On September 10, a blog article was published entitled “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”. The link to the blog article is here:
The approach taken by the blog is to first report on the news with sources and research material and then provide political COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS. Blog articles posted on the political blog www.PeteDinelli.com are separately emailed to anyone who is mentioned as a matter of common courtesy. Links to blog articles are emailed to allow people to freely challenge and question the accuracy of the blog article.
Within hours of the September 10 blog article being published, APD Chief Michael Geier sent an email objecting to the characterization that he was “terminated” saying he in fact “retired.” Subsequent to the publication of the blog article, information was provided to the blog by confidential sources as to the circumstances surrounding Chief Geier’s departure from APD.
NEWSWORTHY EMAIL EXCHANGE
Below are 3 emails relating to a blog article posted September 10. The contents of the emails below are being published because they involve what is essentially a communication from the top APD law enforcement official to a political blogger. Normally, such communications are totally ignored, not responded to and blocked. The fact that the hostile email was sent by the APD Chief to a private citizen makes it news worthy.
The first email is from Pete Dinelli to APD Chief Michael Geier containing the link to the blog article and is as follows:
Date: 9/10/2020 12:53:47 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Michael Geier
From: Pete Dinelli
Subject: Link to Dinelli blog article “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”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: THE EMAIL CONTENT WAS ONLY THE FOLLOWING LINK TO THE BLOG ARTICLE)
The second email is a reply from APD Chief Michael Geier to Pete Dinelli sent a little over and hour after the first email sent to Geier. Follow is the email:
Date: 9/10/2020 2:14:30 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Pete Dinelli
From: Michael Geier
Subject: Link to Dinelli blog article: “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”
In a message dated 9/10/2020 2:14:30 PM Mountain Standard Time, mgeier writes:
“Hey Pete. Now that I’m retiring I can tell you that it would be nice if you got your facts right before you spew your crap. SO for the record, I did NOT get terminated. Which reminds of when you ran the safe city strike force. How did that work out for you? Or your failed attempts at running for mayor or your very short stint as our public safety director. Hmmm, that didn’t end well either. I also plan to write a blog now that I will have some free time and I plan to mention you in many of my articles. Issue 1 will talk about the lawsuits filed against the Safe City Strike Force costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The third email is from Pete Dinelli sent to Chief Geier in response to his email.
Date: 9/10/2020 6:20:17 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Michael Geier
From: Pete Dinelli
Subject: Response to your departing email to me
Thank you for your email, but please confirm if it was written by you, Gilbert Gallegos, John Ross or Sarita Nair.
It is interesting that only now you write me about my blog. I sent you all the blog articles over the last 3 years out of courtesy to you whenever you were mentioned. Not once did you ever write to complain or demand a correction to what was said. Please also recall the times I offered to publish guest columns written by APD and the offer was declined.
Good luck Chief as you try to do a blog on your own and I do wish you success. You may want to find other topics for your blog other than me. I have already written articles about the safe city strike force, my run for Mayor as well as that federal lawsuit that the city failed to defend and that was filed only after I retired. Also, please do not get discourage if no one reads your blog at first. It took me over three years to get to over 72,000 views and reads a year of my articles.
I suggest that as a topic for your first article, you write about how Keller summoned you to a city park over the Labor Day holiday to met with him and Nair about your continued employment as opposed to your termination and your subsequent meeting with Nair. I also suggest you write about the legal matters you will be dealing with after leaving the City namely any news involving the Attorney General or State Auditor regarding you own job performance.
Best wishes and I do hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I do.
A LABOR DAY WEEKEND WALK IN THE PARK
On September 10, after the blog article was published, confidential sources provided information that APD Chief Michael Geier was summoned to a city park by Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair during the September 5 Labor Day Holiday weekend. The purpose of the meeting was that Keller had decided to let Geier go, that his services were no longer needed and it was time for Geier to leave APD.
According to the sources Keller told Geier he wanted to take APD in a different direction. Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier agreed that it was time to retire. Soon after their walk in the park, sources say that Geier met CAO Nair in her office at city hall and the meeting became hostile. On Thursday morning, September 10, the details of Geier’s “retirement” were worked out and the press conference was held by Keller where Geier read his statement.
