October 31, Halloween Night, Ghostbuster’s “Slimer Shaun” Willoughby took to the Channel 7 news cast airways to make a “special announcement” that the APD police union would not be making any endorsement of any one of the 3 candidates for Mayor. Willoughby proclaimed that the police union interviewed Mayor Tim Keller, Sheriff Manny Gonzales and radio talk show host Eddy Aragon and concluded that none of the 3 were worthy of the police union endorsement.
Shaun Willoughby had this to say on camera:
“There are candidates and either City Council races or the mayor’s race that are interested in APOA endorsement. We definitely put them through the process. We have a process for that, but we’re just not in a position right now to engage in this mayor’s race.
The reality is that we have significant problems in the city of Albuquerque that are not being addressed by the current mayor. They need to be addressed no matter who the mayor is, and the direction that Albuquerque is going right now is the wrong direction. So we’ve decided not to endorse. So what we need is the city of Albuquerque to join us to join your public safety personnel and demand better because you deserve better. We know you deserve better and we want to provide better.
The city of Albuquerque has an obligation to provide its employees policies that allow them to succeed and do the job. That’s not happening. Let’s think about the future and less about thinking about election cycles because it’s going to take more than a decade to replace the 137 people that just walked out the door”.
Channel 7 failed to reach out to any one of the 3 candidates running for Mayor to get a reaction to the Union’s actions.
POLICE UNION 2017 ENDORSEMENT OF KELLER RESULTED IN “QUID PRO QUO”
Four years ago, the police union endorsed then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller for Mayor. During the entire 8 years of the previous Republican Mayor Berry Administration, the police union was at union contract impasse when Berry unilaterally suspended a pay raise negotiated by the Mayor Marty Chaves Administration because the city was face with a huge budget deficit and Berry preferred to make budget and salary cuts to avoid a tax increase. The police union got the “quid pro quo” it so desperately wanted with its endorsement of Keller. Within 5 months of taking office, the Keller Administration negotiated a new, two-year police union contract substantially raising police hourly pay.
Within 6 months of taking office, Mayor Tim Keller also went back on his pledge not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. Mayor Keller signed a gross receipts tax increase with 70% of the $55 million generated from the new tax revenues dedicated to public safety. The police union and union President Shaun Willoughby heavily lobbied the Albuquerque City Council to dedicate 70% of the new tax revenues to public safety. The net result of passage of the tax increase was that the city council increased APD’s budget by 30% and further increased officers’ pay by more than 17%.
During the past 4 years, and after being given everything they have wanted, Willoughby and the union have consistently criticized the Keller Administration. The biggest source of the criticism is the Keller Administration support of the Department of Justice reforms and the accompanying discipline for violations of standard operating procedures required for “use of force” and “deadly force”.
POLICE UNION POLLS
On October 29, a mere 4 days before the municipal election for Mayor, the police union released its yearly survey of its membership. The survey was sent to 823 officers with a mere 421 officers responding to the survey. The management positions of APD sergeants and lieutenants are police union members and no doubt participated in the survey. According to an APD spokesperson, APD has 945 sworn officers as of October 27.
Each year, the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) releases its annual push poll of its membership. Last year the union released its poll in July. In years past, the union releases its poll as the police union contract negotiations are about to begin with the city or are already in the process of negotiations. For the past two years, police union negotiations have been suspended because of the pandemic.
Review and comparison of the police union’s 2020 and 2021 poll results are in order.
2020 POLICE UNION POLL
The highlights of last year’s survey released in July, 2020 are as follows:
80% of APD officers who responded have considered a new line of work in the past couple of months and of those 84% said it was due to the “current view on policing, the increased scrutiny on officers, new reform efforts and job insecurity.”
62% of sworn police officers do not feel they are being supported by Police Chief Michael Geier.
96% of sworn police do not feel supported by the City Council.
83% of sworn police do not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller.
88% of sworn police are concerned about losing “qualified immunity”. “Qualified Immunity” is where sworn police officers are not personally held liable for anyone they injure or killed on the job. Under “qualified immunity” the city assumes full responsibility for any and all conduct, intentional or negligent, by sworn police.
68% of officers said it was “unlikely or very unlikely” that they would recommend police work as a career choice to others.
2021 POLICE UNION POLL
The 2021 poll released on October 29 reflects that not much has changed. The highlights of this year’s survey are as follows:
85% of those surveyed have considered leaving the force, up 5% from last year.
89% do not feel supported by command staff.
94% do not approve of Police Chief Harold Medina.
98% do not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller’s administration.
42% said Department of Justice reform constraints are the biggest contributor to the crime problem in the city.
24% said it was “justice system problems”, ostensibly meaning the revolving door criminal justice system.
Only 5% said lack of officers is contributing to high crime rates.
Not at all surprising APOA President Shaun Willoughby said stagnant recruiting, DOJ reform efforts and the Keller administration have brought morale to its lowest levels yet.
