Mayor Keller Abruptly Terminates APD Chief Geier; Appoints First Deputy Chief Harold Medina Interim Chief; Keller Should Replace All Deputies; Freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan Shows Entire City Council How To Do Their Jobs

“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”

APD Chief Michael Geier responding to Albuquerque Journal inquires relating to Internal Affairs Investigation of APD Chief of Staff John Ross, August 11, 2020.

On Wednesday, September 9, during it 10:00 pm news cast, KRQE News 13 reported that effective September 30, APD Chief Michael Geier has been relieved of his duties and is now out as APD Chief. News 13 also reported Deputy Chief Harold Medina will take over as acting chief on September 30. When News 13 contacted the Mayor Keller’s office to see what sparked the move, the mayor’s office Wednesday would not confirm or deny the report. Geier has more than 43 years of police experience including 20 with the Albuquerque Police Department.


On Thursday September 10, Chief Geier and Mayor Keller issued the following statements:


“It has been an honor to lead the Albuquerque Police Department over the last three years. After 47 years in law enforcement, it’s time to pass the baton. Our transition plan aims to set the stage for the next phase of the Department’s effort to make Albuquerque safer for us all. I want to thank every police officer who shows such an incredible commitment to our city, and will be praying for you to stay safe and successful in your service.”


“Chief Geier came in at a pivotal moment for the department, and did a courageous job righting the ship through our first year, getting new leadership in place, focusing on gun violence and getting reform efforts on track. I deeply appreciate the extremely difficult job he took on nearly three years ago. He helped move APD in the right direction in so many important ways.

With all of the challenges this year has brought, it’s clear that the context for running a department, fighting crime and engaging in reform has changed dramatically. We know we have had persistently high crime for a decade, we know reform efforts have hit some snags, and we know there have been back office challenges and distractions. Chief Geier’s retirement comes at the right time for a new phase of leadership to address the old embedded challenges that continue to hamper the department. Like the residents of Albuquerque, I won’t be satisfied until this is a safer city. This is the time to hit the accelerator.”


The report by Channel 13 that Chief Geier is out as APD Chief came within hours after the September 9 City Council meeting during which freshman Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Brook Bassan, who was elected on November 3, 2019, raised questions about whether Chief Geier still had the backing of Mayor Tim Keller. Mayor Keller appointed Geier APD Chief within months after being elected Mayor and after a so called “national search.”


Brook Bassan asked questions of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair how much direction the Mayor’s Office is giving APD. Bassan also asked about a social media posts that alleged that Mayor Keller and his Administration were pushing Chief Geier out. CAO Nair responded that neither she, Mayor Keller nor anyone on City Hall’s “11th floor” were making tactical decisions for APD. Nair did not give a definitive answer when Bassan asked directly if Geier had the administration’s support.

CAO Nair said:

“I think it’s really important that we can dispel myths, but that we don’t fall into the rumor mill. … Chief Geier was one of the first appointments that the mayor made; he was so clearly the right person for the job at that time that even when we went through a national search, he emerged as the top candidate. … I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumormongering at this point.”

During an August City Council meeting, Bassan questioned Nair after media reports that Geier had requested an internal affairs investigation into his chief of staff John Ross for engaging nefarious conduct. The alleged conduct includes: circumventing purchasing rules, making improper purchases, by passing Chief Geier to secure a $10,000 raise taking his pay from $129,304 a year to $140,000 a year, absconding with the chief’s signature stamp that was being kept locked in a secretary’s desk drawer, yelling at and intimidating the chief’s secretary, and bringing his dog to work without approval and allowing the animal to defecate and urinate in Deputy Chief offices and instructing personnel to walk the animal.

When asked about the internal affairs investigation Geier said:

“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”

The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:


During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Bassan asked questions regarding the recent controversy in which APD deleted a tweet from its official account that quoted Chief Geier calling the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where and African American was shot in the back 7 times by a police officer as “senseless.” Chief Geier at the time said he was not aware of the shooting, said he would not have issued a statement without knowing the facts surrounding the shooting. Geier issued an apology for the tweet saying he did not authorize the tweet. Department Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos later admitted he was the one who wrote and sent out the tweet without Geier’s approval.