SECOND VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST
The reasons given by Chief Geier for retiring from APD are remarkably similar, some identical, to those he gave when he retired as Rio Rancho Police Chief close to 3 years ago.
EXCERPT FROM CHIEF GEIER’S RETIREMENT STATEMENT
Below in part is the statement read by APD Chief Geier at the September 10 press conference announcing his retirement:
“ … I have always known that the day would come when I would retire. The last several months have taken its toll on all of us. We have faced unprecedented challenges with COVID, protests in the wake of the George Floyd incident, increased violence in our city and let’s not forget, the never-ending scrutiny of our consent decree. Over my career I have been unable to spend quality time with my own family that they deserved. I will never be able to recoup what I missed but I now believe I can make up for lost time. My wife, children and grandchildren always placed my career at the forefront. They endured the varied work schedules, long hours on graveyard shifts, 24 hour on-call status, missed little leagues games, birthday parties, weekends and holidays worked, etc, etc. My goal is to now put all of them on the forefront and spend many hours of quality time I missed out on during my career. It has not been an easy decision but I will be retiring from APD in the next few weeks. …”
CHIEF GEIER’S RETIREMENT FROM RRPD
On January 28th, 2017, it was reported that then Rio Rancho Police Department (RRPD) Chief Michael Geier was stepping down as Police Chief. Geier joined RRPD in 2014, following a 20-year career with the Albuquerque Police Department.
Reasons given by Geier for retiring from the RRPD were he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who suffers from the rare skin disease scleroderma. Geier said in 2017:
“I’ve been doing this for 43 years and, at some point, you’ve got to put something first. We’ve been together 42 years …right now, I need an extended sabbatical to help her and give that attention.”
A link to the news coverage is here:
KELLER ARTICULATES REASONS FOR GEIER’S DEPARTURE
Keller and Geier have known each other for 15 years. They met when Keller was a freshman state senator representing Albuquerque’s International District and Geier was the APD area commander. Chief Geier was one of the first appointments made by Mayor Tim Keller when he took office on December 1, 2017. Confidential sources have said that in 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller running for Mayor, met with Geier and asked Geier to be APD Chief if Keller was elected Mayor and Geier agreed to serve with the understanding it would be for a full 4 years.
On September 10, in a written statement, Keller said of Geier:
“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.”
During the September 10 press conference, Keller said there were many factors contributing to the decision for Geier to retire. According to Keller, those factors included the “big issues our city is facing” as well as “small distractions.” Keller put it this way:
“As we saw the need, I saw the need, for also just increased progress for a faster rate of change. … We think it’s the right time for new leadership at APD. So, I think it’s a mutual decision. We want to move faster and we think it’s time for new leadership and he’s also ready to retire. So, I think it’s the way it should be.”
“Any time we have rising crime, we’re not where we want to be, that’s certainly the case. … Any time our Department of Justice reforms are stalled out, that’s not where I want to be, that’s absolutely the case. But I think you also have to be thoughtful and timely about those issues and when you make changes, and I think now is the right time.”
Keller addressed the internal investigation Geier opened into Chief of Staff John Ross over the summer for allegedly improperly purchasing electronics with Geier’s signature stamp and other “conduct that reflects poorly on the department ” and said it was a distraction by saying:
“That’s also something that no one wants to see. … I don’t want to see that either because I want everyone focused on fighting crime.”
Mayor Keller went on to say he felt the city’s 6 yearlong police reform effort under the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) should be moving faster. Geier’s departure from APD occurs soon after the New Mexico State Auditor’s Office and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced APD is under investigation for alleged overtime pay fraud.
Mayor Keller, Chief Geier and APD also faced severe criticisms for APD’s releasing crime stats that were seriously flawed and exaggerated the reduction in crime rates. At the time when the statistics were released, Keller held press conferences to announce the statistics and essentially took credit for reducing crime.
ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL WEIGHS IN ON GEIER’S DEPARTURE
On Sunday, September 13, the Albuquerque Journal weighed in on Chief Geier’s departure as follows:
Editorial: With APD’s Geier out, we need a strong chief who’s allowed to tackle rampant crime
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Sunday, September 13th, 2020 at 12:02am
“City to seek federal help in boosting APD”
– Sept. 2, A1
“Most NM voters back police, oppose cuts”
– Sept. 10, A1
“Bust leads to gun store suspect”
– Sept. 10, A1
“Keller administration grilled on handling of APD”
– Sept. 10, A5
“Chief Geier to leave APD”
– Sept. 11, A1
These are but a few of the headlines from recent Albuquerque Journal pages. You don’t have to look far to find law enforcement in the news.