Willoughby had this to say:
“These are actual police officers, the men and women that are keeping this community safe at night, and this is how they feel. Let’s take it seriously, for the first time ever, and let’s try to fix it. … This departments not worried about crime. … This department’s worried about compliance and DOJ reforms and it’s really hard. … [Sworn police] feel handcuffed, they’re frustrated that the citizens are frustrated, and nobody is allowed to do police work.”
“All these politicians will tell you we’ve got to do both simultaneously. Not a realistic expectation. … [APD sworn police] do not feel like they have a recipe for success. … 85% of them are looking for other jobs in a year where 137 police officers have already left followed by a year where 81 police officers left last year. I mean we have a natural attrition rate in this police department dating back 20 years of 60. So they’ve got a serious problem on their hands and I think it starts with treating your employees with a little more respect. … I don’t know a single police officer who would recommend the Albuquerque Police Department as a place of employment.”
Willoughby in one interview said it’s time for APD to start dictating policy for the department saying they have a right to identify things that are not working and fix them. Willoughby went on to say one of those things is the “use of force policy”. He says officers are spending hours of their day being investigated by Internal Affairs for use of force when they could be out on the streets fighting crime.
Willoughby said there was no political motivation behind releasing the survey results four days before the mayoral election.
On Friday, October 29, APD issued the following statement in response to the police union poll:
“We have acknowledged and been up front about the fact that officers are not happy with the DOJ settlement agreement and the focus on discipline. At the same time, the Court-appointed monitors are coming out with a new report that once again criticizes the department for not doing enough to discipline officers. The fact is we are working with the DOJ and the Congressional delegation to push back against unreasonable demands from the monitoring team, while working toward compliance and lasting reform. I would also point out that 61% of voters in a recent survey support the job our police officers are doing. Public support is essential for our department to be effective.”
Links to quoted source material are here:
SEVEN YEARS OF POLICE UNION OBSTRUCTION TACTICS
During the past 7 years Shaun Willoughby and the police union members he represents have done everything they could 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 “ police officers.
In his 10th report, the Federal Monitor defined the “Counter-CASA effect” and the group of high ranking sworn police as follows:
“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 … 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 [mandated by the union contract] for discipline cannot be met.”
In his 12th Monitor’s Report, Dr. Ginger states:
… Many of the instances of non-compliance seen in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! The Monitor … report[s] … he sees actions that transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”
… Supervision, which includes Lieutenants and Sergeants in the union, need to leave behind its dark traits of myopia, passive resistance, and outright support for, and implementation of, counter-CASA processes.”
POLICE UNION PUBLIC RELATONS CAMPAIGN TO DISCREDIT REFORMS
On April 27, 2021, it was widely reported that 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 police officers from doing their jobs and combating 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.
APOA Police Union President Shaun Willoughby described the need for the 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.” …
A POLICE UNION CANARD
During the June 9, 2021 status conference hearing, presiding Federal Judge James Browning asked the Federal Monitor what he thought about the police union accusations that the settlement is the cause of higher crime. The federal monitor’s response was swift and he told the court:
“[The accusation is] a union canard. We’ve talked about the counter-CASA effect in Albuquerque for years and years, and it is still alive and well. This latest process from the union is just another piece of counter-CASA. The union would like us out of town, I’m sure, and remember this monitoring team – as much as we love Albuquerque – would be glad to be done with the job. But we’re not going to give passing scores unless passing scores are earned. … [if the city] will actually focus on compliance” [it could be done with the CASA in 2 to 3 years]. … We’re constantly making the same recommendations over and over and over again. Just like this time – 190-plus recommendations. It’s a get-out-of-the-CASA-free card, those 190 recommendations. What’s dragging this out, quite frankly, your honor, is a police department not focusing its resources on complying with the CASA.”
APD’S FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT MANDATED REFORMS
On May 3, 2021 the Federal Court Appointed Monitor filed with the Federal Court the 13th compliance report of APD. The report covers the time frame of August 2020 through January 2021. The report finds that APD is deteriorating further in not achieving the mandatory compliance levels.
The link to the 350 page 13th Federal Monitor’s report is here:
APD FAILS TO CONTROL “USE OF FORCE”
Quoting the 13th federal monitor’s (IMR-13) report:
… it continues to be apparent that APD has not had and currently does not have an appetite for taking serious approaches to control excessive or unwarranted uses of force during its police operations in the field. Command and control practices regarding the use of force continue to be weak. APD continues to lack the ability to consistently “call the ball” on questionable uses of force, and at times is unable to “see” obvious violations of policy or procedure related to its officers’ use of force.”
“At this point, the disciplinary system at APD routinely fails to follow its own written policy, guiding disciplinary matrices, and virtually decimates its disciplinary requirements in favor of refusals to recognize substantial policy violations, and instead, often sustaining minor related violations and ignoring more serious violations. In other cases, APD simply defies its own written guidance.
“… APD is willing to go through almost any machination to avoid disciplining officers who violate policy or supervisors who fail to note policy violations or fail to act on them in a timely manner.” …
Again, during this reporting period, we provided APD with highly detailed step-by-step recommendations regarding the use of force investigations and supervision at all levels of the department, among other critical issues. Despite this advice, APD has actually lost ground in its compliance efforts as it relates to training related to and operational implementation of the requirements of the CASA.”
This monitor’s report can be synopsized in a single sentence. Due to a catastrophic failure in training oversight this reporting period and similar failures at the supervisory and command levels of APD, the agency suffered a 9.9%-point loss in compliance elements related to the training and supervisory functions at APD and a 7.8% loss in overall compliance ….
(IMR-13, pages 2 and 3)
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Police union surveys in years past have been taken and released by the union as the police union contract negotiations are about to begin with the city. The surveys are used to gain leverage in union contract negotiations to give it the upper hand. Lest anyone forget, it was in May that the police union began a $70,000 public relations campaign to disparage the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) making the bogus argument that the CASA was the cause of the City’s high crime rate.
It’s so damn laughable that Union President Shaun Willoughby would say there was no political motivation behind releasing the union survey results 4 days before the mayoral election to the point that there is a need to just say he is lying. There was absolutely no urgency nor need to release the poll other than the November 2 election. The survey could just have been easily released after the election, but the union just had to take one more cheap shot at Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina.
Union President Shaun Willoughby takes another cheap shot literally 2 days before the November 2 election by announcing the union would not be making an endorsement and “slims” by making inflammatory and false accusations that APD is not being supported by City Hall and saying that is the reason for not making an endorsement.
PROMOTING THE BIG LIE
Police Union President Shaun Willoughby has been on a public relations “slim” campaign promoting the “big lie” that the DOJ consent decree reforms are the cause of officer shortages, low morale and high crime. He and the union perpetually complain after the City Council gives APD a $227 million dollar budget. Millions go to pay APD sworn police, including salaries, overtime pay, retirement contributions, insurance benefits and providing equipment needs such as police cars, lapel cameras and training. Simply put APD personnel are the best paid at city hall with one of the most lucrative retirements.
The police union complaints about the reforms have been going on 7 years, before the pandemic and long before the national movement of police scrutiny and accountability. The Federal Monitor has documented the reform resistance and the negligent personnel management causing the problems.
The Federal Court and the Monitor have no management authority over APD. The department’s problems are not caused by the reforms but caused by the way Keller, Medina and his 3 Deputies have implemented the reforms and union sergeant and lieutenant membership obstructing the mandated reforms.
REAL REASONS BEHIND FALSE CLAIMS
According to police officers, they are afraid to do their jobs for fear of being investigated, fired or disciplined. They claim their hands are tied. The police union for 7 years has obstructed the reforms. The police union went so far as to initiate a $70,000 political ad campaign and using Willoughby’s own words saying “You can either have compliance with DOJ reforms or you can have lower crime. You can’t have both”, discrediting the need for reforms.
When “Slimer Shaun” Willoughby says it’s time for APD to start dictating policy for the department saying they have a right to identify things that are not working with the DOJ reforms and fix them, what he really means is that it’s time for the union to start dictating policy.
What the police union feels is interfering with APD sworn from doing their jobs are the following mandated reforms:
The mandatory use of lapel cameras by APD.
APD police can no longer shoot at fleeing cars.
APD police can no longer use “choke holds” to subdue suspects.
APD police need to use less lethal force and not rely on the SWAT unit.
APD police must use de-escalating tactics.
All APD officers must be trained in crisis intervention.
APD management must now hold all subordinate police officers accountable for all levels of violations of standard operating procedures.
APD Police officers are required to intervene when they witness and are concerned about other officers use of force. “Old guard” police officers view it as a “snitch” program where officers turn on fellow officers.
Sworn police officers believing that many standard operating procedures should not be enforced as being too petty or serving no useful function.
The mandatory “paper work” associated with any degree of use of force is too cumbersome.
Mandatory notification to superiors for investigation by police officers who witness another officer’s “excessive use of force” or violations of CASA reforms.
APD Chief Medina has said “The pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction where officers do not feel supported, or that they can do their jobs effectively and safely in all situations. … We can’t simply move every officer to patrol the streets. … I don’t have the authority to defy a court order.”
No one is asking anyone to defy any court order but asking them to simply do their jobs. It’s Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Medina not supporting sworn police. They have control over APD, all personnel, discipline and how the reforms are implemented. The police union also has considerable influence and thus control over its membership, especially sergeants and lieutenants, who are management, and yet allowed to join the union, as they undercut or interfere with implementation of the reforms and discourage people from going to work for APD.
When Willoughby proclaims “I don’t know a single police officer who would recommend the Albuquerque Police Department as a place of employment” he is saying that he and the union only think about themselves and are part of the problem. Simply put, Keller and Medina have failed to manage and hire officers as the APD police union obstructs implementation of the DOJ reforms.
The Department of Justice will never leave the city and the case dismissed until APD management and the Police Union get behind the reforms to bring the department into full compliance with the consent decree.
The links related blog articles are here: