On November 2, 2020, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed with the Federal Court his 12th Compliance Audit Report of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms mandated under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The report covers the twelfth-monitoring period of February 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020. Both APD Chief Michael Geier and Academy Commander Angela Byrd were employed during the monitoring period, but they have terminated by the Tim Keller Administration.
On September 25, 2020, APD Chief Michael Geier was forced to retire by Mayor Tim Keller and he immediately appointed First Deputy Chief Harold Medina as APD Interim Chief of APD. Keller also announced a national search to replace Geier and find a new Chief. Interim Chief Harold Medina is applying for the job and is considered by many as the front runner. At the time of Geier’s forced retirement Mayor Keller said in part:
“ … 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. … .”
On Friday, October 30, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced it had fired APD Academy Commander Angela Byrd after an “outside investigation” found that she retaliated against APD Academy staff and alleged she threatened to retaliate against cadets who reported harassment and discrimination. According to APD, both Byrd and Geier attempted to cover up reported misconduct.
12TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT
The Federal Monitor’s 12th report is 356 pages long. It follows the format as all the previous 11 reports. It’s a detailed audit of every paragraph of the consent decree and for that reason it is tedious and difficult to read.
The 12th Monitor’s Report, as the others, contains a number of specific cases reviewed with a short factual synopsis of each case detailing interactions with the public by APD. The report then identifies major deficiencies applying the applicable paragraphs and CASA reforms to the fact synopsis. For the sake of brevity, there is only one case review contained this blog report.
This blog article only highlights major finding of the 12th Federal Monitor’s report and should not be considered as all inclusive. The link to the City web site with entire 12th Federal Monitor’s report is here:
OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE LEVELS EXPLAINED
The CASA was negotiated to be fully implemented over a 4-year period. It has now been over 6 full years. There are 3 compliance levels that must achieve a 95% compliance level and then maintained for a full 2 years before the case can be dismissed.
For the purposes of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) monitoring process, “compliance” consists of three levels: primary, secondary, and operational compliance levels.
The 3 compliance levels can be explained as follows:
1. PRIMARY COMPLIANCE: Primary compliance is the “policy” part of compliance. To attain primary compliance, APD must have in place operational policies and procedures designed to guide officers, supervisors and managers in the performance of the tasks outlined in the CASA. As a matter of course, the policies must be reflective of the requirements of the CASA; must comply with national standards for effective policing policy; and must demonstrate trainable and evaluable policy components.
2. SECONDARY COMPLIANCE: Secondary compliance is attained by implementing supervisory, managerial and executive practices designed to and be effective in implementing the policy as written, e.g., sergeants routinely enforce the policies among field personnel and are held accountable by managerial and executive levels of the department for doing so. By definition, there should be operational artifacts such as reports, disciplinary records, remands to retraining, follow-up, and even revisions to policies if necessary, indicating that the policies developed in the first stage of compliance are known to, followed by, and important to supervisory and managerial levels of the department.
3. OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE: Operational compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency e.g., line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.
COMPLIANCE LEVELS DECLINE IN TWO AREAS
The 11th audit report that covered the time period of August 1, 2019 and ended in January 31, 2020, found the following compliance levels:
PRIMARY COMPLIANCE: 100%, no change from 10th report.
SECONDARY COMPLIANCE: 93%, a plus change of 14.8% from the 10th report.
OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE: 67%, a plus change of 3% from the 10th report.
In the 12th audit reporting period that ended on July 31, 2020 the Federal Monitor found the following compliance levels:
PRIMARY COMPLIANCE: 100% with no change from 11 th report. APD continued to make progress overall, having achieved primary compliance in 100% of the applicable paragraphs of the CASA. Primary Compliance relates mostly to development and implementation of acceptable policies conforming to national practices.
SECONDARY COMPLIANCE: 91%, with a loss of -2.2% from the 11th report. APD is in 91% Secondary Compliance as of this reporting period. Secondary Compliance means that effective follow-up mechanisms have been taken to ensure that APD personnel understand the requirements of promulgated policies, e.g., training, supervising, coaching, and implementing disciplinary processes to ensure APD personnel understand the policies as promulgated and are capable of implementing them in the field.
OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE: 64%, with a loss of -3.0%. APD is in 64% Operational Compliance with the requirements of the CASA, which means that 64% of the time, field personnel either perform tasks as required by the CASA, or that, when they fail, supervisory personnel note and correct in-field behavior that is not compliant with the requirements of the CASA
USE OF FORCE POLICY COMPLIANCE
The 12th Report reported on APD’s use of force policy compliance as follows:
“APD reworked their use of force policies to integrate a new, 3-tiered reporting system that was approved by the Monitor and the Parties. CASA requirements stipulate that the use and investigation of force shall comply with applicable laws and comport to best practices. Central to these investigations shall be a determination of each involved officer’s conduct to determine if the conduct was legally justified and compliant with APD policy.
During the … reporting period APD continued to struggle establishing a system of force oversight and the accountability of officer conduct. These struggles have significant impact and influence on the organization’s efforts to achieve Operational Compliance. … Still evident are systemic failures that allow questionable uses of force and misconduct to survive without being addressed in any meaningful way.
Until APD “shoulders its burden,” and begins to take responsibility for self-identifying violations of policy and training, compliance will be elusive. (Page 15 and 16)
FAILED USE OF FORCE OVERSIGHT
The 12th Federal Monitor’s report was highly critical of APD’s failure of “force oversight” and the accountability for officer mis-conduct. According to the report:
“During the reporting period, APD continued to struggle to establish a system of force oversight and the accountability for officer conduct. These struggles have significant influence on the organization’s efforts to achieve Operational Compliance. Still evident are systemic failures that allow questionable uses of force and misconduct to survive without being addressed in any meaningful way. While these factors are highly problematic from an accountability perspective, they provide genuine areas to explore when deciding how and where to develop training programs, and deciding what audience is in the greatest need of remediation through training.
We’ve commented extensively in the past that APD is predisposed to minimize their response to performance issues and misconduct, and defaults to training referrals regardless of the severity of an offense, or, at times repetitive incidents of violation of policy and or training. APD has, as a matter of routine, pointed to past deficiencies with their policies and training when attempting to explain or excuse problems in the field. Now that APD has developed and implemented new policies and training they believe are capable of steering better outcomes, the response to problems they encounter must now require a close examination of an officer’s interest and willingness to apply the training that was provided to them.
We have no doubt that many of the instances of non-compliance we see currently in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! The monitoring team expected there would be a period of time during which mistakes were made while applying the new policies and training, but issues we continue to see transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”
(PAGE 12 of report)
OVERSIGHT OF THE USE OF FORCE FOUND INEFFECTIVE
The monitoring team was highly critical of APD’s Use of Force Board (UFB) and reported as follows:
“… [D] during the reporting period we encountered system-wide failures related to the oversight of force used by APD officers and supervisory and command review of those uses of force. The monitoring team has been critical of the Force Review Board (FRB), citing its past ineffectiveness and its failing to provide meaningful oversight for APD’s use of force system. The consequences are that APD’s FRB, and by extension APD itself, endorses questionable, and sometimes unlawful, conduct by its officers.
Convening an FRB serves several key purposes, chief among them is to create a forum for executive oversight that pushes department-level expectations down through all levels of supervision. … Of the cases … reviewed that were approved by the Force Review Board, the [monitoring team] saw:
-Instances where obvious uses of force went unreported and investigated
-Evidence of supervisory failures
-One instance of misconduct in which unjustified force was used on a handcuffed person who was likely suffering from a form of mental disability. …
What this means is simple: that after two years of conceptualizing, recasting, and implementing new use of force policies; delivering meaningful training of those policies; training IAFD personnel to properly investigate uses of force; putting a video review unit in place; exhaustive technical assistance from the monitoring team; and reconstituting the FRB under new policies and training; the system is still ineffective in providing oversight of uses of force. (Page 11) …
During the … reporting period, APD continued to struggle to establish a system of force oversight and the accountability for officer conduct. These struggles have significant influence on the organization’s efforts to achieve Operational Compliance. Still evident are systemic failures that allow questionable uses of force and misconduct to survive without being addressed in any meaningful way.
(Page 11, 12)
SADISTIC CASE REPORTED REVEALING MULTI-LEVEL ORGANIZATIONAL FAILURE
On April 10, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, submitted a scathing 46-page investigation report on an 18-month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The DOJ investigation included a comprehensive review of APD’s operations and the City’s oversight systems of APD. The DOJ investigation “determined that structural and systemic deficiencies — including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies — contribute to the use of unreasonable force.” A significant number of the use of force cases that were reviewed involved persons suffering from acute mental illness and who were in crisis. The investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved.
Throughout the 12th report, Federal Monitor James Ginger highlights one case review in particular that occurred one night in mid-January after APD’s new use-of-force policy took effect. It is identified in the Monitors Report as “Case #1 IMR 12-16.” APD officers arrested a man suspected of breaking into a car and stealing a dog at a motel and, in a separate instance, stealing a garbage can. Three APD officers used physical force to handcuff the suspect and then carried him to a patrol car.
(See pages 11, 85, 86, 89, 101)
It turns out the arrested man was mentally ill having a psychotic episode and he was resistant and uncooperative. The APD officers requested emergency medical services dispatched to the scene as the man babbled nonsensically, lying face down in the back seat of an APD cruiser, handcuffed, with his shoulders and head partly out of the vehicle.
According to the monitor’s report, the lapel camera of an officer who is not identified “flung the door toward the ‘closed position’ while the suspect was moving around, causing the door to strike the man’s head.” The monitors report goes on to say the officer slowly pressed the door closed on the man’s upper body and later, while putting him on a stretcher, grabbed his head and pushed it down so his chin touched his chest.
Monitor Ginger said the officer’s use of the door “bordered on sadistic”. The conduct was not reported and was not called out by investigators who reviewed the body camera footage. He said the IAFD investigators interviewed the suspect at the hospital when he was barely conscious and appeared unable to speak.
The case was referred to the Force Review Board (FRB) whose “sole purpose is to oversee the system, compensate for mistakes and provide a safety net to ensure such misconduct is not missed at any level of subordinate review … [but] the board didn’t find anything amiss.”
In his 12th report Ginger said, a union representative ended up “hijacking the interview” with the offending officer. Ginger said the union representative “took control of the interview” by narrating the video being played for the officer and then suggesting what the officer “actually meant to say” in response to a question rather than what the officer actually said. According to the report:
“When internal fact-finding processes such as Internal Affairs can routinely permit officers and union representatives to hijack internal fact-finding, and no one notices except the monitoring team, there are serious, meaningful, and near terminal problems with leadership at internal investigative commands”
“(The FRB) failed in its mission and execution in providing a meaningful review that should have revealed the actions of the officer against a handcuffed person experiencing a mental health crisis. … The capstone in this case study of a multi-level organizational failure in accountability is the former Chief of Police affixing his signature to the findings of the FRB’s lack of due diligence and meaningful findings.”
“After six years of ‘reform’ at APD, after six years of acute and intensive technical assistance and assessment from the monitoring team, after six years of exhaustive (and critical) reports from the monitor; after six years of ‘effort,’ this knowable and egregious case floated through (several) levels of review at APD … (on-scene officers; on-scene supervisory personnel; ‘upstream’ area command supervisory and management personnel; video review unit personnel; IAFD; and FRB) and all … of those levels managed to ‘not see’ a clear and (convincing) incident of deliberate excessive use of force against an individual obviously suffering a crisis.”
ACADEMY TRAINING EVISCERATED BY MONITOR AS SEEMING TO HAVE “FORGOTTEN ITS MISSION”
The monitoring team eviscerated the APD Academy training and reported as follows:
“While meeting with the [now former] APD Academy Director Commander Angela Byrd and staff … the status of APD’s annual requirements to deliver use of force training [was discussed.] While there is some overlap of topics … of training the monitor approved during the 11th report, it was clear that as a consequence of the Academy being hyper-focused on completing … training, which is still incomplete, they have not considered their annual training requirements! Such oversights are extremely troubling.
The monitoring team is cognizant of the issues facing the department as a consequence of the pandemic, but the Academy did not appear to have even explored options to address this requirement. It simply went un-met. Such oversights are inexplicable at this point. After six years of high … focus … from the monitoring team, after 10 highly problem-focused monitor’s reports, most of which included detailed recommendations for responding to CASA paragraph activities that were not in compliance, the Academy seems to have “forgotten” its mission.
To be clear, APD’s efforts to complete [the use of force training] which at this point is still incomplete, do not absolve the department from its other training requirements. For most officers, it’s been over a year since they attended Tier 1 training and by the end of 2020 it will be over a year since Tiers 2 and 3 were attended by APD officers and supervisors.
As noted, some required CASA topics are not addressed in the Tier training sessions and will need their own training sessions. This will be the third round of “gap training,” designed to address training oversights at the Academy. Such under-performance, quite simply, is not acceptable in a truly reform-minded agency.”
FORMER APD CHIEF DEMONSTRATED SERIOUS DEFICIENCIES
The 12th Federal monitor’s report was highly critical of former APD Chief Michael Geier when it reported:
“APD’s top leadership demonstrate serious deficiencies in establishing the right expectations of the organization, during this reporting period we note that the former Chief of Police coordinated a specific APD officer to address Academy cadets, under a lecture title of “Career Survival” as a condition of discipline following an instance of serious misconduct. In our opinion, the former chief’s decision to facilitate this event represented a serious lack of judgment, especially since the monitor had previously advised the former chief that the officer’s actions were extremely serious, constituted direct and intentional violations of policy and the CASA, and possibly warranted termination.”
MONITOR’S SCATHING ASSESSMENT AT “TOP OF ORANIZATION”
The 12th Federal Monitors report provides the following scathing overall assessment of APD:
“APD’s compliance efforts have exhibited serious shortfalls during the … reporting period. These range from critical shortfalls in management and oversight of the APD Training Academy, significant and deleterious failures relating to oversight and discipline; and executive-level failures regarding oversight, command and control, discipline, supervision, and training.
“During the reporting period [of] February through July 2020, virtually all of these failures can be traced back to leadership failures at the top of the organization. During the past two reporting periods, the monitor has provided more direct technical assistance, advice, high-level problem identification, mid-level problem-solving processes, and executive-level consultation than was provided in any of the monitor’s previous monitoring experiences. Each of our reports is accompanied by an exhaustive list of recommendations for improvement in any CASA compliance area that was not found in compliance. Those lists of recommendations detail hundreds of process improvement designs. The vast majority of these recommendations appear to have been filed away, rather than actualized.” (Page 3.)
Since the inception of this monitoring process in 2015, we have been as open and honest as possible with APD executive leadership and have never noted a problem at APD without following up with suggestions regarding how APD might best address that problem. At this stage of the process most of those discussions at the executive level have fallen on deaf ears. After six years of suggestions, recommendations, and problem-solving meetings, … as of the end of the … reporting period, much remains to be done.
To be perfectly clear, based on the monitor’s experience with these projects, [which] dates back to the 1990s, APD is on a path that reflects deliberate indifference to the requirements of the CASA. We highly recommend that the City take direct steps to put APD on an alternate trajectory regarding compliance efforts:
• APD’s new leadership, which assumed leadership responsibilities after the close of this reporting period, must step up and insist on compliance.
• Management needs to design simple, effective, trackable systems for process improvement.
• Supervision needs to leave behind its dark traits of myopia, passive resistance, and outright support for, and implementation of, counter-CASA processes.
• Most importantly, line officers need to engage in actions as designed by policy, law, and best practice, not past customs.
Until these actions take place, compliance will be exceptionally evasive.”
(Page 3 of 12th Monitors Report)
“COUNTER CASA AFFECT” STILL IDENTIFIED AS PROBLEMATIC
The 12th Federal Monitors’ report contains a summary that highlights major deficiencies that have set back compliance levels. For at least the 4th time, the monitor reported that the “Counter Casa” effect was interfering with APD accomplishing the implementing the CASA reforms. According to the 12th report:
“[The federal monitor] identified strong under currents of Counter-CASA effects in some critical units on APD’s critical path related to CASA compliance. These include supervision at the field level; mid-level command in both operational and administrative functions, [including] patrol operations, internal affairs practices, disciplinary practices, training, and force review). Supervision, [the] sergeants and lieutenants, and mid-level command, [the commanders] remain one of the most critical weak links in APD’s compliance efforts.
During this reporting period, the monitoring team often found in its reviews of management and oversight practices, a near myopathy at APD when it comes to assessing actions in the field against the requirements of APD policy and the CASA. Supervisors and command level personnel have a deleterious tendency to ignore the requirements of policy and training, and at times to even support processes to hide or circumvent internal systems designed to ensure compliance to established policy.
Even more importantly, Tier 4 training and required annual training processes are at or near atrophy at APD. When a major police organization can “forget” to plan for annual training processes and no one notices except the monitoring team, there are serious, meaningful, and near terminal problems with leadership at the training command level, and at the executive oversight and control level.
When a major … CASA-critical command such as Internal Affairs can allow union representatives to hijack internal investigations and can allow officers to respond to salient , and reasonable, fact-finding questions by simply reading a Garrity statement … into the record, as opposed to answering questions posed, there are serious and near terminal problems with process, policy enforcement, and outcome factors. “
EDITOR’S NOTE: Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), is the landmark US Supreme Court case that held that law enforcement officers and other public employees have the right to be free from compulsory self-incrimination. The basic premise of a “Garrity Statement” is protection that an Officer cannot be compelled, by the threat of serious discipline, to make statements that may be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding. No Police Officer can be terminated for refusing to waive his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
When internal fact-finding processes such as Internal Affairs can routinely permit officers and union representatives to hijack internal fact-finding, and no one notices except the monitoring team, there are serious, meaningful, and near terminal problems with leadership at internal investigative commands.
When critical oversight elements such as the Force Review Board can miss critical violations regarding use of force and visible evidence of open, overt, and reprehensible mistreatment of arrestees by APD field personnel, there are serious, meaningful and near terminal problems with executive review processes specifically designed to note these types of problems and posit solutions to ensure they do not re-occur, there are serious, meaningful, and near-terminal problems with departmental command and leadership at the highest levels.
When, in effect, the monitoring team stands as the quality-control mechanism for supervision, command, and leadership levels of the police department, we are facing serious, existential threats to effective management and service delivery functions at APD. In the monitor’s opinion, based on our detailed analyses presented in this report, APD stands at a critical crossroad.
A change in the trajectory at APD is essential. Leaders need to step up and lead. Managers need to step up and manage. Supervisors need to step up and supervise. Most importantly, field officers need to conform to established policy and training and effect CASA-congruent policing practices. The change required is certainly possible. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has proven the possibility by successfully meeting the change requirements during their consent decree and did so in record time. The New Jersey State Police, a larger, more diverse, and more decentralized agency than APD, successfully met the change requirements of their consent decree, and in doing so, became a model for other agencies facing reform issues.
At this point, we assert that the issue is leadership. The next chief at APD needs to step up, speak out, set and meet reform goals, and ensure that the management team supporting him, or her, are pulling together to ensure reform. Until that happens, change will be difficult to make. Reform will be difficult to implement. Effective, constitutional policing will remain elusive.”
UNION REPSONDS TO 12TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT
Shaun Willoughby, President of Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said in an interview that the rank and file are doing a much better job than the report lays out and believes officers understand the importance of reporting excessive force.
He also added:
“There is no doubt in my mind that parting ways with Mike Geier and Angela Byrd are great things, they’re good things for the Albuquerque Police Department so we can move forward we’ve said that from the very beginning. We had questions about his leadership and ability to move his department forward.”
COUNTER CASA EFFECT EXPLAINED
It was on September 10, 2018, at a status telephone conference call held with the US District Court Judge that Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger first told the federal court that a group of “high-ranking APD officers” within APD were trying to thwart the reform efforts.
The Federal Monitor revealed that the group of “high-ranking APD officers” were APD sergeants and lieutenants.
In his 10th report Federal Monitor Ginger referred to the group as the “Counter-CASA effect” and stated:
“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”.
“Some members of APD continue to resist actively APD’s reform efforts, including using deliberate counter-CASA processes. For example … Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) disciplinary timelines, appear at times to be manipulated by supervisory, management and command levels at the area commands, letting known violations lie dormant until timelines for discipline cannot be met.”
Because sergeants and lieutenants are part of the police bargaining unit they remained in their positions and could not be removed by the Chief. Then APD Chief Michael Geier also reported that he had noticed some “old-school resistance” to reforms mandated by the CASA. At the time, Chief Geier reported he replaced a number of commanders with others who agree with police reforms. However, Chief Geier reported he could not replace the sergeants nor lieutenants who were resisting the reforms because of the union contract.
OCTOBER 6 STATUS HEARING
On Friday, October 6, the Federal District Court Judge James Browning held a hearing on the 12th Federal Monitors Report. Normally, such a hearing is an all day long, in person hearing allowing the public to attend. As a result of the corona virus, the hearing was held “virtually” but because of technology difficulties, the public and the press were prevented from attending.
A transcript of the October 6 hearing reveals Federal Monitor Ginger told the court:
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD. … [The department] has failed miserably in its ability to police itself. … If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned. But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street. So as a monitor with significant amount of experience – I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the Court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”
COMMUNITY COALITION APD FORWARD REACT
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, Common Cause New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, Equality New Mexico, League of Women Voters of Central New, Mexico New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
Robby Heckman, a member of APD Forward, said that the 12th Monitors’ report provided a real insight as to what is going on inside APD rather than just what the Keller Administration is saying it’s doing. Heckman described what is actually going on within APD as “disturbing” and said:
“What’s described in this monitor report are the exact behaviors and things that were described in the DOJ findings letter . People suffering from mental illness being treated improperly. … It’s going to take creating systems that actually hold officers accountable. That’s just not happening. We’re six years in, and it’s not happening, the culture is eating the reforms for lunch.”
KELLER ADMINISTRATION PILE’S ON FORMER APD CHIEF GEIER
On October 6, Keller’s appointed Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair was asked to respond to the 12th Monitor’s report and the replacement of Geier and she had this to say:
“After making big strides for the first two years [under former Chief Geier], the reform effort had stalled out and the former chief was actively working against reform. These findings are simply unacceptable at this stage. We took swift action right at the top of the department and got to work cleaning up what was left behind. Any real reform effort will be long and challenging, but the department is back on track with a renewed energy and commitment to getting this work done.”
Interim APD Chief Harold Medina piled on Geier when asked about 12TH monitors report and said:
“[There will be] no more sweeping counter-CASA culture under the rug at APD. We’re at a point in the reform process where we have to make the tough decisions about holding people accountable if we are truly going to change the culture at APD. Mayor Keller did that when he addressed the number one criticism in this monitoring report: He replaced the failed leadership at the top of the department. … [I am taking discipline seriously having taken] swift action to address the failed leadership at the training academy [by firing APD Academy Commander Angela Byrd APD.] … I am building trust with employees at every level to get their buy-in, while also setting expectations about our collective duty to improve the way we do business. … Most important, I am returning our focus to fighting crime. I want our officers to understand we can fight crime and meet the requirements of the settlement agreement. Nobody is holding us back. The public supports APD, as long as we keep the community safe and commit to a new era of constitutional and accountable policing.”
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos also piled on Geier further when responding to the 12th Monitor’s report:
“Supervisors must open investigations when people are not doing their jobs effectively. … The former APD chief was actively resisting this type of accountability, and it will take some time to clean up the mess he left behind. Chief Medina has opened investigations of high-ranking Commanders because they failed to close cases properly and expects the entire chain of command to hold their subordinates accountable when investigating uses of force. The Department has experienced a steep learning curve with regard to the Force Review Board, however, the Board routinely identifies and addresses department-wide concerns with training, tactics, equipment and supervision.”
The link to the quote source is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
CAO Sarita Nair, Interim Chief Harold Medina and APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos no doubt believe that the general public are just plain stupid and will buy into all their bullshit arguments and press releases that it’s all former Chief Geier’s fault for APD failing with the police reforms. By all accounts, former APD Chief Michael Geier did a respectable job of settling the department down for 2 years and 8 months he was in charge. That is until Interim Chief Harold Medina wanted Geier’s job and the $180,000 yearly pay that goes with it and he undercut Geier at every turn and ran behind Gieir’s back to complain like a little snitch to CAO Nair.
Nair and Medina now want the public to forget or ignore that for the past 3 years they have “wallowed” in the muck of APD and contributed to the stench. To quote the Federal Monitor “APD’s compliance efforts have exhibited serious shortfalls during the … reporting period. These range from critical shortfalls in management and oversight of the APD Training Academy, significant and deleterious failures relating to oversight and discipline; and executive-level failures regarding oversight, command and control, discipline, supervision, and training. … During the reporting period [of] February through July 2020, virtually all of these failures can be traced back to leadership failures at the top of the organization.“
Truth is CAO Sarita Nair and former First Deputy Chief Harold Medina, and now Interim Chief, have been at the very top of the APD organization for 3 years, and they were a very big part of the “leadership failures at the top of the organization” creating the sewage mess and they now proclaim they are trying to clean up blaming former Chief Geier for not implementing the reforms.
PART OF THE PROBLEM
For the last 3 years, CAO Nair and Interim Chief Medina worked closely together to manage the day to day operations of APD. It is common knowledge within the APD command staff that Harold Medina will do anything and say anything Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair tell him to do and want him to say. It is also common knowledge that it was Medina that orchestrated Geier’s forced retirement with the help and backing of Keller’s political operative Nair. Medina’s ultimate goal is to be appointed permanent chief and Keller is likely going to do just that after another sham national search.
Interim Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice (DOJ) here in the first place. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the DOJ 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. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Interim APD Chief Medina will ever truly be committed to all 270 Federal mandated reforms. One thing for sure is that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is not the person who should be appointed permanent Chief.
APD NEEDS CLEAN SWEEP OF HIGH COMMAND
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 he 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 a number of years and are eligible for retirement. Keller’s “new” and present Deputies are a reflection of APD’s past. APD’s current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing practices.
The statement made by Mayor Tim Keller that former Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier simply wanted to retire appears to have been as bogus as it could get. In the 12th Federal Monitor’s report, the monitoring team found that APD has completely failed to police itself, pointing to major problems with the former police chief and the former APD Academy Commander. The 12th report outlines multiple cases where officers failed to accurately report use of force cases and the report places the blame directly on APD leadership.
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. Mayor Tim Keller needs to conduct a national search to find a new Chief who is not already with APD and allow whoever is chosen to run APD department free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. 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.
It obvious from reading the 12th report that the union membership of sergeants and lieutenants are still at the center of the “under currents” of Counter-CASA effects. The police union has made its opposition and objections known to the federal court regarding the use of force and deadly force policies. The union has always argued that the new use of force and deadly force policies were too restrictive with rank and file claiming police cannot do their jobs and that their hands are tied.
The police union leadership have said in open court that the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to perform their job duties. During the August 20, 2019 status conference, the APOA union President Shaun Willoughby made it clear his union membership attitude towards the CASA reforms. 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”, that “all change is hard”.
According to Willoughby, police officers are afraid to do their jobs for fear of being investigated, fired or disciplined. 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.
What was so damn laughable is when Union President Willoughby says that the union cooperated and participated with the reforms unlike all other Departments in other cities faced with a consent decree. What the union has actually been doing for the last 6 years was disrupting the process by not being fully committed to the reforms and changes and doing what it could to water down the changes to the “use of force” and “deadly force” policies.
Given the Federal Monitors criticism and what is contained in the 12th report, it is downright laughable that Union President Willoughby would actually say in an interview that the rank and file are doing a “much better job than the report lays out” and that he believes officers understand the importance of reporting excessive force. It obvious from the entire 12th report they do not especially when the monitor says in the 12th report:
1.“… [When] … Internal Affairs … allow union representatives … and … officers to respond to salient , and reasonable, fact-finding questions by simply reading a Garrity statement … into the record, as opposed to answering questions posed, there are serious and near terminal problems with process, policy enforcement, and outcome factors.”
2. APD Internal Affairs routinely permits officers and union representatives to hijack internal fact-finding.
3. “[There] are strong under currents of Counter-CASA effects in some critical units on APD’s critical path related to CASA compliance. These include supervision at the field level; mid-level command in both operational and administrative functions, [including] patrol operations, internal affairs practices, disciplinary practices, training, and force review). Supervision, [the] sergeants and lieutenants, and mid-level command, [the commanders] remain one of the most critical weak links in APD’s compliance efforts.
4. Many of the instances of non-compliance seen in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! The Monitor reports he see actions that transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”
5. Supervision, which includes Lieutenants and Sergeants in the union, “needs to leave behind its dark traits of myopia, passive resistance, and outright support for, and implementation of, counter-CASA processes.”
REMOVE SERGEANTS AND LIEUTENANTS FROM POLICE UNION
APD is a “para-military” organization and as such the “chain of command” must be honored and the lines of authority must not be blurred to the point where management and subordinates become one and the same for the purpose of enforcing policy. Allowing management positions to be part of employee bargaining unit is a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what is being played out with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
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 management’s 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.
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, including who is in the collective bargaining unit. There is no real excuse to delay negotiations on the police union contract. 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.
Another option the City and the Department of Justice need to explore is to move for the dismissal of the police union from the federal court proceeding. This will allow APD command staff and management more authority do its job with enforcement of the CASA mandates and implementation of all 270 reforms.
ABOLISH APD INTERNAL AFFAIRS
Another option that needs to be considered is to abolish APD’s Internal Affairs Unit. APD has consistently shown over decades it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice. The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by other civilian departments.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators, not sworn police. The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of the General Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department.
The Office of Independent Council could make findings and recommendations to the APD Chief and Police Oversight Board (POB) for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
It is clear from the 12th Federal Court Monitors report that “Operational Compliance” and the “counter casa effect” have been and continue to be the biggest sticking points for APD and present the biggest obstacles for the department under the consent decree. Operational Compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency. In other words, line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.
After 6 years of work under the CASA, the City and the Department of Justice need to recognize that as long as the Police Union continues to be a party to the case and Sergeants and Lieutenants are allowed to be part of the collective bargining unit, not much more is going to be accomplished. And neither is relying on the current interim Chief and Deputy Chiefs.
After almost 3 years in office, Mayor Tim Keller under his leadership still has a police department that is failing miserably to police itself and on the brink of catastrophic failure. Keller has only himself to blame given the fact he personally selected those that have been in charge of APD and he went back on his campaign promise to hire a new Chief from outside the agency.
A link to a related blog article is here: