Mayor Tim Keller Appoints Harold Medina Permanent APD Chief And Appoints Sylvester Stanley “Interim Superintendent Of Police Reform”; “The Stanley Cop Challenge”


USMC Private First-Class Gomer Pyle


Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced on Monday, March 8, that Harold Medina is the new APD Chief of Police. Medina has been serving as interim APD Chief since Mayor Keller fired APD Chief Michael Geier in September 2020. Within days after the departure of Chief Geier, the city posted and advertised the position nationally. Medina made it known immediately he would apply.

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.

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 were:

1. Joseph Sullivan
2. Clinton Nichols
3. Interim Chief Harold Medina


APD Chief Harold Medina has a very troubling past of 3 police officer involved shootings with reactive decision-making or 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:


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.


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.


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.


Along with his appointment of Harold Medina as permanent APD Chief, Mayor Keller also appointed Sylvester Stanley as “Interim Superintendent of Police Reform” in addition to the position of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). Stanley will report directly to the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. Ostensibly, APD Chief Harold Medina will not be reporting to Stanley nor Stanley to Medina.

In 1982, Sylvester Stanley began his career with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department (BCSO) where he began his career as a patrolman. Over the years, he advanced through the ranks serving as a Detective, Sergeant, and Lieutenant retiring, in 2002, with the rank of Captain. Stanley served as Division Commander in each of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department’s four divisions: Court Services, Administration, Field Services and Criminal Investigations.

Sylvester Stanley served as Police Chief for the Isleta Police Department from 2018 to 2021, and it is the fourth time he has served as a police chief in New Mexico. His first appointment, was at Isleta Pueblo in December 2002 where he served for one year. He then served in Gallup, New Mexico, from 2003 until 2007. Stanley has been a 3 time candidate for Bernalillo County Sheriff. .

According to the press announcement:

Sylvester Stanley will serve as Interim Superintendent of Police Reform and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, a new executive-level position developed to deliver candid assessments of the police department’s reform initiatives. The position is based in part on the previous Chief of Public Safety roles that have been part of city leadership in the past, but has been updated for current times.

Interim Police Reform Superintendent Stanley will directly oversee all Academy operations including cadet training, continuous education, and development of innovative curriculum. Stanley will ensure compliance with the court-approved settlement agreement requirements related to training and directly oversee all internal affairs matters, and will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The Interim Superintendent will also develop policies and practices to ensure APD has a wide range of tools to foster culture change.

Sylvester Stanley had this to say in a statement about his appointment:

“It’s an honor to continue my service to the community by taking on this new, innovative role … Bringing real reform and culture change is a mighty task. It’s no secret that the Department has been struggling to prevent and correct mistakes through training and to hold people accountable for misconduct when that training doesn’t work. But we are not going to give up on the vision we all share, to make it possible for people from all walks of life to feel safe in our city. This role will be pivotal not only for working with the DOJ, but for making sure that reform efforts will last even after the monitor is gone. In this executive-level position, I will oversee Academy operations, DOJ requirements related to training, and internal affairs matters including discipline. I have served as Chief of Police four times, and am one of only three African Americans in New Mexico who has made it to that rank. I look forward to making history with our community again as we build out this significant role.”

The full press release on the appointments is here:


Mayor Tim Keller’s appointment of Harold Medina comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone. It is also as disappointing as it gets. The Medina appointment confirms what confidential sources within city hall said in September that it was a done deal that Keller would appoint Medina and that the national search was the same sham Keller pulled when he appointed Chief Michael Geier. Keller’s sham process is first appoint who he wanted to be permanent Chief as Interim Chief first, announce and go through the motions of a national search and interview applicants to placate the public as if interested in what they had to say and then announce as Chief who you always wanted to appoint in the first place.


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.”

The appointment of Harold Medina as permanent Chief is so very wrong on so many levels. You sure the hell cannot change the culture within APD  with someone who helped create, was part of and who did not stop “the culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.

Medina has a history of reactive decision-making and failed leadership resulting in the killing of two mentally ill people having psychotic episodes, a 14 year old boy and an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD threatening to kill himself while pointing a gun to his head. APD Chief Harold Medina successfully convinced Keller and Nair the two tragedies are 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, APD  Chief Harold Medina represents the total opposite of what the city needs in a police chief.  It is  very critical to have a police chief with experience with reducing use of force, not one who has used deadly force. A a chief who has knowledge of crisis management, not one who causes a crisis. A Chief who  understands the  importance of protecting civil rights, not one who has violated civil rights, and a Chief able to tackle the issue of a police department interacting with the mentally ill, not one who has been involved with the killing of two mentally ill people.  The fatal shootings Medina was involved with show he possesses none of the desired traits. 


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.

During an election year, the DOJ mandated police reforms will be front and center as a major issue in the 2021 Mayor’s race. Keller has no background nor practical experience in law enforcement and now his inexperience is showing, as is the inexperience of political operative CAO Sarita Nair.

Sylvester Stanley should be able to bring a level of maturity and understanding of law enforcement that is currently lacking in the Mayor’s office, only if he is allowed to do it. Stanley’s biggest challenge will be dealing with a Mayor and a CAO more concerned about public relations and both who have an extensive history of interfering with APD and its management. The challenge for Sylvester Stanley will be doing his job with Keller, Nair and Medina watching and looking over his shoulder.

To be successful, Stanley needs to be given full authority to do what he feels must be done and not be rushed and told what to do as was the case with former Chief Geier. The biggest challenge will be for Sylvester Stanley to be able to say no to a Mayor, CAO and Chief who are use to getting everything they order to be done. Chief Geier was fired for not satisfying Keller’s demands and expectations and Stanley will be under bigger pressure to perform in an election year.


When running for Mayor in 2017, then State Auditor Tim 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” and the use of deadly force by APD. 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.

Mayor Tim Keller now has his eyes focused on another 4-year term with the election on November 2. Keller has fired his first, handpicked appointed APD Chief only to appoint as Chief with a nefarious past. The only thing Tim Keller appears to have learned during the last 3 years as Mayor is how much he can get away with his political appointments at the expense of public safety.

The real questions are how much has the voting public learned about Mayor Tim Keller and do they really care?

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.