And there’s no question a community’s police chief, and its police department, are among the highest-profile and highest-scrutinized jobs and agencies in local government. But the Albuquerque Police Department has had more than its share of well-deserved controversy over the years – the most recent being questions regarding the fatal shootings of people suffering with behavioral health issues.
The department has been under a Department of Justice settlement agreement since 2014 as civilian and police officials work together to ensure reforms lead to constitutional policing.
And yet, given all this plus a checkered history that includes an evidence-room scandal and social media postings of “human waste disposal,” and in light of truly horrifying deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police across the nation, a recent Journal Poll found New Mexicans overwhelmingly support their police officers – 74%. And that a large majority oppose cutting funding from those officers’ departments – 61%.
The support is there because most of us realize we count on these men and women in uniform to answer our calls for help – and that the vast majority do their best to answer those calls.
Still, questions arise when 80 people are killed in Albuquerque in 2019 and only 50% of those cases are solved.
Or when rioters follow a Black Lives Matter protest Downtown this summer by lighting fires, smashing windows and throwing bricks at officers and APD arrests few, if any, responsible for the vandalism that occurred in front of them.
And when protesters and counter protesters clash over the statue of conquistador Don Juan de Oñate in Tiguex Park, with plenty of weapons: chains, pickaxes and rifles. But no cops, until someone is shot. APD had been ordered to stay in the nearby Albuquerque Museum because officers’ mere presence could inflame the crowds. Their distinct absence created a vacuum the so-called New Mexico Civil Guard and armed thugs were ready, willing and able to fill. District Attorney Raúl Torrez says APD’s response then bungled the investigation.
To be clear: Geier has dedicated decades to public safety, in the Chicago area, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. He has helped institute policies at APD that have cut auto theft from record highs, focused on gun violence and helped get court-monitored reform efforts on track.
But whether by choice or by orders from the 11th floor, Geier was never the public face of crime-fighting the city needed, especially once Albuquerque was deemed one of the most violent cities in the nation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Just last week, City Councilor Brook Bassan publicly questioned Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair on whether the mayor’s office was overmanaging the police department and whether Mayor Tim Keller and his team were pushing Geier out. Nair sidestepped the queries, criticizing Bassan for churning the “rumor mill.”
Less than 24 hours later, it was announced Geier was retiring.
As questions swirl about who’s really been in charge of the department – Geier, a 20-year-veteran of APD who came out of retirement three years ago to take the helm, or Mayor Tim Keller’s progressive administration – let’s remember:
• The department issued rosy statistics on crime last summer, then had to take them back and acknowledge that while property crime had decreased, violent crimes including homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault had remained constant and drug offenses, prostitution and animal cruelty were up 9%.
• Geier was mum while $9.7 million in federal grant money for police officers hung in the balance over the city’s immigrant-friendly policies. Then-Deputy Chief Harold Medina (now interim chief) didn’t hold back, calling it “political extortion.” The federal grant, approved by the City Council 7-2 Wednesday night, will pay the salaries of 40 new officers for three years. It is the kind of thing a police chief is expected to vocally advocate for.
• A survey of 433 APD officers this summer showed 62% of them did not feel supported by their police chief; even more did not feel supported by their mayor.
• Then APD posted a tweet on its official account, ostensibly by Geier, denouncing the high-profile police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as “senseless.” APD later deleted the tweet, with a department spokesman acknowledging it was sent without Geier’s approval.
• Other internal strife was revealed when a whistleblower said Geier’s chief of staff, John Ross, bypassed city rules to buy a $2,400 Apple laptop computer and $200 Apple TV box that didn’t appear to have any work purpose and wrangled himself a “significant” pay raise without the chief’s approval by lobbying Nair. The department is facing an internal affairs investigation into Ross as well as a special audit for ongoing questionable overtime practices.
The FBI reports Albuquerque has a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average. When the coronavirus hit this spring, Albuquerque stopped dispatching officers to property crime calls, instead asking victims to call and leave a message. None of this is reassuring to locals. None of this looks good in economic development or tourism pitches.
