On Sunday, October 11, the Albuquerque Journal published two very remarkable and damaging guest columns, one from former APD Chief Michael Geier and the other from APD’s current 5 Deputy Chiefs. The Geier letter makes serious allegations for the very first time regarding the job performance of Federal Court appointed Monitor James Ginger in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The letter written by the 5 Deputy Chief’s makes accusations that former Chief Geier was a failed leader who promoted resistance to change to the conduct that paved the way for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to intervene.
Below are both guest opinion columns published under the caption “APD IN TURMOIL”. Given the seriousness of the allegations, this blog article COMMENT AND ANALYSIS calls upon United Sates Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson, the DOJ, or the stakeholders in the case to compel the sworn testimony of former APD Chief Geier and the 5 APD Deputy Chiefs at the expected hearing to be scheduled on the 12th Federal Monitor’s Audit report once filed by Federal Monitor James Ginger. Now that the allegations have been made and published, the general public need to know the truth surrounding the job performance of Federal Monitor James Ginger, former APD Chief Michael Geier and the 5 Deputy Chiefs.
GEIER GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN
Geier: ‘I always had my officers’ backs’
Ex-APD chief decries second-guessing from federal monitor, Mayor’s Office
BY MICHAEL GEIER / ALBUQUERQUE POLICE CHIEF, RETIRED
Sunday, October 11th, 2020
“As chief of police, I was personally committed to making Albuquerque a safer city. I recently prepared a report that highlighted 22 major accomplishments APD achieved since I took office in late 2017. After a record year of violent crime in 2019, I proposed a plan to reduce gun violence in 2020 by 15%. The priority goal was to reduce homicides with firearms and shootings with injuries. Unfortunately, violent crime increased substantially (because) the mayor refused to sign grants providing critical resources needed to fight violent crime and the current interim chief failed to even get this program off the ground. I wonder how many shootings and homicides could have been prevented had the mayor and interim chief put their personal interests and political aspirations aside to simply support public safety.
As for federal Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), we made great progress despite independent monitor James Ginger continually moving the goal posts back. Ginger has always been hypercritical and inconsistent with his reviews of our work. At times, he criticized work products that were already corrected based on his own comments. He even failed to correct his own outcomes report after we pointed out critical errors. It got so bad we were told to document all interactions with him so as to have a paper trail to refute claims where he never received certain documents. I recall he once chastised us for sending him too many documents to review because he was already overwhelmed with finishing his next report.
Ginger’s reports often were repetitive and sometimes inaccurate or misleading. He requires a NASA-like performance standard for compliance with little or no margin for error. He often rambled on during conference calls, making little sense and repeating the same thing discussed in previous weeks. He was always on a fault-finding mission, and it sure appeared to me that after six years he was more interested in job security than anything else. But who wouldn’t be interested if they could be guaranteed a $1.2 million annual payment?
I refused to compromise my principles with the excessive disciplinary expectations demanded by Ginger and the monitors. We went from under 300 annual administrative cases against officers to possibly surpassing 900 cases this year. I even had the city attorney try to convince me to reconsider recommendations on a particular case only to appease Ginger, who had concerns based on inaccurate and false assumptions. I was also lied to by the city attorney on that case just to prevent some negative comments by Ginger in his next report.
I am aware that even our chief administrative officer, Sarita Nair, has been weighing in and criticizing our officers’ actions regarding deadly force encounters and other use of force incidents. Like Ginger and his team, she is also second-guessing our police officers who put their lives on the line and protect our community every day. I am truly concerned that our officers will be thrown under the bus for just trying to do their jobs. More importantly, the officers may become reluctant to be proactive in order to avoid the scrutiny of “Monday-morning” critics who will never really understand what risks and challenges our cops face. Nor will these critics ever understand the effect they have on overall morale and productivity.
I had one case where an officer confronted someone breaking into his vehicle overnight and the offender pulled a gun on him. The officer did not protect himself because he was afraid of getting disciplined or even fired. That officer could have been killed in his own driveway while his young child and wife were inside his home. This is some of what has become of our police culture.
Call it “Counter-CASA Culture” or whatever – I did not want to have officers hurt or killed on my watch because they were afraid to do their job. I always had my officers’ backs and always will.”
The link to the Albuquerque Journal Geier column is here:
DEPUTY CHIEF’S GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN
Deputy chiefs say Geier left them – and the department – hanging
BY MICHAEL SMATHERS, ERIC GARCIA, ART GONZALEZ, J.J. GRIEGO AND DONOVAN OLVERA / ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY CHIEFS
Sunday, October 11th, 2020
“As the five deputy chiefs of police of the Albuquerque Police Department, we feel compelled to speak out on the recent media attention given to former chief Michael Geier. We come from different backgrounds, and we have different strengths, but we were all part of the same team – a leadership team chosen by Geier.
We also shared the sad experience of watching Geier foster an unhealthy environment that undermined our efforts to fight crime, succeed at reform and embrace the need to change the culture. Geier claims that his leadership of APD was under attack. But at the end of the day he failed to support his entire command staff and his front-line officers. Geier finished his tenure by embracing the same favoritism and resistance to change that paved the way for the Department of Justice to intervene into the daily operations of APD in 2014. It saddens and shocks us to see him lash out at us because, collectively, we want the department to succeed.
We all believed Geier showed promise when he was appointed as chief in December 2017. The department made important strides, focusing on reducing property crime and revamping use-of-force policies. But over time, he lost his way. When he needed to hold problem officers accountable, he wasn’t up to the task. As deputy chiefs, we know the many, many officers who conduct themselves with integrity. We also know how important it is to identify the problems within the ranks and make the necessary changes to implement constitutional policing. Recent news stories have explained how Geier ignored recommendations to terminate an officer who left a prisoner to die in a holding cell, having him instead take a few days of leave per week to serve out an abbreviated suspension. Unfortunately, this was just one example. Even when we were united on fair and even discipline, Geier would subsequently undercut his own leadership team and go his own way.
Just as important, Geier expressed little interest in our ideas and strategies for fighting crime in Albuquerque. We implemented Problem Response Teams in all six area commands; started the Metro 15; created the Gun Violence Reduction Unit with detectives who are investigating and working to prevent shootings; and created the Shield Unit to produce quality cases for prosecution and increase indictment rates. We worked as a team to lobby for investments to modernize the department. We put aside differences and worked with our partners in the criminal justice system to make improvements. When we ran into roadblocks to hiring more officers, we created a partnership with Central New Mexico College to help with training. These are the innovations in crime fighting that we are focused on and taking responsibility to make our community safer.
While we carried out these key initiatives, Geier increasingly started blaming everyone else for the shortcomings of the department under his watch. He was obsessed over rumors spread by retired officers, lawyers who make a living by suing the city, and a small circle of friends who convinced him to distrust his own command staff and the administration. This year he was rarely available during critical incidents like the dozens of protests, including Oñate, over the summer, and encouraged a culture of disdain for protesters. He rarely appeared at the scenes of officer-involved shootings. We heard from officers on the front lines who felt like their chief of police was not there for them.
As Mayor Tim Keller conducts a national search for a permanent chief, we will continue to work together to ensure continuity and leadership at APD. With distractions out of the way, we have stepped up our efforts to fight crime. We have held five citywide, anti-crime operations in the last several weeks, resulting in 202 quality arrests. We are taking guns and drugs off the street, recovering stolen vehicles, and sending a message that APD is going after the drivers of crime. We are reinvigorated and moving forward, with our focus where it needs to be – on our community.”
The link to the Albuquerque Journal Geier column is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Former APD Chief Michael Geier and the 5 Deputy Chiefs damaged their own personal reputations and they did themselves no favors with their guest columns to the Albuquerque Journal. The exchange gives APD management and the command staff another black eye. Further, the exchange reflects that things are even worse than reported with APD because of the interference by Mayor Tim Keller and his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair and their micro managing of the department. The most disturbing revelations relate to Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger and the Court Approved Settlement Agreement.
