A two-year police union contract negotiated by the Keller Administration went into effect on July 7, 2018 and expired June 30, 2020. Negotiations on a new contract between the City and the police union went on until March 2020, but the negotiations were suspended and a contract was not never finalized. The negotiations for a new contract were suspended because of the corona virus pandemic and the uncertainty of the city’s revenues for the new fiscal year that began on July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2021. A final budget has yet to be approved by the City Council.
Until a new union contract is negotiated and approved by union membership, the terms and conditions of the old two-year contract remain in effect. collective bargaining unit. The Police Union no doubt wants to continue the terms of the expired contract in that the terms are very lucrative when it comes to increases in pay and longevity pay. The expired union contract locks in who can be part of the collective bargaining unit, which now includes the management positions of sergeants and lieutenants.
APD FORWARD SUBMITS PETITION FOR CHANGES IN APD UNION CONTRACT
APD Forward includes upwards of 20 organizations who have affiliated with each other in an effort to reform APD and implement the DOJ consent decree terms and reforms. APD Forward is one of the main stakeholders who appears during the court hearings. Members of APD Forward include Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, American Civil Liberties, Bernalillo County Community Health Council, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Common Cause New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, Equality New Mexico, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, League of Women Voters of Central New, Mexico New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Street Safe New Mexico, the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
On October 8, 2020 APD Forward along with the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association submitted to the City of Albuquerque a police reform petition signed by 1,200 people and demanding changes in the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association (APOA) collective bargaining contract with the City. The collective bargaining contract not only dictates pay and benefits but includes terms and conditions of a worker’s employment. When it comes to APD police officers, the contract establishes the manner and method for disciplining officers.
As the City of Albuquerque negotiates a new labor contract with the police union, APD Forward and others are demanding the City include police reform in the new contract. Police reform advocates who are stakeholders in the federal lawsuit believe the current Albuquerque Police contract is interfering and preventing full implementation of all the CASA reforms.
In a June 23 guest column published in the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (NMCDLA)Executive Director Paul Haidle outlined 3 major provisions that should be included in the new union contract. The 3 new terms are:
1. REMOVE THE 90-DAY LIMIT ON INVESTIGATIONS OF POLICE OFFICERS
The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) requires any administrative investigation of an officer accused of misconduct to be completed within 90 days, subject to a possible extension of up to 30 days if approved by the chief of police. Both the Civilian Police Oversight Agency and the independent monitor overseeing APD’s reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice have singled out this provision as a significant obstacle to officer accountability, resulting in many complaints expiring because the clock runs out on their investigations. The mayor should insist on a limit of no fewer than 180 days for administrative investigations, in line with the standard for most other police departments nationally.
If the investigations are not completed within the allotted time of up to 120 days the officer cannot be disciplined. The petition calls for the time limit to be increased to 180 days in order to guard against complaints expiring once the time expires
2. RELEASE INFORMATION ABOUT OFFICER MISCONDUCT TO POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD
[The union contract] severely restricts the information the director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency may share about investigations into officer misconduct with the Police Oversight Board (POB), even though the board is responsible for approving the findings of the director and any disciplinary recommendations to be made to the chief of police. The current CBA even prohibits the POB from knowing the identity of the officer, preventing it from identifying officers who are repeat offenders. Mayor Keller should strike this limitation from the agreement.
The petition simply also calls for the Civilian Police Oversight Agency board to be able to have more information about investigations.
3. DON’T GIVE OFFICERS UNFAIR ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Though the POB is precluded from knowing the names of officers under investigation, ironically, the CBA extends no such courtesies to people who file complaints. [The union contract] requires the identity of the person or officer making the charge be shared with the officer under investigation, if it is known. People who file complaints against officers therefore must weigh the risks of possible retaliation before reporting misconduct. The mayor should strike this requirement.
NMCDLA Executive Director Paul Haidle had this to say about the proposed 3 additions to the police union contract:
“We’ve got a couple of easy fixes that would go a long way to producing accountability. … When the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t even allow an officer’s name to be shared with the Board that is supposed to be providing oversight, how on earth is the board supposed to know if one officer keeps repeating the same infractions of policy.”
Regarding the withholding of the identity of people filing complaints against officers to be withheld from that officer, Haidle had this to say:
“It raises serious concerns of the likelihood of a person actually breaking that thin blue line and sharing information about wrongdoing, that they’ve seen officers engage in because there’s always a fear of retaliation.”
