On Friday, August 21, the Albuquerque Police Department released the names of the 4 police officers that were seriously injured in the line of duty on August 19 responding to an armed robbery by the Dutch Bros. near Mountain and Juan Tabo. 3 of the officers are still hospitalized, with one in critical condition, the 4th has been treated for his injuries and released.
Two suspects are in custody related to the incident with one charged. APD Police has charged a person identified as James Ramirez, 27, of Los Angeles with three counts of aggravated battery against a police officer, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer. Ramirez has no criminal history in New Mexico but, according to court records, is a convicted felon in California served time and is on probation.
A link to a related blog article on the incident is here:
INJURED OFFICERS IDENTIFIED
All 4 of the injured officers have each been with APD for more than 10 years. They are Mario Verbeck, James Eichel Jr., Harry Gunderson, and Sean Kenny
Officer Mario Verbeck: It was Verbeck who dispatched to the call. He was shot in the neck and arm. On Friday, August 20, he remained in critical condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital. Officer Verbeck is a a 17-year veteran with the department and joined the department in2004.
Officer James Eichel Jr.: Eichel was sent to assist Verbeck on the call. He was shot in the forearm and is still hospitalized. He has been with APD since 2009.
Officer Harry Gunderson: He was struck in the eye by shrapnel. He has been with the department since 2004.
Sgt. Sean Kenny: He was shot in his bulletproof vest, sustained minor injuries and was released from the hospital. He has been with APD since 1999.
CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA REACTS
APD Chief Harold Medina said in a news release:
“We are incredibly grateful to the physicians and all the hospital staff at UNMH. … We continue to pray for the recovery of the brave officers who put their lives in harm’s way to keep the public safe.”
APD UNION PRESIDENT REACTS
Shaun Willoughby, President of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said all 4 police officers injured are senior officers and are all highly respected by all other sworn police and said:
“I would be praying that one of these guys or all of these guys were there to assist me if faced with the same situation [as the robbery victim.] … They dedicated their lives to serving this community, they are proud Albuquerque police officers. And it’s important to understand they’re not just officers, these are fathers, husbands, I’m sure they have been coaches. They’re just very, very good men, all of them.”
Willoughby then went on to state that police officers are angry about an upswing in violent crime and frustrated by understaffing, politicians and the court-ordered reform efforts. Willoughby had this to say:
“It’s officers that are hesitating to do their job because they don’t want to get in trouble … It’s the brazen acts of criminals that know that Albuquerque police officers are handcuffed … We have stepped away and de-policed this city. From the very beginning our officers are carrying a card of misdemeanors that they’re not supposed to arrest on.”
The link to the quoted news source material is here:
In an interview with KOB 4, Police Union President Shaun Willoughby said increases in deadly situations involving police, such as what happened to the 4 APD officers, is frustrating and angers his union membership. He also increased his false political rhetoric laying blame for the violent crime in the city and said:
“We’ve been telling this community that this was going to happen. … I believe that the violent crime and the uptick of violent crime is directly related to this police department being de-policed and having policies where they are not able to do their job. … We have de-policed the city of Albuquerque to the extent where officers carry around a little card with a list of misdemeanors that they can’t even arrest people on.”
Willoughby added that over the years laws passed through the legislature have prevented officers from not only doing their jobs but have led to dozens of officers quitting.
WILLOUGHBY’S FALSE CLAIMS THAT SPECIAL ORDER TOOK AWAY POLICE DISCRETION
When Willoughby claims “officers carry around a little card with a list of misdemeanors that they can’t even arrest people on” he ostensibly is referring to a memo dated May 10, 2018. It is a memo addressed to all sworn APD personnel by then APD Chief Gorden Eden issuing Department Special Order 17-53. The Special Order states that “all officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrests on non-violent misdemeanor offenses.” According to the memo, “officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrest on non-violent misdemeanor offenses when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest.”
Special Order 17-53 was then made SOP 2-80 that deals with arrests on misdemeanor cases. SOP 2-80 can be found below in the postscript. APD publishes on line all the departments Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The link is here:
The new Special Order 17-53 directive was a result of the 20-plus year McClendon Lawsuit that was settled by a federal judge. That lawsuit, filed against the city and Bernalillo County by an inmate arrested for a non-violent misdemeanor, primarily focused on the conditions within the county lockup. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the then Bernalillo County detention center had a maximum capacity of 800, but the jail was repeatedly overcrowded with as much as twice that capacity. The misdemeanor offenses affected by the special order include criminal trespass, criminal damage to property under $1,000, shoplifting under $500, shoplifting under $250, prostitution, and receiving or possessing stolen property under $100. The policy remains in place to this day.
The memo elaborates that officers may make an arrest if it is necessary, but will have to include the reasons why in an incident report. The letter states that officers have the opportunity to take offenders wanted for non-violent misdemeanor offenses to Metropolitan Court to resolve warrants or fines instead of hauling them off to jail. However, the arrested individual must have the full amount of the fine or bond in cash. Those arrested also cannot go through a bonding agency.