DISTURUBING REVELATIONS FROM FORMER APD CHIEF GEIER
On September 10 during a joint press conference with Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Geier announced his “retirement” from law enforcement for a third time. Since his forced retirement, Geier has sought and received significant media coverage to disclose the facts and circumstances surrounding his departure from APD. The recent letter to the Journal is a clear indication he intends to continue with his attempts to “set the record straight”. Needless to say, former Chief Geier has made some astounding disclosures to the media. Among the revelations Geier has revealed are that Mayor Keller is heavy handed, preoccupied with public relations, obsessed with his failure to keep his campaign promises to reduce high violent crime rates, implementing the Department of Justice reforms and returning to community-based policing.
Former Chief Geier makes a number of very disturbing revelations in his October 11 guest column . The first group of revelations relate to the work of Federal Court Approve Monitor James Ginger. Other revelations involve Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair.
The new revelations in the Geier letter relating to the Federal Court Monitor James Ginger are:
1. Despite great progress made by APD, independent monitor James Ginger continually moves “the goal posts back” a reference to APD’s required performance measures under the CASA.
2. Federal Monitor Ginger is “hypercritical and inconsistent” with his reviews of APD’s compliance work.
3. Ginger criticizes APD work product that has already been corrected by APD and based on his own comments. Ginger fails to correct his own outcomes report after APD points out errors in the auditor’s reports.
4. APD has become so concerned about the federal monitor’s “false claims” that he has not received certain documents to the point that APD takes steps to document and to refute the monitor’s claims.
5. Ginger’s audit reports to the federal court are often repetitive and sometimes inaccurate or misleading.
6. Ginger often “rambles on during conference calls, making little sense and repeating the same thing discussed in previous weeks.”
7. Ginger is always on a “fault-finding mission” and it appears that after six years, Ginger is more interested in job security than anything else. Editor’s note: The city pays Ginger and his monitoring team upwards of $1.2 million a year. When Ginger was first appointed, he was awarded a $4.5 million, 4-year contract.
8. Ginger and the monitors make excessive disciplinary demands of police officers.
9. Ginger and the monitors second guess decision made by police officers.
10. The city attorney tried convince Geier to reconsider recommendations on a particular to appease Ginger, who had concerns based on inaccurate and false assumptions. Gieier also claims was lied to by the city attorney on the case just to prevent negative comments by Ginger in his next report.
The revelation Geier makes regarding CAO Nair is when he says he is “aware that even our chief administrative officer, Sarita Nair, has been weighing in and criticizing our officers’ actions regarding deadly force encounters and other use of force incidents.” Nair has absolutely no background in law enforcement and has never worked with law enforcement until Keller appointed her CAO and Geier points out her interference.
Geier’s statement is further proof that CAO Nair and ostensibly Mayor Tim Keller are involved with the minutia of how APD is managed and operated on a day to day basis. During the September 9 city council meeting a city councilor raised questions regarding APD’s handling of the Juan de Oñate protest. City Councilor Bassan said she was concerned that the Mayor’s Office had helped make decisions about how APD handled the Onate protest and other protests, an allegation Nair rejected. CAO Nair responded this way to the line of questioning:
“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.”
DEPUTY CHIEF’S GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN
The letter from the 5 APD Deputy Chiefs was published below the letter from former Chief Geier and it was obviously sent in an effort to discredit Chief Geier. The most damning sentences contained in the Journal guest column from the 5 Deputy Chiefs are as follows:
We also shared the sad experience of watching Geier foster an unhealthy environment that undermined our efforts to fight crime, succeed at reform and embrace the need to change the culture. Geier claims that his leadership of APD was under attack. But at the end of the day he failed to support his entire command staff and his front-line officers. Geier finished his tenure by embracing the same favoritism and resistance to change that paved the way for the Department of Justice to intervene into the daily operations of APD in 2014.
The observations by the 5 Deputy Chiefs are difficult take at all serious and are easily discredited. Least anyone forget, Chief Geier has been given substantial credit for the dramatic progress made by APD in the last 3 years with implementation of the 270 mandated reforms. On September 10, 2020, Mayor Tim Keller, in announcing Chief Geier’s retirement himself said in part:
“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. … “
What Keller did not disclose is that the now Interim Chief Harold Medina and 4 of the Deputy Chiefs who signed the Journal letter were at the center of the drama and the forced retirement Geier to replace him with Harold Medina. To add insult to injury, it was Geier who appointed 4 of the deputies with the approval of Keller.
The actions of former Chief Geier during his tenure is in sharp contrast to the actions of his predecessor Chief Gordon Eden and his Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman who were known for intentional delay and obstruction tactics. At one point Assistant Chief Huntsman tape recorded a private conversation without the Federal Monitor’s knowledge with the recording used as a basis in an attempt remove the federal monitor for biasness.
What really undercuts the credibility of the 5 Deputy Chief’s letter is that it was just 5 days before the letter was published by the Journal that APD announced that Deputy Chief Donovan Olvera was being hired and was returning to APD after he retired just a few years ago. Confidential sources have confirmed that it was Interim Chief Harold Medina who went out of his way to recruit Deputy Chief Donovan Olvera to return to APD in that they have worked together before and are close personal friends. In other words, Deputy Chief Donovan Olvera saw absolutely nothing and experienced nothing in that he was never a Deputy Chief under Geier. It obvious that Olvera did what he was told to do and signed the letter.
It is not at all likely that any one of the Deputy Chiefs actually wrote the letter. Taken as a whole, the letter signed by the 5 Deputy Chiefs is nothing more than them regurgitating the identical reasons Mayor Keller gave for his forced retirement of former APD Chief Geier. It is more likely than not that the letter was actually written by an APD Spokesperson or someone in the Mayor’s Office and the 5 Deputy Chiefs were ordered to sign it by Mayor Keller, CAO Sarita Nair or Interim Chief Medina. An APD spokesman ghost writing for the Chief’s office, even without authorization, is nothing new and occurred recently when APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos wrote a TWEET for former Chief Michael Geier and sent it out without Geier’s knowledge or authorization.
12TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT DUE
On November 10, 2014, the City and APD entered into a 106-page Federal Court Approve Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating 270 reforms after a Department of Justice investigation found a culture of aggression and excessive use of force and deadly force. Under the CASA, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor must file compliance audit reports. Federal Court Monitor James Ginger is an “officer of the court” and reports directly and only to the Federal Judge assigned the case.
The link to the full 106-page CASA containing 276 mandated reforms is here:
All documents related to the CASA, including all 11 Monitor’s reports can be downloaded and reviewed at theses links:
The compliance reports usually exceed 300 pages and are a detailed audit of every paragraph of the consent decree and the 270 reforms. Once the monitor’s report is filed, the Federal Court Judge overseeing the CASA schedules a daylong hearing where the Federal Monitor gives a summary of his report in open court and stakeholders are allowed to address the court. All the parties are given time to address the court.
Federal Court Appointed James Ginger has filed a total of 11 Compliance Audit Reports. The 12th Federal Monitor’s Audit report is due to be filed within the next few weeks, either late October of early November. Given the statements an accusation made by former APD Chief Michael Geier, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico should demand or subpoena former APD Chief Geier and all 5 Deputy Chief’s to testify and elaborate on the accusations made in their columns published in the Journal.
The 10 accusations made by former Chief Michael Geier against Federal Monitor James Ginger call into question the job performance of an “officer the court”. The truth of former Chief Geier’s allegations regarding the job performance of Federal Monitor must be explored in an open court for the benefit of the general public who are footing the bill. United States Attorney John Anderson or the 14 stakeholders in the federal Court Approved Settlement litigation should not hesitate to call former APD Chief Geier and all 5 of the Deputy Chiefs to testify at the next court hearing held to review the 12th Federal Monitors Audit report once filed with the federal court. All 6 have or are still involved with the reform process mandated by the CASA. Most importantly, the selection process to find a new APD Chief should be reviewed by the federal court to confirm that a national search for a new chief is in fact being conducted and not a sham to install Interim Chief Harold Medina.