As the Keller administration begins its search for Geier’s replacement, career law enforcement candidates should be sure to pin down how much authority they will really have. And the administration should step back and recognize that while it oversees the department, it is the new chief and his or her staff who have the public safety training and experience to lead our law enforcement officers.
The results – or lack thereof – of the last three years prove that, and that Albuquerque needs a crime-fighter who is front and center.
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 link to the Albuquerque Journal Editorial is here:
KELLER SHOULD SEEK HELP FROM SHERIFF MANNY GONZLAES FINDING A NEW APD CHIEF
When the Albuquerque Journal editors say “that Albuquerque needs a crime-fighter who is front and center” the one name that pops to mind is Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales. The Sheriff has been “up front and center” with his law enforcement sweeps in the South East area of the city not to mention his involvement with “Operation Legend”, the federal initiative targeting violent crime. Sheriff Manny Gonzales has made it known he wants to run for Mayor next year before his term has ended and he has all but announced that he is running for Mayor.
Frankly, Sheriff Gonzales should not run for Mayor next year. Sheriff Manny Gonzales has some severe shortcomings that make it unlikely he will be the next Mayor or more importantly a good Mayor. Those shortcomings include his opposition to lapel cameras even after the Bernalillo County Commission asked that his department use them and allocated $500,000 funding for them, the deadly use of force cases in his office that have cost taxpayers millions to settle, his opposition to the DOJ consent decree reforms and mandates and having no experience other than a career in law enforcement.
Then there is the matter of Sheriff Gonzales cozying up to Republican President Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Operation Legend. Gonzalez said at first he was going to Washington to meet with Trump and it turns out he went to watch a press conference, nothing more. The trip to Washington damage him politically with Democrats with even Senator Martin Heinrich demanding that the Sheriff resign. If two Democrats run for Mayor, it’s likely that the Republicans will field a candidate of their own and the city will see a repeat of the Mayor Chavez-Romero-Berry race where Richard Berry was elected Mayor.
Sheriff Gonzales has been a good Sheriff, but the qualities of a good Sheriff do not necessarily mean he will make a good Mayor. Sheriff Gonzales is needed now in law enforcement, at least to the end of his term which is in 2022. As far fetched as it may sound, Mayor Tim Keller would be remiss if he did not at least consider asking Sheriff Manny Gonzales for help finding a new APD Chief, perhaps even heading up the search committee. What would really make strange bedfellows would be if Keller asked Gonzales to resign as Sheriff and become the APD Interim Chief without any strings attached. The no strings attached would include allowing Gonzales to run for Mayor next year if he wants.
What makes Sheriff Gonzales qualified to help APD find a new chief is that he is career law enforcement, a well-liked politician as Sheriff, knows the community and knows APD having worked with it over his 20+ years as a Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff. Sheriff Gonzales no doubt has contacts throughout the United States he has developed over his long career in law enforcement. Gonzales has run a law enforcement department and proven he is a crime fighter who is front and center. Sheriff Gonzales is always there when it comes to his department even when things go wrong and when the proverbial “it” hits the fan to take responsibility and deal with a crisis. Such conduct is a far cry from what the city has had with APD Chiefs in the past like Michael Geier, Chief Gordon Eden, Allen Banks and Ray Schultz who all tended to hide in a bunker when confronted with a crisis.
Both Keller and Gonzales have more to lose by not working together to find a new chief than they have trying to upstage each other as to who is the best crime fighter, which is what is happening now. If APD management is not turned around in a hurry the ones that get hurt are the APD rank and file and all the citizens of Albuquerque who are sick and tired of all the violent crime and just want to be safe on the streets and in their homes. Both Keller and Gonzales need to set aside thier own future political ambitions for now and find a new APD command staff that can get the job done. They owe it to the community they both still serve now no matter their future ambitions that may conflict.
Come January 1, 2022 when the Mayor is sworn in after the 2021 election, whoever it is, will be dealing either with a new competent high command management staff or the same old APD department management Geier and Keller put in place that is a throw back to the Ray Schultz years and whose time has also come to move on and retire. APD needs a new generation of police officer in the Chief’s Office NOW who are fully committed to constitutional policing practices.