The fact that a tweet from APD Chief Geier was sent out in the first place without his knowledge is disturbing and a violation of APD standard operating procedures. Ostensibly, the tweet was sent out after conferring with Mayor Tim Keller’s office seeing as Keller issued his own statement on FACEBOOK at the same time and that is his right. However, directing that a tweet be sent out by the APD Chief without his consent or knowledge would be an abuse of authority.

The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:


During the Wednesday’s meeting, Bassan raised questions regarding APD’s handling of the Juan de Oñate protest. 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. APD’s response and its subsequent shooting investigation came under severe criticism from city councilors and the Bernalillo County District Attorney office.

Bassan said she was concerned that the Mayor’s Office had helped make decisions about how APD handled that and other protests, an allegation Nair rejected.

CAO Nair responded:

“Let me be clear: To the extent you’re suggesting that the 11th floor, as we call it, is making operational or tactical decisions about the Police Department, we are not.”


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.


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 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.”

“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.


APD Chief Michael Geier has over 40 years of law enforcement experience. He retired from the Chicago Police Department after 20 years, came to work for APD, became a commander and then retired after 20 years. Once he left APD, he became Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department and retired there in 2016 only to be appointed APD Chief by Mayor Keller in 2017.

Chief Michael Geier was well schooled in community-based policing when it was first instituted in Albuquerque back in the 1990’s. He was also well schooled in the management practices of former Chief Ray Schultz having been appointed a commander by Schultz. Confidential sources have said then Rio Rancho Chief of Police Michael Geier met with candidate for Mayor Tim Keller back in late 2016 before Keller announced for Mayor in January, 2017 and before Geier retired as Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department on February 18, 2017.

Confidential sources have also said that it was during the election Keller made the commitment in private to appoint Geier Interim chief and to keep him for a while and to see how he performed before he was made permanent. Keller appointed Geier after a “national search”.

On May 1, 2018, the Keller Administration announced that a national search was underway to select a permanent APD Chief.

From day one, it was apparent that Mayor Tim Keller knew he was going to appoint Geier permanent when he said:

“We’ve got to have a chief that understands APD and Albuquerque. … That’s a general statement because I think that can come in numerous forms. I think that’s critical – they have to have some sort of experience with respect to our city, our state and the department. They also have to have some sort of outside perspective. We know that, coming in, we didn’t want someone that’s been solely in APD. They need to know a lot about community policing. It’s our administration’s priority and they’ve got to have expertise in that area.”

For a related blog article see:

During his time as Chief of APD, Geier is given credit for the significant progress made with implementing the 270 mandated reforms of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).


First Deputy Chief Harold Medina was hired onto APD in 1995 and retired from APD after 20 years of service. He served with APD until 2014, when he retired and became Chief of the Pueblo of Laguna for three years. Medina returned to APD as a Deputy Chief when Keller took over as Mayor in December, 2017. Medina during his original stint with APD rose through the ranks holding various positions. In 2014 when the Department of Justice investigated APD for excessive use of force and deadly force, Medina was in charge of the SWAT Unit. Upwards of 18 officer involved shootings were reviewed by the Department of Justice, with many of those shootings involving the very SWAT Unit that Medina was the commander. The DOJ ultimately found a “culture of aggression” within APD and the City entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). For the last 6 years, APD has been attempting to implement 276 mandated reforms, and for close to 3 of those years Medina has been a Deputy Chief.

First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has the tragic distinction of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Cibola High School student in 2004 when he was an APD field officer. At the time of the shooting, Harold Medina was 30 years old and was a seven and a half year veteran of APD. According to news accounts, 14-year-old boy Dominic Montoya went to Taylor Ranch Baptist Church looking for prayer. Montoya was reported as saying he was possessed by demons and went to church for help. Some one noticed the teenager was concealing a weapon and APD was called. It turned out it was a BB gun and when APD showed up, the 14 year old was fatally shot by police after pointing the BB gun at the officers. It was the APD Officer Harold Medina who fired 3 shots at the 14 year old, Cibola High School Student with two hitting the juvenile in the abdomen. It was reported that the BB gun was indistinguishable from a real gun and Medina said he was in fear for his life.

APD First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has gone from being paid $136,040.20 in 2019 to now being paid $145,017.60 within a few months 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.

Confidential sources have reported that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has been applying for Chief positions in other communities, including one in Colorado that turned him down, and has a desire to move on if he is not made the new Chief.


The abrupt departure of APD Chief Michael Geier no doubt is sending shock waves through out city hall and especially APD. It was common knowledge that Tim Keller gave Chief Geier a full 4 year commitment to stay with him until the end of his first term. Further, Chief Geier is credited as the one that has made significant progress with implementing the 270 Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement agreement.


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 have been reporting that Deputy Chief Harold Medina has been making it known to them that he intended to be the next Chief of APD sooner rather than latter or once Mayor Tim Keller is elected to a second term in 2021 or after APD Chief Michael Geier leaves.

Keller appointed Geier after a “national search” and after Geier retired for a 3rd time from law enforcement. The national search was a sham. Appointing First Deputy Chief Harold Medina as Interim Chief confirms insider information that APD is in total disarray and its management in shambles as s result of infighting. If Keller announces that another national search will be conducted to find a new Chief, it is likely it will be another another sham seeing as Medina has been going around making it known to command staff he would be the next Chief.

First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice here in the first place. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD. Any one in APD command staff who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process has no business being Chief. Medina was a Lieutenant when Ken Ellis was killed and the one who called SWAT and when APD was involved with so many of the police shootings investigated by the DOJ. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Medina will ever get behind the Federal mandated reforms which should disqualify him from being the new Chief.

In the event that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is nominated to become permanent Chief, his appointment will have to be approved by the City Council. Given the questions raised by City Councilor Brook Bassan at the September 9 meeting, it is not likely it will be a unanimous vote.


What is so damn pathetic is that it has taken a freshman city councilor such as Brook Basaan to show virtually all of her other 8 colleagues on the council the true meaning of what role the city council should play when it comes to APD and the Mayor. She is commended for her conduct. The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget. The other city councilors have said nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and have never challenged the previous Administration and the former APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms. Each time the Federal Court appointed Monitor presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, all the other city councilors remained silent. The city council has a reputation of refusing to demand accountability from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.

When CAO Sarita Nair tells an elected official “I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumor mongering at this point”, it is Nair who is being disrespectful and down right arrogant with her “political pivot” answer. Nair could just have easily said she was not prepared to answer the question and moved on. The line of questioning by the City Councilor Bassan was legitimate, even if it was based on any rumor of Geier being force out. Nair has a history of being less than forthcoming when asked questions by the city councilors. The fact that it was confirmed within hours that Geier had been terminated is evidence that Nair was fully aware she knew what was going or she at worse was lying to the city council.


When candidate Keller was running for Mayor, he promised sweeping changes with APD, a national search for a new APD Chief and a return to Community based policing. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, Keller did not make the dramatic management changes he promised, but a relied on past management of the department and past practices. The current Deputy Chiefs are not outsiders at all but have been with APD for years.

The Deputy Chiefs of Police appointed by Mayor Keller included now First Deputy Cheif Harold Medina who retired from APD as commander after serving 20 years, Rogelio Banez who was the area commander in southwest Albuquerque but who has now retired, and Eric Garcia who was a Deputy Chief under APD Chief Gordon Eden. The command staff under Chief Geier do not reflect a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing.

All the previous commanders under the previous administration were shuffled around with a few retiring. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD.

APD needs a clean sweep in management and philosophy to remove anyone who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process during the last 3 years of the consent decree.

By all accounts, Chief Geier has did a good job of settling the department down and he publicly committed to the DOJ reforms. However, making Interim Chief Geier permanent was evidence that nothing was going to change with APD management. Keller’s “new” and present Deputies are a reflection of APD’s past and all have been with APD for some time. APD’s current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing practices.


APD leadership and management is crumbling around Mayor Tim Keller who is failing to keep his campaign promises of reducing high crime rates, returning to community-based policing, increasing the size of APD am implementing the DOJ reforms. The abrupt departure of Chief Geier no doubt will have a major impact on implementing the DOJ mandated reforms.

Mayor Tim Keller needs to conduct a national search to find a new Chief who is not already with APD and allow who ever is chosen to run APD department free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. If that person can’t do the job, Keller needs to find to someone who can. Mayor Keller should take this as an opportunity to also remove all the current Deputy Chief’s and allow whoever he selects to be the new Chief allow them to select and bring in their own command staff.

One thing for sure is that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is not the person who should be appointed permanent Chief. Medina should also be thanked for service and move on giving him a good letter of recommendation as he seeks employment else where.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.