The Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) launched a $70,000 political ad campaign to discredit the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms saying the police reforms are preventing officers from doing their jobs and combating crime. The Police Union political ad campaign consists of billboards around the city and testimonials on TV, radio and social media from former Albuquerque Police Department officers. The public relations campaign is urging the public to tell city leaders that crime matters more than the Police reforms mandated by the settlement.
The Police Union public relations campaign includes providing an email template for people to use and contact civic leaders. The template says APD has made progress with the reforms and says we are “tired of living in a city filled with murder, theft and violence. … I’m urging you to fight for this city, stand up to the DOJ, and help us save the city we love, before it’s too late. ”
APOA Police Union President Shaun Willoughby described the need for the public relations campaign this way to media outlets:
“You can either have compliance with DOJ reforms or you can have lower crime. You can’t have both. We think it’s time that our city leaders hear from the public that crime matters more because it does. … They want to focus on the growing crime problem, instead of wasting millions of dollars on endless Department of Justice oversight. … This conversation of reform needs to come back to common sense. … Right now, the City of Albuquerque capitulates to everything the DOJ wants and that might not necessarily be the right direction for the City of Albuquerque. … You don’t need enemies when you have friends like the city attorney. … We believe that our community deserves better from this police department. … We believe our community deserves better from this consent decree process.”
The APOA is also using its FACEBOOK page to get the word out with one post saying:
“Are you tired of the growing crime problems facing the city of Albuquerque? Are you tired of break-ins, stolen cars, vandalism, theft and murder being part of everyday living in our community? Then do something! If you don’t speak up and get involved right now, things will get worse. Tell your City leaders that you care more about fighting crime then than wasting millions on endless Department of Justice oversight. Share and make your voices heard because crime matters more.”
KELLER ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS CONDEMNED BY UNION
On May 11, the Mayor Keller Administration issued a communication to all APD sworn police that said:
“The Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief of Police, Superintendent of Police Reform, City Attorney, and civilians who work at APD are striving to prove to the Court that APD officers can meet the requirements of the settlement agreement as quickly as possible. These efforts do not impair the City’s ability to “fight crime”.
Tell the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association you deserve both: lower crime rates and officers who comply with the Constitution. You can have both, and if the APOA embraces these changes, we will reach these goals sooner”
Once the City’s communication was sent out, the police union quickly took to its FACEBOOK page to publish the city communication along with a condemnation of it. Below is the FACEBOOK post:
“If you have been taking part in our text to action campaign #crimemattersmore than you may have received this response from the Mayor and his team. We want to be very clear, that NO ONE has been more supportive and helpful to the reform process than the APOA over the years, in fact we have been praised in open court multiple times. This is just another example of passing the buck and blaming others for the failures of DOJ reform on our city. Text #crimemattersmore to 52886 and tell them you are tired of excuses. Fight crime now!”
FACT CHECK ON POLICE UNION CLAIMS
Soon after the entry of the CASA on November 10, 2014, the police union intervened in the lawsuit and became a third party to the case to advocate union interest in city policy. The police union has been at the negotiating table for 6 years over the use of force and deadly force policies and has sat in the court room during all the hearings. It was the police union that was a major contributing cause for a full one-year delay in writing the new policies.
It was on September 10, 2018, at a status telephone conference call held with the Federal Judge assigned the case that Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger first told the federal judge that a group of “high-ranking APD officers” within the department were trying to thwart reform efforts.
The Federal Monitor revealed that the group of “high-ranking APD officers” were APD sergeants and lieutenants who are allowed to be in the police union. Because sergeants and lieutenants are part of the police bargaining unit they remained in their positions and could not be removed by the APD Chief. Federal Monitor Ginger referred to the group as the “counter-CASA effect.” Ginger described the group’s attitude as “certainly ambivalent” to the reform effort and the CASA.
According to the transcript of the proceeding, Dr. Ginger told the Judge:
“The ones I’m speaking of are in critical areas and that ambivalence, alone, will give rise to exactly the sort of issues that we’ve seen in the past at the training academy. … So while it’s not overt, you know, there’s nobody sabotaging computer files or that sort of thing, it’s a sort of a low-level processing, but nonetheless, it has an effect. … It’s a small group, but it’s a widespread collection of sworn personnel at sergeant’s and lieutenant’s levels with civil service protection that appear to be, based on my knowledge and experience, not completely committed to this process … It is something that is deep-seated and it’s a little harder to find a quick fix or solution to it, but I think, in the long term, by having this foundation with new leadership and a new direction from the top down, we should be able to get through this and survive it.”
The entire 53-page transcript of the conference call can be read here:
The 10th Federal Monitor’s report provided specific examples where APD, after 4 years of implementing the reforms, police union members were still resisting the reform effort:
“Some members of APD continue to resist actively APD’s reform efforts, including using deliberate counter-CASA processes. For example:
• Sergeants assessed during this reporting period were “0 for 5” in some routine aspects of CASA-required field inspections;
• 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; and
• Spin up of “new” FRB processes will require persistent and candid review, assessment, oversight and support at the field level. “
On November 2, 2020, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor said for a 4th time in his reports that the “Counter Casa” effect was interfering with APD accomplishing the implementing the CASA reforms. According to the 12th report:
“[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.
… 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. Editor’s emphasis added.
“APD’s compliance efforts have exhibited serious shortfalls during the … reporting period. These range from critical shortfalls in management and oversight … significant and deleterious failures relating to oversight and discipline; and executive-level failures regarding oversight, command and control, discipline, supervision, and training.
Many of the instances of non-compliance seen in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! The Monitor reports he sees actions that transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.” Editor’s emphasis added
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.” Editor’s emphasis added.
Most importantly, line officers [all union members] need to engage in actions as designed by policy, law, and best practice, not past customs.
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 federal court hearings on the CASA. Members of APD Forward include Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, American Civil Liberties, Bernalillo County Community Health Council, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Common Cause New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, Equality New Mexico, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, League of Women Voters of Central New, Mexico New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Street Safe New Mexico, the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a member of the advocacy group for police reforms “APD Forward” had this to say about the police unions political ad campaign:
“The only unfortunate thing is that so far the department has failed to demonstrate that it can hold officers accountable when they violate internal policies and the union bears a portion of the blame for that… . They have found ways to undermine various measures that are required under the consent decree and they have found ways to undermine accountability itself. This is just another example of that.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
One thing is for certain, the Keller Administration did itself no favors when it sent out the communication in the first place. It will not change any minds and only aggravate the problem. It only gave the union and opportunity to once again disparage the settlement agreement. The arguments outlined by the Keller Administration are better suited for a court of law with a Motion for Contempt of Court against the union.
It is downright false for the Police Union to say:
“We want to be very clear, that NO ONE has been more supportive and helpful to the reform process than the APOA over the years, in fact we have been praised in open court multiple times.”
The truth is found in all the Federal Monitor reports. The police union membership consisting of the APD Sergeants and Lieutenants have been the biggest impediments in implementing all the Court Order reforms over the last 6 years. The only real praise in open court made of the union that can be recalled has come from the union attorneys and the police union president and not from the other parties to the case.
APD has been struggling for over 6 years with trying to implement the DOJ consent decree reforms. After six years and millions spent, APD still has a long way to go to be compliant under the settlement before the case can be dismissed. The police union and rank and file have essentially done whatever they could do, and at different times, to interfere with the reform efforts.
A major mistake the union has now made is that as a party to the lawsuit it should be taking its grievances to the Federal Court, and not the “court of public opinion” and on social media. Both the union attorneys are more than capable of filing pleadings in support or opposition of the CASA, present evidence under oath to the Judge and make argument in a court of law as to how the CASA reforms should be changed.
The biggest failure made clear in Federal Court Monitor’s 12th report filed on November 2 relates to “Operational Compliance”. Operational Compliance is defined as “managements adherence and enforcement to APD policies in the day-to-day operation of APD” . Like it or not, APD Sergeants and Lieutenants are management. APD Operational compliance is where line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and upper command staff. In other words, APD “owns” and enforces its own policies and without expecting the Federal Monitor to do it for them.
APD police sergeants and lieutenants, who are management but allowed to be part of the police union, are on the front line to enforce personnel rules and regulations, standard operating procedures, approve and review work performed and assist in implementing DOJ reforms and standard operating procedures policies. They are where the “rubber meets the road” when it comes to police reforms.
The point that has been repeatedly made by the Federal Monitor is that “until the sergeants are in harness and pulling in the same direction as the chief, things won’t get done as quickly”. In other words, without the 100% support of the sergeants and lieutenants to the CASA mandated reforms, there will be little or no progress made with police reforms.
Only until APD becomes in complete compliance will APD be able to fight crime without violating people’s civil rights and thereby allow the dismissal of the DOJ consent decree. One thing for certain is that only APD management, the police union and all APD police officers can make the consent decree actually work and have the court dismiss it sooner rather than later.
The City of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice need to file a Motion for Contempt of Court, either individually or jointly, and seek sanctions against the APOA Union for intentional interference with the Court Approved Settlement Order with its political ad campaign and social media efforts to interfere with the CASA reforms.
Two sanctions sought should be the removal of all APD Sergeants and Lieutenants from the bargaining unit and dismissing the APOA Union as a Third Party to the federal lawsuit.
Otherwise, the disruptive nonsense of the union will continue.