At the time the Special Order was issued, City and police officials pointed out that it made no changes to police policy. APD Chief Jerry Galvin in 2001 issued a similar order, and since then department policy has been to advise officers to issue citations for such crimes where appropriate, and officers have discretion in deciding when to arrest someone. According to then City Attorney Jessica Hernandez:
“If there is any part of a situation that makes an officer think an arrest is warranted, they’ll make the arrest.”
At the time the special order was issued, then Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman also issuing a statement:
“This order in no way restricts officers’ discretion to make arrests when necessary to protect the public. Citations have always been an available option for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses. This special order and video remind officers to issue citations ‘when appropriate’ and ‘when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest.’ We are still aggressively pursuing repeat offenders, and this order does not change an officer’s ability to arrest.”
APD further made it clear the order would not affect DWI arrests. The special order has enabled APD to dedicate resources to more serious felony offenses and violent crimes.
When the special order was first issued, Willoughby falsely proclaimed:
“The word ‘shall’ scares me a lot. In the past we could use our discretion when dealing with misdemeanor offenses. You’re basically telling the entire criminal element that police officers are further handcuffed. … It’s a weak policy. It’s bad for public safety and we’re all going to suffer from it. … [The special order] is the last thing Albuquerque and the community needs right now.
It was simply false and misleading for Willoughby to say that officers lost the discretion when dealing with misdemeanor offenses. The truth is and has always been APD police officers have the discretion to make arrests when they deem it necessary. For the past 4 years, the special order has enabled APD to dedicate resources to more serious felony offenses and violent crimes.
The link to quoted source material is here:
WILLOUGHBY’S PATTERN OF CONDUCT
The year 2021 has become a banner year for APD Union President Shaun Willoughby to undercut APD policy and the Court Approved Settlement Agreement by use of false and misleading statements.
In a February 11, 2021 target 7 news Willoughby had this to say:
“The whole [reform effort] system is set up to fail and the taxpayers and the people that live in this community like me and my family are the ones that are taking the brunt of [violent crime]. … Really look at this process. … It is absolutely out of control. … The entire department and the processes within it are out of control. Your officers are running out the door. Really look at every single state or agency that’s been involved in this process. … What is happening? Did it bring harmony and trust with the community? I don’t think so.”
Links to news sources quotes are here:
It was on April 27, 2021 when it was widely reported that the police union launched a $70,000 political ad campaign to discredit the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms. The ad campaign said the police reforms are preventing police officers from doing their jobs and combating crime and actually increasing crime.
The Police Union political ad campaign consisted 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 political ad campaign included 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. ”
Police Union President Shaun Willoughby described the need for the political public relations campaign this way:
“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.”
“[We are asking] for the city of Albuquerque to stand up and support Albuquerque police officers and support common sense reforms that allow our officers to succeed. … . We’re talking about the bureaucracy of police officers being taken off the street because somebody that was not used force on said “ow”. And how that impacts this community, our ability to respond to the community and this community’s ability to control crime. Your Albuquerque police officers are terrified that they will lose their job for simply doing their job and it’s not fair.”
The APOA also used 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.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The citizens of Albuquerque owe Officers Mario Verbeck, James Eichel Jr., Harry Gunderson, and Sean Kenny a tremendous thank you, gratitude and appreciation. Each one is thanked for the decades of dedicated service they have given to the city. With their actions on the day they were injured, it is clear that they embody the true meaning of APD’s motto of to “serve and protect.” Many thanks to each one of them and best wishes for speedy recoveries, safe return to their families and best wishes to their families who have also been through a lot.
APD UNION PRESIDENT GASLIGHTS TO PROMOTE BIG LIES AND POLITICAL AGENDA
United States Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Homes (December 4, 1902 – January 12, 1932), who wrote many opinions on civil liberties and American constitutional democracy, opined that freedom speech does not give anyone the right to “falsely shout fire in a crowded theater”. For the last 6 years, all APD Police Union President Shaun Willoughby has done is falsely shout fire when it comes to APD, the Court Approved Settlement Agreement reforms and standard operating procedures he opposes.
Rather than simply conveying his support and commendation to the 4 police officers who were injured and expressing support to their families, APD Police union president Shaun Willoughby just could not resist into descending into the sinister world of gaslighting to promote his “big lies” to the general public. Willoughby is reckless and insults the 4 police officers who were shot in the line of duty when he attributes the upswing in violent crime on the federal court-ordered reforms efforts when he says:
“It’s officers that are hesitating to do their job because they don’t want to get in trouble. … It’s the brazen acts of criminals that know that Albuquerque police officers are handcuffed … We have stepped away and de-policed this city.”
The police unions own attorneys have said in open court twice that the federal reform mandates have not contributed to the city’s violent crime, yet Willoughby repeatedly promotes his “big lie” in an effort to undermine the consent decree and get it dismissed.
OFFICERS DID THEIR JOBS AND DID IT HONORABLY
The 4 injured officers were indeed doing their jobs. Their heroic actions reflect they were not afraid to “get in trouble” as Willoughby suggests or implies with his news station interviews. All 4 of the officers followed constitutional policing practices as trained using deadly force to defend themselves and to take suspects into custody.
The 4 officers lapel cameras were on and what happened was recorded and the recording will likely be released very soon. Mandatory use of lapel cameras is part of the settlement.
Under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), there was a complete rewrite of APD’s use of force and use of deadly force policies. Willoughby was at the bargaining table when the use of force and deadly force policies were written. Willoughby obstructed the process of writing the policies for a year making objections and mandating changes. All of APD sworn officers have been trained on the constitutional policing practices and the new policies that Willoughby helped write.
The use of the term “de-police” by Willoughby is irresponsible. This is blatantly false given that APD has the biggest budget of all city departments with an approved budget of $222 million and includes funding for 1,100 sworn police. For decades, APD’s budget has never been cut but only increases. The term “de-police” used by Willoughby is nothing more than a “dog whistle” or a buzzword used in an effort stoke fear and anger amongst the community.
Simply put, the term “de-police” is a sinister play on words that the city has become part of the “defund the police” movement started by the Black Lives Matter movement. The “defund the police movement” has spread across the United States as a result of the killing of African American George Floyd who was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derick Chauvin who was charged and found guilty of murder and sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison.
SIX YEARS OF OBSTRUCTION
One thing is for certain, during the past 6 years Willoughby and some police union members have done everything they can to undercut the police reforms brought on by the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that found a “culture of aggression” and repeated use of deadly force and excessive use of force.
The Federal Court Appointed Monitor has labeled the union interference with the reforms as the “County Casa Effect”. The Federal monitor has defined the Counter Casa Effect as a group of “high-ranking APD officers” who are union members and hold the ranks sergeants and lieutenants and who are thwarting the settlement reform efforts. According to the Federal Monitors 10th report:
“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”.
Union President Shaun Willoughby has reached an all-time sinister low in his public relations campaign to discredit the DOJ reforms by using the tragedy of 4 of his union members being shot and essentially blaming it on the DOJ consent decree.
There have been way too many times that Willoughby has shot his mouth off proclaiming his right to freedom of speech and falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater. Willoughby needs to knock it off because he dishonors the work of the 4 police officers who were injured when he essentially says they were afraid to do their jobs for fear of being disciplined.
It is SOP 2-80 that deals with arrests on misdemeanor cases. SOP 2-80 provides in part:
2-80 ARRESTS, ARREST WARRANTS AND BOOKING PROCEDURES
2-80-1 Policy Department policy is to arrest a felony violator of laws which its officers are empowered to enforce. Officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrest on non-violent misdemeanor offenses (not to include DWIs) when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest. In all cases, officers shall follow correct legal procedures required in arresting, booking, and filing charges against such violators.
2-80-2 Rules Procedures
A. Felony Arrest Authority. …
B. Petty Misdemeanor/Misdemeanor Arrest Authority
1. Officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrest on non-violent misdemeanor offenses (not to include DWIs) when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest. Whether or not the person has a permanent address may not be the sole factor in determining to arrest the person rather than issuing a citation. If the officer issues a non-traffic citation, the officer must complete an incident report. If an arrest is necessary, the officer will include the reason in the narrative of the corresponding incident report.
2. When exigent circumstances justify the arrest.
C. Use of the Metropolitan Court Bonding Window
1. Officers will use the bonding window at Metropolitan Court located at 401 Lomas Blvd. NW to post a bond, pay a fine, or to resolve or quash a warrant in lieu of taking an arrested person to the Prisoner Transport Center (PTC) or the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) when feasible.
2. The outdoor walk-up bonding window is located on the building’s south side. The bonding window closes for a brief time at the end of each shift (currently, from 6:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.)
3. Officers can take an arrested person to the bonding window whenever they are arresting such individual for lower-level warrants, such as for traffic or petty misdemeanor charges. This allows the person to pay fines or post a bond without having to be booked into MDC.
4. The bonding window will accept all misdemeanor warrants including out-of-county warrants.
5. The bonding window does not deal with felony charges or cases.
6. The bonding window accepts cash only – credit cards, debit cards or checks are not accepted.
7. The person will be required to pay the full amount of a cash or surety bond at the bonding window. This means that the person cannot go through a bonding agency to pay ten percent (10%) of the bond at the bonding window.
8. Officers should check to see if the person has cash before taking that person to the bonding window. Officers should not wait for the person to get money from a friend, relative or acquaintance.
9. Metropolitan Court requests officers to have their agencies fax the warrant to the bonding window prior to arriving with the person.
10.Once the person completes the transaction at the bonding window, the officer may take that person back to their previous location if time or the situation permits.