On September 10, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce that Chief Geier was retiring after 2 years and 9 months as APD Chief. Keller announced a national search would be conducted to find a new chief.
Within days after the departure of Chief Geier, the city posted and advertised the position nationally. The Keller Administration hired a consultant to help search for applicants. The search resulted in 39 applicants who submitted their resumes. A screening process was initiated and applicants were sorted into 25 “qualified” candidates and 9 “unqualified” candidates. On January 1, 2021, the names of all applicants were released.
3 FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
The City of Albuquerque narrowed its search for a new police chief to 3 candidates. On January 20, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller announced 3 finalists for Chief of Police. The finalists are:
1. Joseph Sullivan
2. Clinton Nichols
3. Interim Chief Harold Medina
A Link to related news coverage is here:
On Saturday, January 23, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, along with CAO Sarita Nair and city leaders and Herb Crosby, the owner of AVTEC, Inc., the Albuquerque consulting firm hired by the city for the hiring process for Chief of Police, held a webinar featuring the 3 finalists for Chief of Police.
A link to the full 1 hour and 18-minute webinar is here:
CITY CITIZENS SURVEY RESULTS
Prior to the January 23 webinar interviews with the 3 APD Chief finalists, the city conducted 40 virtual meetings with community groups as well as an online survey to get community input on what characteristics should be looked for in hiring the next chief. The city collected upwards of 2,300 responses to the survey. According to one news report:
“The survey results revealed that the community wants to see the following in the next APD police chief:
Communication, leadership by example, and accountability to the community were the attributes most valued by survey respondents.
The qualifications considered ‘Very important’ by a large majority of respondents included ‘experience with reducing use of force and procedural justice,’ ‘crisis management,’ and ‘knowledge of crime prevention and law enforcement strategies.’
The three priorities considered ‘Very important’ by over 70 percent of survey respondents included ‘Protecting civil rights,’ ‘Reducing violent crime,’ and ‘Improvements in police training.’
Common themes that emerged from the community input sessions also included:
Change the narrative from crime-fighting to crime prevention by focusing on behavioral health and public health. Input session participants recommended that the next chief work to address the root causes of crime, in partnership with others to tackle issues such as mental illness, trauma, and substance misuse.
Prioritize de-escalation to prevent crimes and officer-involved shootings. Input session participants stressed the need for a police chief willing and able to address and resolve the Department’s use of force issues.
Seek out candidates whose understanding of, and commitment to, racial equity comes from lived experience. Meeting participants recommended that the next police chief have direct experience addressing racial equity concerns and commit to enhancing racial equity training for officers.
Increase APD’s transparency with regard to decisions that affect the community.
Engage with the community. Input session participants wanted the next chief to be a visible presence in their communities.”
A link to the quoted source and survey is here:
PUBLIC CONCERNS MIRROR THE DOJ INVESTGATION FINDINGS
On November 10, 2014, the City and the Department of Justice entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) that mandates 271 sweeping reforms of the APD. The CASA was negotiated to be completed within 4 years and after 2 years of consecutive compliance, the case was to be dismissed in November of 2020. Six years have now expired and APD has failed to fully implement the reforms and is not in compliance.
It is not at all surprising that virtually all of the concerns the public survey found as to what the public wants in its next APD Chief hit squarely on the issues identified and involved with the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation and the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement.
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 investigation was conducted jointly by the DOJ’s Washington Office Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico.
The link to the DOJ investigation 46-page report is here:
What differentiates the DOJ’s investigation of APD from the other federal investigations of police departments and consent decrees is that the other consent decrees involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and use of excessive force or deadly force against minorities. The DOJ’s finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD dealt with APD’s interactions and responses to suspects that were mentally ill and that were having psychotic episodes.
INTERIM APD CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA’S WEBINAR INTERVIEW
During his January 23 webinar interview, Interim chief Harold Medina said he has the “hindsight” to take the department forward, to get it where it needs to be and to reduce crime in Albuquerque and complete the reform effort. Medina stated his biggest priorities with the department are to continue to increase the department’s resources, adding more sworn police to the force, build up and add to the department’s investigation capacity and stop “the revolving door” when it comes to arresting and releasing criminals.
Highlights of what Interim Chief Medina had to say include:
“We know we have to increase the quality of our investigations. … The three areas that we will focus on improving is the increase in resources. … We simply need more officers. … The challenge is you have to build the capacity of our investigative units. … We are on track to have our first batch of investigators go to their specific training to through the mid-part of the year.”
Medina emphasized his years of experience with APD and what he is doing now had this to say:
“How can you change a culture if you had not lived and been a part of that culture? … I have already begun the transformation process for the Albuquerque Police Department, and I am asking for the time to complete it. … We will continue to reach out to make sure that all segments of the community have their voice heard with APD. … The success of these relationships will rest on the department being transparent with the public.” (Yes, Medina really said it, and more on this later.)
Medina added that there needs to be measures taken to boost the quality of use-of-force investigations while making sure those who break policy are held accountable and he said:
“The narrative has to change. … The focus cannot be that we are disciplining officers but rather we are protecting the integrity of all the great officers of this department.”
One very uncomfortable take away from Interim Chief Medina’s presentation is that he either read or regurgitated answers he had memorize, while the other two applicants clearly answered the questions spontaneously.
MEDINA TELLS OFFICERS APD CANNOT FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON CRIME BLAMING DOJ CONSENT DECREE
On January 30, the on-line news outlet ABQ Raw reported that APD Interim Chief Harold Medina addressed APD personnel in a 4-minute internal message. The recorded message was not for release to the general public. In the recorded message, Medina says that and APD 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.
In the video, Medina says 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 clip shows that Medina and the 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 most relevant portion of Medina’s internal statement to APD employees is as follows:
“I wish, and those of you who know me, uh, 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 commander(s) 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.”
HAROLD MEDINA’S TROUBLED PAST
Interim Chief Harold Medina has a very troubling past of 3 police officer involved shootings with reactive decision-making and failed leadership resulting in the killing of two mentally ill people having psychotic episodes.
The 3 cases reveal Medina’s actions, his failure to act and supervise, his reactive decision-making process resulting in disastrous outcomes, even death, and reflecting failed leadership. A short summation of each of the 3 shootings merit review:
1. THE 2004 SHOOTING OF DOMINIC MONTOYA
Harold Medina has the tragic distinction of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Cibola High School student in 2004 when he was an APD field officer. At the time of the shooting, Harold Medina was 30 years old and was a seven-and-a-half-year veteran of APD. According to news accounts, 14-year-old boy Dominic Montoya went to Taylor Ranch Baptist Church looking for prayer. Montoya was reported as saying he was possessed by demons and went to church for help. Some one noticed the teenager was concealing a weapon and APD was called. It turned out it was a BB gun and when APD showed up, the 14-year-old was fatally shot by police after pointing the BB gun at the officers. It was then APD Officer Harold Medina who fired 3 shots at the 14-year-old, Cibola High School Student with two hitting the juvenile in the abdomen. It was reported that the BB gun was indistinguishable from a real gun and Medina said he was in fear for his life and reacted by discharging his service revolver killing the boy.
2. THE FEBRUARY 8, 2009 SHOOTING OF ANDREW LOPEZ
On February 8, 2009, the shooting of 19-year-old Andrew Lopez by APD officer Justin Montgomery occurred. Harold Medina was “off-duty” supervisor when Lopez was killed. The reasons why Medina was off duty have not been disclosed. Medina’s assigned APD’s officers he was supposed to supervise attempted to pull over Lopez when Lopez stopped the vehicle, exited, and ran pursued by Montgomery who shot at Lopez three times with one shot causing a non-lethal bullet wound. Lopez fell to the ground and lay motionless on his back. Lopez was unarmed. The officer fired the fourth and final shot into Lopez’s chest, piercing his lung and heart and causing his death. The officer said Lopez had a gun. The truth is Lopez had no gun and none was found at the scene.
In a bench trial in state court, the judge found that the officers’ testimony about the threat they perceived from Lopez was not credible. The judge concluded that the shooting was unreasonable. The judge further found that the training provided to APD officers on use of deadly force “is not reasonable and is designed to result in the unreasonable use of deadly force.” The judge found the City principally responsible for Lopez’s death and awarded his estate approximately $4.25 million.
3. THE JANUARY 13, 2010 SHOOTING OF KENNETH ELLIS
On January 13, 2010, Kenneth Ellis, III, a 25-year-old veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was shot and killed by APD police officers. The officers suspected Ellis of vehicle theft and pulled him over in a parking lot. Ellis exited the vehicle holding a gun pointed to his head. Ellis continued to hold the gun to his head as he made several phone calls and the officers attempted to negotiate with him. After several minutes, an officer shot Ellis one time in the neck and killed him.
A 12-page transcribed interview taken on January 13, 2010 of then APD Lieutenant Harold Medina reveals his involvement in the shooting and killing of Ken Ellis. Lt. Harold Medina admits that he was at the scene, that he authorized the use of deadly force on Kenneth Ellis and he did not attempt to deescalate the confrontation. APD Lieutenant Harold Medina became “involved” by being armed with a rifle and “covering” Ellis. In his interview Medina states he was prepared to use deadly force himself. A judge in a state civil suit granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the shooting of Ellis violated the Fourth Amendment. A jury later returned a verdict finding the City and the officer who shot him liable for Ellis’ death and awarding more than $10 million in damages.
Former APD Chief Michael Geier sat on the city’s force review committee at the time of the Ellis shooting and later said that Medina should have been disciplined for his failure in leadership in dealing with Ken Ellis.
Medina was never disciplined for his conduct relating to any of the 3 high profile shootings.
COMMENTATY AND ANALYSIS
What Interim Chief Harold Medina said during his January 23 webinar interview is worth repeating:
“How can you change a culture if you had not lived and been a part of that culture? … I have already begun the transformation process for the Albuquerque Police Department, and I am asking for the time to complete it.”
You sure the hell can not change the culture with someone who helped create, was part of and who did not stop “the culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice. Frankly, Medina has had 24 years with APD and his “time” has really come and gone and he needs to go away.
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 …” he is ostensibly referring to the DOJ consent decree to change the APD “culture of aggression” found by the DOJ in 2014.
The message Medina is delivering to APD officers is that the DOJ reforms are making difficult then to fight crime.
Medina knows better. To blame the DOJ consent decree for APD’s inability to concentrate on crime alone is wrong on so many levels. Medina knows a lot of the problems with APD are directly related to the APD management and he has been a part of management for the last 3 years when he was in charge of Field Services as a Deputy Chief.
Medina’s January 29 recorded message to his department personnel is an admission that he cannot do both the jobs of criminal investigations and implementing the DOJ reforms.
With his words, Interim Chief Harold Medina admitted he was and really is still part of the problem with APD. Medina has a history of reactive decision-making and failed leadership resulting in the killing of two mentally ill people having psychotic episodes. Interim Chief Harold Medina spins the two tragedies as a positive credential to run the APD saying because of the shootings he now understands the DOJ reforms, their need and can implement them. Medina’s conduct in the two shootings is the very type of conduct that resulted in the Department of Justice investigation in the first place.
With two separate fatalities involving the mentally ill, Interim Chief Harold Medina represents the total opposite of what a large majority of survey respondents want in a police Chief. Survey respondents said it was “very important” to have a chief with “experience with reducing use of force”, “crisis management”, “protecting civil rights” and able “to tackle issues such as mental illness. ” The fatal shootings Medina was involved with show he possesses none of the desired traits and Harold Medina, as a Deputy Chief, has been part of the very management team that has shown he does not possess the desired traits with the failure to implement the DOJ reforms.
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 Department of Justice 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. The litany of cases includes 4 Cases where $21.7 Million was paid for APD’s excessive use of force and deadly force and $64 Million for 42 police officer shootings in 10 years.
Mayor Keller needs to take to heart the findings of the citizen’s survey. Any one in APD command staff who assisted, contributed or who did not stop the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice and who has resisted the reform process has no business being APD Chief or Deputy for that matter and that includes Interim Chief Harold Medina.
When running for Mayor, Keller had zero knowledge of the extent of how serious the problems that were found by the Department of Justice and the “culture of aggression.” Keller was not interested in learning about the APD “culture of aggression” in that he did not bother to attend any one of the many Federal court hearings on the APD reforms when he was running for Mayor. Keller has no background nor practical experience in law enforcement and now his inexperience is showing, as is the inexperience of the political operatives such as CAO Sarita Nair he has surrounded himself with in his office.
It is no secret at city hall that Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair is very much involved with the day to day management of APD and that Interim Chief Harold Medina have developed a strong working relationship with CAO Nair. According to city hall sources Interim Chief Harold Medina will do whatever he is told to do by CAO Nair and Mayor Tim Keller. Confidential APD command staff also reported that Deputy Chief Harold Medina made it known to them that he intended to be the next Chief of APD sooner rather than latter even if took orchestrating Chief Geier’s departure relying upon CAO Sarita Nair’s support.
Mayor Tim Keller has his eyes focused on another 4 year term or higher office unable dealing with a crisis of Keller’s own making. Keller has forced his first, handpicked appointed APD Chief to retire in order to appoint an insubordinate Harold Medina with a nefarious past who was hell bent on orchestrating Geier’s removal and taking his job as Chief. Mayor Keller is now faced with the very difficult task of finding and hiring a new APD Chief 8 months before the November 2021 election for Mayor. That may not happen because whoever is appointed by Keller likely will know they will be out of a job if Keller is not elected to another 4-year term. Keller now has an Interim Chief who wants to be made permanent and who has a nefarious past who will lead APD in the reactionary manner that will result in disastrous outcomes.
Experience with a law enforcement department both in crisis and under a DOJ consent decree must be an absolute requirement. If Mayor Tim Keller is truly committed in conducting a national search to find someone who will change the culture within APD, he should order AVTEC, Inc., the Albuquerque consulting firm he hired, to find far more than just two qualified law enforcement professionals who have the experience to manage a department in crisis. Both applicants Chief Clinton Nichols and former Deputy Commissioner John Sullivan should be considered with others, but not Harold Medina.
It is as disappointing as it gets that Mayor Tim Keller did not make it clear from the get go that Interim Chief Medina should not apply for the position full time if he wanted to serve as Interim Chief. If Mayor Tim Keller appoints Medina as permanent Chief, it would mean Keller could not care less about what the public thinks and what it wants in a Chief of Police. Then again, Keller’s inability to deal with the city’s spiking crime rates will go down as his biggest failure, even if he is elected to a second term which at this point in time seems more likely than not. APD deserves better than Harold Medina as Chief