Haidle said over the years police unions have used the collective bargaining agreements to make it almost impossible to hold officers accountable for violating people’s rights or using excessive force, including deadly force. According to Haidle:
“This creates a culture of impunity that is toxic to good policing and destroys community trust. With this petition, the people of Albuquerque are asking their mayor to take a step towards finding balance between fairness to officers and officer accountability. Going forward, we must also ensure additional accountability measures are enshrined in state law.”
Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the 3 three changes to the agreement are needed in order to enhance police accountability.
POLICE UNION RESPONDS
Police Union President Shaun Willoughby was quick to say the union has no interest in revisiting the items in the petition and said:
“There’s no need for the APOA to encourage a revisiting. we’re definitely comfortable with the agreement we made. I think it’s well rounded and I think the APOA has been part of the reform effort.”
As to the Police Oversight Board having access to officers’ names, Willoughby had this to say:
“I don’t believe it’s necessary for the POB to have access to officer’s names. If we have an officer that does something egregious, they usually get released pretty quickly and abruptly. If an officer gets criminally charged for whatever reason, its a matter of public record.”
Regarding the withholding of the identity of people filing complaints against police officers be withheld from that officer Willoughby had this to say:
“I think we have a right to know who filed a complaint against usI don’t think there’s been one evidentiary case of a police officer retaliating against the public, I think that is a completely false narrative.”
Willoughby did say said the union is open to one suggestion in the petition of extending the limit on administrative investigations that now stands at 90 days. The union said it would consider a 120-day limit with additional days for further review.
POLICE UNION PROCLAIMS IT ALREADY HAS IRON CLAD CONTRACT
According to APOA President Shaun Willoughby, the city and the union had an early start on negotiations and already came to a successful agreement in everything except for financial matters in early March. Although Willoughby acknowledged the contract has not been signed yet he said:
“In my perspective … what’s agreed upon is pretty ironclad. From the APOA’s standpoint we would not be interested in changing what we already agreed to because of somebody’s petition.”
THE CITY RESPONDS WITH PUSH BACK
The City said they will review the recommendations and take them into consideration when negotiations resume. City Attorney Esteban Aguilar said he doesn’t have a date for when negotiations will resume and there is no deadline to start up negotiations again and said:
“We share some of these concerns and will review the recommendations and take them into consideration when the negotiations resume. Negotiations are not final until a formal agreement is made.”
Links to related news stories are here:
KELLER’S COSTLY POLICE UNION ENDORSEMENT
On September 28, 2017, Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor. Under normal circumstances, union endorsements are common place, but when it comes to the APD, it is a department in crisis and for the first time in its history is under a Department of Justice consent decree.
At the time of its endorsement of Keller, the Police Union had been at impasse with no contract for a full 8 years with the previous Republican Berry Administration. Mayor Berry unilaterally decided not to pay 5% pay raises negotiated in good faith by the police union and eliminated longevity pay for rank and file and even eliminated the take home car policy. The police union wanted influence over the next Mayor and the Tim Keller wanted the vote of rank and file police officers and be able to say law enforcement had his back and he had theirs.
The police union endorsement paid off in a big way for the union at the expense of taxpayers. Within 7 months after being sworn in, the Keller Administration signed a two-year contract that went into effect on July 7, 2018 and expired June 30, 2020. The police union contract gave significant raises to virtually ever sworn police office as well as increased longevity pay bonuses to the point that APD is one of the best paid law enforcement agencies in the region and in the country when you include retirement benefits.
POLICE UNION POLL
The love between the Tim Keller and the Police Union went away within 24 months after the 2-year contract was signed on July 7, 2018. On July 23, 2020 the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association (APOA) released the results of its annual “State of Policing Survey”. The survey was sent out in a department wide email to all 965 sworn police with only 433 participating. The highlights of the survey released are as follows:
80% of APD officers who responded have considered a new line of work in the past couple of months and of those 84% said it was due to the “current view on policing, the increased scrutiny on officers, new reform efforts and job insecurity.”
62% of sworn police officers do not feel they are being supported by Police Chief Michael Geier.
96% of sworn police do not feel supported by the City Council.
83% of sworn police do not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller.
88% of sworn police are concerned about losing “qualified immunity”. “Qualified Immunity” is where sworn police officers are not personally held liable for anyone they injure or killed on the job. Under “qualified immunity” the city assumes full responsibility for any and all conduct, intentional or negligent, by sworn police.
68% of officers said it was “unlikely or very unlikely” that they would recommend police work as a career choice to others.
A link to a related blog article on the police union poll is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Given the results of the police union survey, it is not at all surprising that the union does not want to negotiate any new terms to the new contract, especially if the new terms would help ensure that all the CASA reforms are implemented. It’s also likely the union survey was taken as a ploy and to gain an advantage with union negotiations seeing as Mayor Tim Keller has already made it known he is seeking a second term next year and he will want the unions endorsement again. It is more likely than not that the police union will once again peddle its influence and go with the candidate for Mayor who will promise them the most.
It is downright laughable the comments made by the union President when it comes to contract negotiations. Police Union President Shaun Willoughby is either trying to practice law without a license or just playing ignorant when he says:
“In my perspective … what’s agreed upon is pretty ironclad. From the APOA’s standpoint we would not be interested in changing what we already agreed to because of somebody’s petition.”
The union contract is not “pretty ironclad”, it still has to be approved by a vote of the union membership and it still has to be signed by the parties, including the city’s representatives before it is a binding contract. Only until then is there a contract and until that happens the terms of the expired contract continue as binding.
Now that the police union survey says 83% of sworn police do not feel they are supported by Mayor Tim Keller, you got to wonder how anxious Keller will be to seek the union endorsement as he seeks a second term in 2021 and what concessions the union will want from him. One thing is for certain, Mayor Keller no doubt feels he has been taken advantage of by the Police Union. In other words, Mayor Keller has been duped. If Keller does not feel that way, he will probably knock himself out and try to get the Police Union endorsement once again. If he does, it is hoped he does not make any more financial concessions because the last time he did that, it cost taxpayers millions for an ungrateful police union who oppose the DOJ police reforms and that does not want civilian oversight.
In addition to the 3 terms proposed by the APD Forward, the ACLU and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, there are 2 more terms that are far more important that need to be negotiated by the City and made a part of the APD Union Contract. The two terms will in fact go a long way to actually implement all the DOJ reforms. Those 2 terms are:
NEW TERM: SERGEANTS AND LIEUTENANTS NEED TO BE MADE AT WILL EMPLOYEES AND REMOVED FROM THE POLICE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING UNIT
The federal court appointed monitor has repeatedly said in no uncertain terms that there are problems with APD sergeants and lieutenants enforcing policies and their refusal to discipline officers who violate the policies under the CASA. The police union and its leadership have said in open court that it feels the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to perform their job duties.
A mere 14 months ago during the August 20, 2019, a day long status conference, police union President Shaun Willoughby made is clear that the police union is hostile towards the CASA. District Court Judge Browning asked APOA Union President Shawn Willoughby what he and the union rank and file felt about the CASA. Willoughby’s responses were a quick condemnation of the CASA when he said “we hate it”, “we’re frustrated”, the reforms and mandates are “a hard pill to swallow”, and that “all change is hard”. According to Willoughby, police officers are afraid to do their jobs for fear of being investigated, fired or disciplined. In the same breath, Willoughby went on to brag about how his union, unlike other police unions in city’s with consent decrees, actually worked and cooperated with the city and the DOJ.
The police union has never articulated in open court and in clear terms exactly what it is about the reforms that are keeping rank and file from “doing their” jobs and “why they hate” the CASA as articulated by the union president. It’s likely the union feels what is interfering with police from doing their jobs is the mandatory use of lapel cameras, police can no longer shoot at fleeing cars, police can no longer use choke holds, police need to use less lethal force and not rely on the SWAT unit, police must use de-escalating tactics and be trained in crisis intervention, and management must hold police accountable for violation of standard operating procedures.
According to the Federal Monitors 10th report:
“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”.
Police sergeants and lieutenants by virtue of their titles, responsibilities, management and supervisory authority over sworn police officers are part of the “chain of command” management team of the police department. Including APD police sergeants and lieutenants who are part of management in the collective bargaining unit creates a clear conflict of interest. It sends mixed messages to rank and file sworn police officers. The police union refuses to acknowledge or agree to the removal of the sergeants and lieutenants from the bargaining unit knowing it will eliminate the unions ability to influence them in management and it will reduce the size of the dues paying union membership.
APD police sergeants and lieutenants are the ones on the front line to enforce personnel rules and regulations, standard operating procedures, approve and review work performed and assist in implementing DOJ reforms and standard operating procedures policies. This point was repeatedly made by the Federal Monitor when he said “until the sergeants are in harness and pulling in the same direction as the chief, things won’t get done as quickly”. Others said the same thing during the August 20, 2019 hearing. In other words, without the 100% support of the sergeants and lieutenants to the CASA and mandated reforms, there will be little or no progress made with “operational compliance” and reaching a 95% compliance rate will take years.
Sergeants and lieutenants need to be made at will employees and removed from the collective bargaining unit in order to get a real buy in to managements goals of police reform and the CASA. APD Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of Administration Management and Union priorities that are in conflict when it comes to the CASA reforms.
When police contract negotiations begin again in earnest, the city needs to demand that the management positions of APD sergeant and lieutenant be removed from the APOA Union bargaining unit. Otherwise, Mayor Tim Keller Administration should seek to have the APOA Union removed as a party to the federal lawsuit, the consent decree and CASA negotiations.
NEW TERM: RESTRUCTURE APD 40 HOUR WEEKLY PAY SYSTEM TO SALARY PAY SYSTEM.
Police officers earning excessive overtime is nothing new. It has been going on for years and is very common knowledge. During the last 10 years, the APD has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions. In fiscal year 2016, APD was funded for $9 million for over time but APD actually spent $13 million. A March, 2017 city internal audit of APD’s overtime spending found police officers taking advantage of a system that allows them to accumulate excessive overtime at the expense of other city departments. A city internal audit report released in March, 2017 revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent over $3.9 million over its $9 million “overtime” budget.
On May 29, former APD Chief Michael Geier issued a special order capping the amount of regular time and over time that officers can work to 65 hours a week. For an officer that works a regular 40-hour shift, that means a maximum of 25 hours of overtime a week. Interim Chief Harold Medina has yet to say if he will keep the new policy in place. The new overtime policy is a good first step, but it does not go far enough and will likely be abused, no doubt with the blessing of the APD chain of command, especially now that Geier is gone. The new policy has a glaring loophole. The policy states “The Chief of Police or his designee can waive the weekly cap to meet department operational needs.” No doubt, as in the past there will be those who will take advantage of the loophole.
Authorizing a 65-hour work week with the normal 40 hours work week and adding 25 hours of overtime does not make much sense if you want to avoid extreme fatigue and emotional burnout. It is likely given the amount of pay involved, more officers will want to work 65-hour work weeks, 40 at regular pay and 25 at time and a half. The 25-hour cap on overtime should be monthly, not weekly and an “on call” shift pool of officers should be created.
REAL SOLUTION TO STOPPING OVERTIME ABUSE
As a viable solution to paying millions in overtime and longevity bonuses the City negotiate with the union do away with APD hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based strictly on steps and years of service. A complete restructuring of the existing APD 40-hour work week and hourly wage system needs to be implemented and can be done with a new police union contract.
A base pay salary system should be negotiated with the police union and be implemented for all APD sworn personnel. A base salary system with step increases for length of service should be implemented. The longevity bonus pay would be eliminated and built into the salary structure. Mandatory shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete a work load or assignments for the day, the salaried employee works it for the same salary with no overtime paid and a modification of shift times for court appearances.
APD Patrol Officers First Class who handle DWI during nighttime shifts should be required to change their shift times to daytime shifts when the arraignments and trials occur to prevent overtime pay. As an alternative to DWI arraignment, the City Attorney’s Office should explore the possibility of expanding or modifying the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office assisting to include not just traffic citations but DWI arraignments to eliminate the need for APD officers to appear at such arraignments.
Until real overtime pay and salary pay reform is implemented at APD, do not expect too much to change and expect the overtime abuse to continue at APD.
The current police union contract expired on June 30. The City and the Union have now suspended their negotiations because of the corona virus pandemic and the uncertainty of the city’s revenues for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. The union contract negotiations must commence soon.
Until a new union contract is negotiated and approved, the terms and conditions of the old contract will remain in effect. The Police Union no doubt wants to continue the terms of the expired contract. There is no real excuse to delay negotiations on the 5 major changes to the APD Union Contract as outlined. Delay will only allow the Union to continue dictating to the city what should be done and continue its efforts to obstruct implementation of the police reforms under the CASA.
The Police Union will no doubt want to get involved once again in the 2021 election for Mayor with an endorsement. Mayor Tim Keller, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales who have said they are running for Mayor next year, and potential candidates for Mayor being mentioned including former APD Chief Michael Geier, real estate developer Steve Maestas of Maestas & Ward, former City Councilor Dan Lewis, City Councilor Pat Davis, a failed US Senate candidate Mark Ronchette or anyone else the Republicans find to run, would be wise to avoid seeking the Police Union endorsement. With the Police Union it’s always a question of what will you do for us after your elected and what have you done for us lately, but that is a subject best left to future blog articles.