.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM TACTICAL PLAN
After more than a two month delay, APD finally released the plan detailing when the APD Emergency Response Team (ERT) were allowed to intervene during the June 15 protest. Such plans are referred to as TACT Plans. The ERT team are police officers outfitted with riot gear given the responsibility to take control of gatherings of people that escalate into confrontations, violence or a riot. The link to the ERT TACT plan is here:
The ERT plan was prepared by Lt. Joseph Viers and was signed off by Police Chief Michael Geier a full 10 days after the protest yet it was supposedly drafted days before the June 15 event. The directives spelled out in an APD Event Action Plan provides in part as follows:
“ERT will only engage if there is a threat to life or if major property damage occurs. Damage to the statue will be considered minor property damage and will not elicit an ERT response. Any threat to the Albuquerque Museum will be considered major property damage due to there being high value historical items inside that cannot be replaced.”
During the June 15 protest, APD used tear gas to disperse the crowd. The Event Action Plan lays out when officers should deploy gas, including in the case of a “lethal situation” and states:
“If gunfire or other life-threatening situations arise, ERT is authorized to deploy gas immediately to clear crowds and enable officers to withdraw to positions of cover. All ERT members will be dressed with rifle plate armor and carriers.”
Deputy Chief Harold Medina said during a news press conference that protecting the Juan de Oñate statue was “not worth damaging relations with the community for years to come.” During news conferences held by APD command staff about both the Oñate protest and an earlier incident Downtown in which people smashed business windows hours after a peaceful march, APD officials said a major concern was that if officers’ step in and made arrests for “minor” property damage, the situation could escalate unnecessarily.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The APD Executive Command Staff in the Chief’s Office are being paid the most they have ever been paid in the history of APD. Further, tens of thousands in raises have been handed out to them by Mayor Tim Keller since he took office 2 and a half years ago. Chief Geier is being paid $16,679.60 more than former Chief Gordon Eden, the First and Second Deputy Chiefs are being paid upwards of $12,600 more than the Assistant Chief under Chief Gordon Eden, and all 3 Deputy Chiefs are now being paid $24,000 more than the Deputy Chiefs under former Chief Gordon Eden.
The salaries and raises given APD’s executive staff in the Chief’s Office can only be describe as pure greed. Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Administrative Officer Nair are blind to the appearance and the images created when Deputy Chiefs are paid so much, actually bicker and complain over 3 or 4 thousand dollars in pay, while so many citizens have lost their jobs and struggling during a pandemic. Then there is the matter of APD command staff failing to get a handle on the City’s skyrocketing crime rates which suggests that the APD Executive Staff are not worth what they are being paid to do their jobs, especially given the fact that the majority of the executive staff are return hires to APD and worked their way up the ranks under former APD Chiefs Schultz and Eden.
GREED AND AMBITIONS OF MEDINA
APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina has gone from being paid $136,040.20 in 2019 to now being paid $145,017.60 a year after repeatedly complaining to Chief Geier and CAO Nair he was paid less than the other Deputy Chiefs. City Hall insiders are also noting that Deputy Chief Harold Medina has increased his “media presence” and conducting press conferences and news briefings on occasion with those normally reserved for Chief of Police Michael Geier and even Mayor Tim Keller.
It is no secret at city hall that Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair is very much involved with the day to day management of APD and that Deputy Chief Harold Medina have developed a strong working relationship with CAO Nair. According to sources 1st Deputy Chief Harold Medina will do whatever he is told to do by CAO Nair and Mayor Tim Keller.
Confidential APD command staff are also reporting that Deputy Chief Harold Medina is making it known to them that he intends to be the next Chief of APD sooner rather than latter or once Mayor Tim Keller is elected to a second term in 2021 and after APD Chief Michael Geier retires for a third time before or after the 2021 election. (See related blog article below.)
$800,000 MUSEUM SCULPTURE EXPENDABLE PUBLIC RELATIONS
More than one confidential source has reported that Mayor Tim Keller was in constant contact with CAO Sarita Nair during the June 15 Onate Statue protest at the Albuquerque Museum and were particularly concerned to what extend the Onate statute should be protected and if it even should be protected at all. Mayor Keller had already been informed that the Albuquerque Museum Board of Directors had decided a week earlier that the Onate statue was to be removed and stored until a decision could be made what to do with the statue. As a work of art, the Onate statue is worth upwards of $100,000 and when combined with the other statues, the exhibit originally cost the city $800,000 paid for by voter approved bonds.
According to APD confidential sources, it was Deputy Chief Harold Medina who made sure that the tactical plan for the June 15 Onate Statue Protest signed off by Chief Geier 10 days after the protest gave instructions as to what and how city property, particularly the Onate statue was to be protected, or in this case, not protected. What is extremely disturbing is that the tactical plan did not consider the Oñate statue by renowned artist Sonny Rivera, city property worth thousands and paid by the taxpayer, to be property worth protecting. In essence APD, and in particular APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina was fine with protesters armed with pickaxes and chains taking down the statue, so long as they didn’t try to set the museum on fire.
Neither Nair nor Keller have prior management experience with any law enforcement department and have no experience with tactical plans nor how they are implemented. If Keller and Nair were directly involved and gave instructions on how they wanted Medina and APD to handle the June 15 protest, they infused politics in the management of APD and so did Deputy Chief Harold Medina.
It appears Deputy Chief Harold Medina’s doing the bidding of CAO Sarita Nair has paid off with a $9,000 pay raise as he pursues his ultimate goal of becoming APD Chief of Police once and if Chief Geier retires for a third time from law enforcement.
For a related blog article see: