As of January 31, there have been 15 homicides, in the month of January, 2021. According to APD, they have identified a suspect or possible suspect in 6 of the 15 homicides. At least 6 of those who died are women and eight of the 14 deaths happened between January 21 and January 29. So far, only one person is facing charges related to a homicide that occurred in January.
Links to news sources are here:
The 15 homicides are 2 more than the deadliest month in Albuquerque over the past 5 years. The record was 13 killings in each of the months of September and April of 2019 with 2019 being the record for the highest homicide total in recent history. The 15 homicides do not include one homicide classified as self-defense and do not in include vehicular homicides.
On Friday, January 29, three people were shot at one of the many apartment complexes on Montgomery near Carlisle with 2 women who died at the scene and with a third victim taken to UNM Hospital. During the January 16 weekend, a double murder off I-40 near Eubank occurred that is still under investigation.
BODY COUNT CONTINUES TO RISE
It was in late December, 2020 that APD officials said the city has not seen the same increase in homicides as other major cities. On January 28, Interim Chief Harold Medina held a press briefing to address the recent increase in homicides and was forced to back off on APD’s original assessment and said:
“It’s apparent now that we’re starting to fall in line with a lot of issues that other major cities in the United States are seeing. … We’re in uncharted territory in a lot of ways … but we wanted to assure the public we’re going to continue conducting operations and making modifications to what trends we’re seeing out there.”
During the January 29 press briefing, APD Interim Chief Harold Medina said the homicides are not “random” and involve drugs or domestic violence which is the reason many of the victims are women. Medina also went on to lay blame on staffing shortages and the pandemic by saying:
“The number one question is, ‘Should people feel safe?’ … We’re seeing trends in robberies that are related to narcotics and they are escalating to the point where we have homicides that occur as a result of this. … We need a lot more detectives in Homicide so they can devote the time. We have limited resources but we are giving two additional detectives to homicide.”
AS of January 31, APD has 12 homicide detectives and 2 sergeants with caseloads above the national average.
Interim Chief of Police Harold Medina pointed out that crime “is not a straight line” and that APD has been in this position before. Medina said:
“… We’re going to be going through peaks and valleys and that’s where we need to make quick adjustments as a department. … These are a lot of the steps we are doing to make sure that we’re communicating amongst one another as quickly as possible to get on these trends and see how we can devote resources to the problem.”
“I think the key is how we come out of this and how we develop programs and processes that are going to have long-term effects. … It’s really difficult for us right now because we’ve put together some programs that were showing promise. We were getting good results. We were doing well, and now we’ve seen this peak, and it’s really difficult to gauge because these programs. We’re not going to have an assessment until this pandemic is over.”
Links to news sources and quotes are here:
MEDINA PRIVATELY TELLS OFFICERS APD CANNOT FOCUS ON CRIME BLAMING DOJ CONSENT DECREE REFORMS
On January 30, the on-line news outlets ABQ Reports and ABQ Raw both reported that APD Interim Chief Harold Medina addressed APD sworn personnel in a 4-minute internal message. The recorded message to all law enforcement personnel is referred to as the “Daily 49 Video”. The number 49 is code talk for police officer.
The recorded “Daily 49 Video” messages are not for release to the general public. In the recorded message, Medina says that the Albuquerque Police Department cannot focus exclusively on fighting crime because it is being forced to divert resources to comply with Department of Justice mandated reforms. The media outlet ABQ RAW obtained the video from a confidential source and then published it.
ABQ Reports reported that “a tired and defeated looking Medina … said that the police department is short of patrol officers and that he is asking officers in the field to determine which calls for service cops should not be sent to.” ABQ Raw for its part said the recorded message shows that Medina and the Mayor Keller Administration have admitted defeat in the fight against crime.
The ABQ Raw report and the video can be viewed in the entirety at this link:
The link to ABQ Reports is here:
The most relevant portion of Medina’s recorded statement to APD sworn personnel is as follows:
“I wish, and those of you who know me … know that I would love to sit here and say that we’re going to focus on crime and crime alone. But the reality is that’s not where the Albuquerque Police Department is at this time, and we must change the culture for the good of the community and for the good of our officers. So we’re going to have to make sure that we’re open to ensuring that we move forward on all fronts, the compliance front and the crime front, and it’s a very delicate balancing act, and when we’re able to I intend to give more resources to Investigations.”
We recognize the Field [of patrol officers] is short and I’m going to ask commanders in the field to make sure their people are getting information to us on which calls we shouldn’t be dispatching to. So there’s a lot of moving parts to this. We’re well aware of them, we’re committed, and everybody recognize that this is a tough time for law enforcement across the nation.”
Editor’s Note: Under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice that APD has been laboring under for the last 6 years, APD must reach a 95% compliance rate in 3 major categories. A 95% compliance rate must be maintained for 2 consecutive years before the federal lawsuit can be dismissed.
UNION REACTS TO HOMICIDES
APD Union President Shaun Willoughby was asked to react to the number of homicides in January. Not at all surprising, Willoughby blamed the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and said:
“This should be no surprise to anybody in this community. We had a staggering number of homicides last year we had record-breaking number of homicides the year before. … Violent crime increases at an alarming rate in this community. We have for the last six years and I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not getting better and anybody that says it is not telling you the truth. … the department has become more reactive to crime, than proactive. … We’re focused on the DOJ consent decree instead of fighting crime.”
During the last 3 years, the city has had a record-breaking number of murders. In 2018, during Mayor Tim Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 82 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was in 2017 when 72 homicides were reported in Mayor Berry’s last year in office. The previous high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides. The year 2020 ended with 76 homicides, the second-highest count since 1996. The decline dropped the homicide rate from 14.64 per 100,000 people in 2019 to about 13.5 in 2020.
HISTORICALLY LOW HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATES
For the past three years during Mayor Keller’s tenure, the homicide clearance percentage rate has been in the 50%-60% range. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017, under Mayor Berry the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade. In 2020 the clearance rate dropped to 50%. Of the 75 homicides in 2020, half remain unsolved. There are only a dozen homicide detectives each with caseloads high above the national average.
In 2018 during Mayor Keller’ first full year in office, there were 6,789 violent crimes, 3,885 Aggravated Assaults and 491 Non-Fatal Shootings.
In 2019, the category of “Violent Crimes” was replaced with the category of “Crimes Against Persons” and the category includes homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault. In 2019 during Keller’s second full year in office, Crimes Against Persons increased from 14,845 to 14,971, or a 1% increase. The Crimes Against Person category had the biggest rises in Aggravated Assaults increasing from 5,179 to 5,397.
2020 VIOLENT CRIME STATS
On Monday, September 21, 2020, APD released statistics that revealed that overall crime in the city is down slightly across all categories in the first six months of 2020 as compared with the first six months of 2019. Crimes against persons are all violent crimes combined and include murder, deadly weapons assault and injury and rape. The decreases in “violent crime” from 2019 to 2020 was a decrease by a mere 21 crimes or a 0.28%. Over a two year period, it decreased 4%. According to the FBI statistics released, there were 7,362 crimes against persons reported in the first six months of 2020 and there were 152 more in the second quarter than in the first quarter.
MEDINA UNDERMINED GEIER’S GUN VIOLENCE PLAN
As gun violence continued to increase during the last 3 years, many plans were formulated to address it . In 2019, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Tim Keller and APD scrambled to implement 4 major crime fighting programs to reduce violent crime: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue, the “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program) and the Metro 15 Operation program. Based upon the statistics, the Keller programs have had very little effect on reducing violent crime.
Former APD Chief Geier said in September after he was fired by Keller that he and a commander created a violence reduction plan that included scheduling regular meetings and brainstorming sessions for officers to talk with their supervisors about patterns in fatal shootings and shootings with injury in their area commands and come up with plans to address it.
Graphs provided by Geier to the Albuquerque Journal showed that between January 1 and September 22, 2020, there was a 16% increase in shooting murders from 37 to 43. The goal was 31 or fewer. Shootings with injury increased 27% citywide, from 152 to 193, and 5 of the 6 area commands saw more or as many shootings with injury as this time the year before.
The Valley Area Command, which encompasses downtown Albuquerque, was the only one to see a decrease. Shootings dropped 38% from 34 to 21, which was below the goal. However, Geier speculated, that could be because bars and activities that typically draw crowds and violence have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Geier told the Albuquerque Journal that Deputy Chief Harold Medina never embraced the gun violence plan and that Medina went so far as to not instruct his officers to follow it through. Geier said the program was delayed in launching by 6 weeks, and those under Medina’s command had to undergo remedial training on the project a second time because they still didn’t understand it. Medina told Geier it was too confusing.
August 31, 2020, Chief Geier wrote a memo to then First Deputy Chief Medina and told him:
“We had a number of discussions over the next several months and it appeared that you made little effort to bring your people on board. … On May 19, 2020, I had to issue Special Order 20-40 in an effort to make up for lost time in our efforts to reduce gun violence. Rather than reductions, APD saw significant increases for over 4 months in this regard.”
In his memo to Medina, Geier wrote the startling disclosure that he felt
“[It’s] almost as if you made an effort to make this program fail … [and your] behavior has “bordered on insubordination.” Geier wrote Medina that he planned to move medina from the field services bureau. “I plan on discussing this with [CAO] Sarita [Nair] at our weekly update meeting this coming Friday, September 4th. I expect you to handle your new position as a professional so as to renew my faith and trust in you.” Geier made the very serious mistake of giving Medina a heads up that he would be talking to Nair because what Medina did was run right away to Nair to complain.”
Geier said he left the memo on Medina’s desk and didn’t see him again until after he was told to retire or get fired by Mayor Keller. “He probably just threw it away,” Geier said. Medina for his part said he never saw the memo. Given subsequent events, it’s highly likely Medina threw it away or gave the memo to CAO Sarita Nair as the first step in having Geier fired.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
INTERIM CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA
What Interim Chief Harold Medina said in part on January 29, 2021 press conference merits repeating:
“I think the key is how we come out of this and how we develop programs and processes that are going to have long-term effects. … It’s really difficult for us right now because we’ve put together some programs that were showing promise. We were getting good results. We were doing well, and now we’ve seen this peak, and it’s really difficult to gauge because these programs – we’re not going to have an assessment until this pandemic is over.”
Not so fast “Interim” Chief Harold Medina. You are part of the problem considering what you pulled on former Chief Geier and his gun violence initiative. Knock it off trying to blame the pandemic for what is happening. Knock it off blaming the DOJ reform process for the high crime rates.
Medina has been a Deputy Chief of Field Services, then First Assistant Chief and now Interim Chief for over the last 3 years, all during Keller’s term in office. Since returning APD as a Deputy Chief, Medina has also worked on implementing the DOJ reforms.
All 4 of the programs announced by Keller to combat violent crime have been around now for almost a full 2 years. It was just last month that Medina tried to give a false narrative on the success of the 4 programs.
A link to a related blog article here:
In his internal office video to all law enforcement personnel, Medina said APD has a problem with staffing and that crime is raging out of control. When Medina says:
“… I would love to sit here and say that we’re going to focus on crime and crime alone. But the reality is that’s not where the Albuquerque Police Department is at this time, and we must change the culture for the good of the community and for the good of our officers … when we’re able to I intend to give more resources to Investigations”, he is ostensibly referring to the DOJ consent decree to change the APD “culture of aggression” found by the DOJ in 2014.
Medina knows better. To blame the DOJ consent decree for the spiking violent crime and murder rates is repulsive. Medina knows damn well a lot the problems are directly related to the APD management he has been a part of for the last 3 years when he was in charge of Field Services.
APD ON BRINK OF A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE
On Friday, October 6, Federal Monitor Ginger told the Federal District Court Judge overseeing the DOJ reform effort:
“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.”
In the 12th Monitors report, Ginger states:
“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.”
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.
Still evident are systemic failures that allow questionable uses of force and misconduct to survive without being addressed in any meaningful way”.
APD HOMICIDE UNIT HAS BEEN LONG STANDING PROBLEM
When Medina said on January 29, 2021 “We need a lot more detectives in homicide so they can devote the time. We have limited resources but we are giving two additional detectives to homicide” one can only wonder where was Medina and what the hell he was doing as Deputy of Field Services for 3 years?
Over 3 years ago on December 28, 2017, it was reported the APD homicide unit was overwhelmed with only 11 detectives when the City reached a record high of 75 murders. APD management, which Medina was the Deputy of Field Services, did nothing to increase the size of the unit.
On July 2, 2018, the legacy of botched APD murder investigations were highlighted, and again, APD management, including Deputy Medina, did nothing to increase the size of the homicide unit.
During an October, 2019 City Council meeting, APD management said it was working on new strategies to ease the workload on APD homicide detectives. During the City Council meeting, APD Commander of Criminal Investigations Joe Burke had this to say:
“I would say in the long term if I was looking at a long-term solution—I believe we need two homicide units. I think the best practices around the nation normally have two homicide units. Detectives should be balancing between three to five investigations and we’re nearly double that.
… We absolutely need detectives in criminal investigations. … I was happy when I went over at the end of July and was briefed on the status of the unit that there’s a plan in place within the executive staff that when cadets are graduating from the academy that we’re going to get a certain percentage specifically for the criminal investigations bureau.”
On November 21, 2019 when the number of homicides hit 72, it was again advocated that the Homicide Investigation Unit be increased from 11 detectives to at least 25 detectives. Further, given the units low clearance rate and past performance, more was needed to be done then with respect to recruiting and training. At the very least, APD needed to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department or the State Police to help clear out the cases.
On New Year’ s Eve, December 31, 2019, the City hit a new all-time record of 80 reported homicides, again with an embarrassing clearance rate. It was advocated to increase the Homicide Unit from 11 to at least 25 detectives, and still nothing was done.
On Friday October 23, 2020 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released its “Use of Force” report covering a four-year time period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019. The report showed a 4-year increase in APD “Use Of Force” incidents with 19 Civilian Deaths, 2,395 Uses of Force, 1,087 Shows Of Force.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Links to virtually all the blog articles cited were emailed individually to Mayor Keller, the Chief and the Deputies and the articles presumably were ignored.
UNION PRESIDENT SHOOTS MOUTH OFF
What APD Union President Shaun Willoughby had to say to KOAT TV on January 28, 2021 merits repeating:
“Violent crime increases at an alarming rate in this community. We have for the last six years and I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not getting better and anybody that says it is not telling you the truth. … the department has become more reactive to crime, than proactive. … We’re focused on the DOJ consent decree instead of fighting crime.”
Willoughby is essentially blaming the DOJ consent decree for the spiking violent crime and murder rates and its nothing less than repulsive.
The one who is not telling the truth or lying when it comes to the DOJ consent decree is Police Union President Shaun Willoughby. The truth is Willoughby and his union membership of sergeants and lieutenants have been the biggest impediment to implementation of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) reforms. This impeding of the DOJ reforms by the police union lieutenants and sergeants has been repeatedly reported upon by the Federal Monitor’s since the 10th monitor’s Report.
APD UNION IS THE COUNTER CASA EFFECT
It was on September 10, 2018, during 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 thwarting 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.”
According to the 12th Federal Monitor’s report released on November 2, 2020:
“[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.”
PROHIBITION OF UNCSONSTITUTIONAL POLICING PRACTICES IS WHAT IRKS POLICE UNION
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. 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.
What the union no doubt feels 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.
The consent decree was negotiated to be fully implemented during a 4-year period and then after two years of compliance dismissed. Over 6 years have now elapse and APD is still struggling to implement the all 271 mandated reforms agreed to by the City and APD in 2014. What the union has been doing for the last 6 years is disrupting the reform process. Instead of fighting the consent decree, the police union should have embraced the reforms and help implement them. Only then will APD be able to fight crime.
MAYOR TIM KELLER
In 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform based in part on promising to bring down the cities skyrocketing violent crime rates and murder rates and implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms. As he campaigned for Mayor, Keller had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:
“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”
Keller has not done any better job with the reforms than his predecessor. Both Mayor’s have failed to actually address crime in Albuquerque. Crime in the city has only become worse under Keller especially in terms of violent crime and murders. Keller has also been as big a failure implementing the consent decree reforms as was his predecessor.
Mayor Tim Keller would be wise to recognize that APD Interim Chief Harold Medina has now shown his true colors. Medina has told Keller what he wants to hear in order to be appointed permanent Chief. Mayor Keller would be a damn fool not to recognized that Police Union President Shaun Willoughby’s obstructionist union activities need to be stopped once and for all. Mayor Keller needs to negotiate the removal of all management positions of Lieutenants and Sergeants from the police union, otherwise, the union will continue to resist the DOJ reforms.