On Friday, December 8, 2017, one week after Tim Keller was sworn in as Mayor the first time, he announced he was eliminating several high-ranking executive positions that former APD Chief Gordon Eden had created. APD’s executive staff historically has consisted of only 4: the APD Chief and 3 Deputy Chiefs. Among the positions eliminated by newly elected Mayor Tim Keller were the position ranks of Major and the Assistant Chief position. Keller at the time said that APD was “top-heavy,” which was straining crime-fighting efforts of APD. At the time, Keller had this to say:
“Making these changes is an immediate step towards reforming the department to support more officers in the field for community policing efforts, while staying on top of the Department of Justice improvements … With a department that is stretched so thin, there’s no reason to have a top-heavy bureaucracy.”
Fast forward to August 20, 2020. After two and a half years in office, Mayor Tim Keller created his own version of a “top-heavy executive staff bureaucracy” consisting of a Chief, First Deputy Chief, Second Deputy Chief, 3 Deputy Chiefs, an APD Chief of Staff and a Deputy Chief of Staff, doubling the size of the traditional APD Executive Staff from 4 to 8.
On December 14, 2021 it was announced that APD Chief Harold Medina promoted 3 Commanders to the rank of Deputy Chief adding 3 more Deputy Chiefs. All 3 appointed Deputy Chiefs have a combined 54 years of experience with APD and coming up through the ranks. The 3 newly appointed Deputy Chiefs are:
1. DEPUTY CHIEF JOSHUA BROWN
Joshua Brown, a commander for the Valley Area Command, was appointed Deputy Chief for the Field Services Bureau. He is replacing Donovan Olvera, who was recruited for the position when Harold Medina was named Police Chief. Deputy Chief Josh Brown graduated from APD’s 82nd Cadet Class in 2000. During his career he has served in the Field Services Bureau, the K9 Unit, and with the SWAT Team. Brown was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2014 where he supervised the Albuquerque Police Department Auto Theft Unit. In 2018 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant where he oversaw Albuquerque Police Department Property Crimes Section. Deputy Chief Brown had been serving as the Commander of the Valley Area Command, prior to being Interim Deputy Chief.
2. DEPUTY CHIEF CECILY BARKER
Deputy Chief Cecily Barker is the new Deputy Chief of the Investigative Bureau. She joined APD in 2004. Prior to receiving her promotion to Deputy Chief of the Investigative Bureau, Barker served as the Chief of Staff. Prior to her time as Chief of Staff, DC Barker was the Northwest Area Commander. While in the Field Services Bureau, Barker was a Field Training Officer, Gang Suppression Officer and Crisis Intervention Officer. In 2012, she was promoted to Sergeant at the Violent Crimes Division, working in FASTT, Missing Persons and Cold Case. In 2017, she was promoted to Lieutenant of Property Crimes/Juvenile Division and Criminalistics Division and in 2020 was promoted to Commander.
3. DEPUTY CHIEF CORI LOWE
Cori Lowe was appointed to the newly created position of Deputy Chief of Accountability and Analytics Bureau. For the previous 5 months, Lowe was working as the acting commander of the Internal Affairs Force Division. Lowe was the commander over the Compliance and Oversight Division. She is the first woman to hold a Deputy Chief Position at the department in over a decade. Deputy Chief Cori Lowe joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 2005 as an officer with the Field Services Bureau. From Field Services she then spent several years in Violent Crimes as a robbery detective then became Sergeant with Armed Robbery. Lowe also spent time as a Lieutenant with the Narcotics Task Force. In December 2017, Deputy Chief Lowe was the Lieutenant with Compliance, then promoted to Commander. She had been on temporary duty with the Internal Affairs Force Division until she was Interim Deputy Chief over the Accountability and Analytics Bureau.
APD Chief Harold Medina had this to say about the 3 promotions:
“I’m incredibly proud to entrust three new Deputy Chiefs as part of our leadership team at APD. All three have proven themselves throughout their careers. They care about the community and they are committed to the department. They have my confidence as we work to fight crime and keep Albuquerque safe.”
THE OTHER 3 DEPUTY CHIEFS
APD now has 6 Deputy Chiefs. This is the largest number in the history of the department. The 3 other deputy chiefs are Frist Deputy Chief Michael J. Smathers, Second Deputy Chief Eric Garcia, Deputy Chief John J. Griego.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Deputy Chief Arturo Gonzalez who oversaw the Investigative Bureau retired at the end of November, 2021 and Deputy Chief Donavan Olvera over Field Services retired in June, 2021.
DEPUTY CHIEF ERIC GARCIA
Deputy Chief Eric Garcia was first appointed a Deputy in December, 2017 when Mayor Keller was sworn into office for his first term . It was on June 30, 2021 that it was announced that APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia would be both the 2nd Deputy Chief and would additionally take on responsibilities of the “Deputy Superintendent of Reform” to assist Superintendent Sylvester Stanly. DC Garcia oversees the Internal Affairs Division, both Professional Standards and the Force Division. Additionally, he is in charge of crisis intervention, peer support, and behavioral sciences.
Deputy Chief Eric Garcia has been with the Albuquerque Police Department since June of 1990. He was a patrol officer from 1990-1993 then moved to the Domestic Abuse Response Team. From 1995-1998, Garcia was with the Gang Unit and was then promoted to Sergeant. In 2004, Garcia was promoted to Lieutenant working with the Field Services Bureau in what are now the Northwest and Southwest Area Commands. DC Garcia worked in Operations Review for some time then was promoted to Commander in 2007 over Property Crimes, Metro Traffic Division and the Special Investigations Division.
DEPUTY CHIEF J.J. GRIEGO
On April 9, 2019 it was announced by then APD Chief Michael Geier that APD Deputy Chief J.J. Griego was promoted as Deputy the Support Services Bureau. Griego has been with the department since 2002. Deputy Chief, J.J. Griego was the Commander of the Southeast Area Command for APD. Griego started his career at APD working in the Field Services Bureau before later joining the Criminal Investigations Bureau and the APD Academy. Prior to joining APD, Deputy Chief Griego served in the Army as a Military Police Officer. He was a police officer in San Antonio Texas for 11 years reaching the rank of Sergeant. During his 20 years in law enforcement, Deputy Chief Griego has received specialized training at the FBI National Academy, Texas A&M University Leadership Command College for Law Enforcement, IACP Leadership in Police Organizations, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development and International Crime Prevention Specialist.
DEPUTY CHIEF MICHAEL JAY SMATHERS
On April 9, 2019 it was announced by then APD Chief Michael Geier that Deputy Chief Michael Jay Smathers, who was a Police Major with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina was hired. Smathers worked for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department since 1994. After 12 years as an officer and achieving the rank of Sergeant, Smathers was promoted to Captain where he led the Criminal Investigations Bureau, commanding the Armed Robbery/Sexual Assault Units; worked in Field Services, commanding the Eastway Division; and commanded the Special Operations (SWAT) team. He was promoted to Major in 2012, where he led the Transportation Bureau and a newly created bureau encompassing the Airport Division. During his tenure as Major, he worked with The Innocence Project, promoting best practices in policing to prevent wrongful conviction; led the Special Events/Dignitary Protection team; led Traffic Safety-Crash reconstruction and DWI enforcement; Northeast Service Area Patrol; Support Services, including lab/evidence bureau; and the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
WHAT THEY WERE PAID IN 2021
At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. The City of Albuquerque updated the list for the year 2021. Following is the listed pay for the top 7 APD command staff who were all listed in the top 250 paid wage earners
1. Chief Of Police Harold Medina: $177,562
2. Frist Deputy Chief Michael J. Smathers: $149, 881
3. Second Deputy Chief Eric Garcia: $147,444
4. Deputy Chief Cecily A. Barker: $147,201
5. Deputy Chief John J. Griego: $144, 228
6. Deputy Chief Joshua M. Brown: $134,608
7. Deputy Chief Cori M. Lowe: $128,409
The fact that Deputy Chief Cori M. Lowe is being paid upwards of $20,000 less than her male counter parts should be a major red flag to the Keller Administration.
Commanders and Deputy Commanders can be paid between $114,000 and $120,000 a year as a result of overtime. The following are listed in the top 250 paid employees in 2021 with some retiring in 2021:
Commander Luke C. Languit: $120,000
Deputy Commander Richard Evans: $118,000
Commander Robert Mittleton (RETIRED): $116,843
Mizel Garcia (RETIRED): $116,830
Joseph Barke (RETIRED): $116,118
Christopher George (RETIRED): $116,793
Commander Elizabeth Armijo: $114,419
Deputy Commander Sean Waite: $114,107
The link to the top 250 wage earners can be found here:
APD STAFFING LEVELS REVEALS TOP HEAVY CHIEF’S OFFICE WITH NEW LEVEL OF “DEPUTY COMMANDERS” CREATED
During the December 16, 2021 court hearing before Federal Judge James Browning on the Federal Monitor’s 14th Compliance Report for the Court Approved Settlement Agreement, APD reported on the “rebuilding” of APD during the past 4 years by comparing APD staffing levels on December 7 2017 to the December 6, 2021 staffing levels. Following are the statistics provided to the court:
DECEMBER 7, 2017 APD STAFFING LEVELS
Full Sworn Officer Count: 836
1 APD Chief
1 Assistant Chief
1 Deputy Chief
680 Patrol Officers
Note that the APD high command that worked directly out of the Chief’s Office consisted of 6 sworn APD staff : APD Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief and 3 Majors.
DECEMBER 6, 2021 STAFFING LEVELS
Full Sworn Officer Count: 917
1 APD Chief
1 Superintendent Of Police Reform (Created 8 months ago)
1 Deputy Superintendent Of Police Reform (Recently created)
6 Deputy Chiefs (3 new Deputy potions created and added)
1 Chief of Staff
14 Deputy Commanders
731 Patrol Officers
2 Sworn CSA’s
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is the largest budget department in the city. APD’s approved general fund operating 2022 budget is upwards of $222 million, or roughly 4.5% higher than fiscal year 2021 existing levels. Ultimately, the City Council approved nearly all the APD funding the Keller Administration requested in the budget proposal submitted on April 1, 2021. Funding for 1,100 sworn positions and 592 civilian support positions for a total of 1,692 full-time positions. It also includes funding for new positions, including 11 investigators to support internal affairs and the department’s reform obligations under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement, and two communications staffers. Notwithstanding being fully funded for 1,100 full time sworn police, APD has only 917.
NEW LEVEL OF BUREAUCRACY AND PAY LEVELS CREATED
During the last 4 years, the APD high command that works directly out of the Chief’s Office went from 3 to 10 full time sworn staff. Those positions are Chief, Superintendent Of Police Reform, Deputy Superintendent Of Police Reform, 6 Deputy Chiefs, 1 Chief of Staff. Although APD abolished the ranking of Major that existed 4 years ago, which there were only 4, it has created the new position of “Deputy Commanders” which there are 16. It was under the administration of Mayor Marty Chavez that the position of Captain was abolished and the position of Commander was created. The 16 “Deputy Commander” positions creates a whole new level of bureaucracy and management between Commanders and Lieutenants that is highly questionable as to duties and responsibilities other than “assisting” commanders, perhaps as the commander’s drivers and escorts around town.
The hourly pay rate for APD Lieutenants is $40.00 an hour or $83,200 yearly. Commanders and Deputy Commanders are paid upwards of $93,000 a year in base salary and with overtime they can easily earn well over $100,000 a year and as much as $120,000 as evidenced by those listed in the top 250 wage earners for the city. Therefore, with the creation of 16 Assistant Commanders, a least $1.6 million in line item salary has been added to an already bloated APD bureaucracy.
TWO SHAM NATIONAL SEARCHS FOR CHIEF, A THIRD LIKELY FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE REFORM
On November 28, 2017, then Mayor elect Tim Keller announced the appointment of Michael Geier “Interim APD Chief”. Geier served and retired as a Chicago Police officer after 20 years, then served in APD for 20 years and retired as an APD Commander before becoming Rio Rancho’s police chief for three years.
On May 1, 2018, the Keller Administration announced that a national search was underway to select a permanent APD Chief. Immediately after the national search was announced, Geier announced he was applying to be permanent APD Chief.
In announcing the national search Mayor Keller had this to say:
“We’ve got to have a chief that understands APD and Albuquerque. … That’s a general statement because I think that can come in numerous forms. I think that’s critical – they have to have some sort of experience with respect to our city, our state and the department. They also have to have some sort of outside perspective. We know that, coming in, we didn’t want someone that’s been solely in APD. They need to know a lot about community policing. It’s our administration’s priority and they’ve got to have expertise in that area.”
With the words Keller used in announcing a national search for a new APD chief, it was apparent that Michael Geier was the clear front runner. Confidential sources also confirmed that Keller had met with Geier before his 2017 election and committed to hire Geier as APD Chief for 4 years.
On September 10, 2020, it was announced that APD Chief Michael Geier was forced out as APD Chief for “not getting the job done.” Mayor Keller blamed Geier for his failure to implement the DOJ consent decree reforms and failure to bring down the city’s violent crime rates. To add insult to injury, Mayor Tim Keller immediately appointed First Deputy Chief Harold Medina, who had been brought back to APD to serve as a Deputy under Chief Gieir. Confidential City Hall sources reported that it was Medina with the support of CAO Sarita Nair that orchestrated the firing of Geier.
From September 10, 2020 to March 9, 2021, Harold Medina served as Interim APD Chief. Mayor Tim Keller for a second time announced that a national search would occur to find a new APD Chief even though 2021 was an election year when Mayor Keller was running for a second term with the election held on November 2. Interim Chief Harold Medina immediately announced he would apply for the position.
On January 21, 2021, the City announced it had narrowed its search for a new police chief from 18 applicants to 3 finalist candidates: Clinton Nichols, the Chief of Police in Commerce City, Colorado, Joseph Sullivan who served as Deputy Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department and Interim APD Chief Harold Medina. What has not been reported by local media outlets is that Nichols and Sullivan essentially withdrew from the application process after they were interviewed when they learned that the city would not enter a written contract and that they would be “at will” employees subject to termination by a new Mayor and they could not hire their own staff.
On March 9, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller announced that Harold Medina had been selected as the chief of the Albuquerque Police Department. Keller also announced the appointment Sylvester Stanley as “Superintendent of Police Reform”, a newly created position. Stanley was placed in charge of the police academy, internal affairs including discipline and use of force review. Stanley has nearly two decades of law enforcement experience, including serving as the police chief for Isleta Police.
Mayor Keller said of the Stanley appointment at the time:
“It was simply unrealistic and a real disservice to the realities of crime and reform to think that one leader can solve all of our challenges. … It just simply takes two in this case.”
EXPECT SHAM THREE
On December 1, 2021, after eight months on the job, Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley announced his retirement at year’s end. It was in March that Stanley was appointed the newly created role of Interim Superintendent of Police Reform as well as to the position of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. He was tasked with handling discipline of officers, overseeing the academy and the Internal Affairs division and working with the Department of Justice on the reform effort.
Once Stanly announced his retirement, Mayor Tim Keller launched a “national search” for his replacement. Keller in his announcement said:
“[We are looking for] an experienced professional to lead this cutting edge position [and] who is dedicated to police reform. … We developed this innovative position to bring about a new era for our police department. … Our Superintendent of Police Reform works hand and hand with our Chief so that each leader can focus on their core duties while supporting one another for the most benefit for the department and the community.”
“Superintendent of Police Reform” was never a good fit for Sylvester Stanly in that had absolutely no background nor understanding of the DOJ consent decree reforms and zero experience in implementation constitutional policing practices. The Stanly appointment was always considered interim which was the reason 2nd Deputy Chief Eric Garcia was appointed as “Deputy Superintendent of Police Reform”.
2nd Deputy Chief Eric Garcia, in addition to being a Deputy Chief under Medina, also serves as Deputy “Superintendent of Police Reform”. Garcia survived the high command purge 4 years ago when Keller was sworn in and he was one of 3 Deputy Chiefs Keller essentially hand picked by giving his approval. After the Court Approved Settlement Agreement was approved in November, 2014 by the prior Republican Administration, Deputy Chief Eric Garcia was assigned the task of implementing the reforms and did what he could under the critical eye of Chief Gordon Eden who often would interfere.
Given the amount of pay the “Superintendent of Police Reform and Deputy Chief Administrative Office” earns, it is far more likely than not the 2nd Deputy Chief Eric Garcia will apply for the position and for a third time Mayor Keller will go through the motions of a national search only to appoint Eric Garcia to the position.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Five of the 6 Deputy Chiefs, Joshua Brown (21 years) , Cecily Barker (17 years), Cori Lowe (16 years), Eric Garcia (21 years), J.J. Griego (20 years) came up through the APD ranks and have a combined 95 years of experience with APD. When you add the additional 24 years of experience APD Chief Harold Medina has with APD, the total years of experience the 6 high command have with APD is 119 years.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Deputy Chief Smathers has been with APD for only 2 years and 8 months and for that reason his time is not included in the 119 years of combined experience referenced.
Normally, it would be a cause for great celebration to know that 119 years of law enforcement experience is in charge of running APD. But it simply cannot be when it comes to APD that is under a federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The settlement mandates 271 reforms that was the result of an 18-month Department of Justice civil rights investigation that found a pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” and a “culture of aggression” within APD. Simply put, 6 of the 7 APD Chief’s executive staff may have contributed, was aware of or did not stop the culture of aggression within APD. Now the 6 are fully in charge of the Department.
There is no doubt that APD Chief Harold Medina was and still is part of the problem with APD’s failure to implement the reforms. Medina has a nefarious past of first killing a 14-year boy banishing a BB gun in a church and years later gave the authorization use deadly force that resulted in APD’s killing of a veteran threatening suicide and having a psychotic episode. A jury verdict of $10 million was awarded in the killing of the veteran with the court finding that the veteran was only a danger to himself and not APD. What was truly amazing is that Medina actually promoted his nefarious past with officer involved shootings as making him qualified to be Chief in that he learned the lesson of the need for constitutional practices.
It is difficult to see the need for two “Superintendent Of Police Reform” positions with one position alone paid upwards of $150,000 a year and then add 6 Deputies on top of that for a total of $707,570 for the 6 positions, not to mention paying the APD Chief $177,562. Simply put, the 6 Deputies appointed by Medina and approved by Mayor Keller are nothing more than a very, very big safety net to help and support a person who has no business being APD Chief in the first place.
OUTSIDER NEEDED TO EFFECTUATE CHANGE
It was during an April 15, 2021 hearing when Federal Judge Browning, who presides over the APD Court Approved Settlement Agreement that mandates 271 reforms, asked Federal Monitor James Ginger what his thoughts were on the appointment of Chief Harold Medina as the new APD Chief. Dr. Ginger’s response was less than enthusiastic. Dr. Ginger thought then, as is now, that APD needs an “external chief” or an “outsider” and in his words someone “nationally” with experience in DOJ reforms. Ginger expressed the opinion that such an outside person was needed to “effectuate real change” within APD. Federal Monitor Ginger has no management nor control over APD Personnel. He has no authority to hire nor fire. Ginger has repeatedly emphasized that all he can do is make recommendations. Ginger made it clear that Mayor Keller and the City were free to hire whoever they want as Chief, that he could not object, but only offer his opinion that APD needs someone from the outside.
On December 16, 2021 during the all-day hearing on the 14th Federal monitor’s report, Judge Browning asked Ginger “how deep are the leadership problems at APD” and what can be done to solve those problems. Ginger’s response was far more forthcoming than it has been in the past. Dr. Ginger stated that the problems with APD is “failed leadership”. According to Ginger the only thing that is going to change things and stop what is going on at APD is removing the existing leadership. Ginger has made it very clear over the last 7 years, he does not have command and control over APD nor of its personnel. Simply put, Ginger says “It’s not my job”, yet he knows damn well what can and should be done.
Ginger told Judge Browning the leadership problems start from the top executive team and goes down through management to the rank file. Ginger testified that 80% of the issues APD is still faced with in the CASA can be dealt with by a change in leadership.
Along with his appointment of Harold Medina as permanent APD Chief, Mayor Keller appointed Sylvester Stanley as “Interim Superintendent of Police Reform” in addition to the position of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). Stanley has a lengthy and distinguished career in law enforcement, but regrettably, had absolutely zero experience in implementing DOJ reforms and constitutional policing practices such as that mandated by the CASA. It was believed by city hall observers that the Stanley appointment was nothing more than a political ploy by Mayor Keller to deflect criticism in an election year that APD has been a failure with the reforms.
After a short 8 months on the job, Stanley announced his retirement and left the city on December 31, 2021. The Keller Administration said that a national search will now occur to find a new Superintendent of Police Reform. If Keller’s history of National searches for an APD Chief is any indication, no one should hold their breath and expect he will appoint Eric Garcia.
SECOND TERM KELLER
Now that Mayor Tim Keller has been elected to a second 4-year term, there is little reason to think that things are going to get any better with APD. Things are likely to get worse with APD. Keller won a second term with a landslide vote even though he and his administration never “owned the police reforms” as Keller promised in open Court back in 2018 during a court hearing. Keller was not held accountable nor judged for his failings to implement the reforms. Sadly, Mayor Tim Keller has shown he lacks the insight, the courage nor maturity to do what is needed for change within APD. Keller also knows he has gotten away with it. In politics, it is better to look good than to be any good.
In 2017, all the directional indicators were that APD needed new leadership from the outside of the Department. Instead of doing what was needed, Mayor Keller conducted essentially a sham “nationwide search” and named APD insider Michael Geier as chief who had retired from APD after 20 years. It was his 3rd retirement from a police agency. (20 years with Chicago PD, 20 years with APD and 5 years with Rio Rancho)
It took Keller 3 years to realize that Geier was a disaster. Keller fired Geier knowing full well Geier was becoming an election campaign issue. After firing Geier, Keller immediately turned around and appointed yet another APD retread insider as interim Chief, Harold Medina. Deputy Chief Medina orchestrated Geier’s firing with CAO Sarita Nair. Keller again announced another national search for a police Chief that also turned out to be just another sham when two of the finalist essentially withdrew leaving Harold Medina.
After serving 3 years as Mayor, Tim Keller should have had wisdom and courage to recognized the need to keep an “interim chief” in place until after the election, at which time a substantive national search might have attracted candidates who might actually be qualified. What hampered applicant numbers is that Keller was running for a second term, his election was not a sure thing, and whoever became Chief could have been out of a job come election day. Only 3 finalists made it through Keller’s second national search and low and behold Harold Medina was selected after the other two finalists essentially withdrew.
APD Chief Harold Medina is part of the problem and always has been. Medina helped create, participated in and did not stop the culture of aggression within APD. What is truly amazing is that Medina actually believes he has done a good job as APD Chief as APD continues to disintegrate around him and to spiral out of control and as violent crime hits historic heights. A police union poll released in late October before the municipal election revealed that 94% of sworn police do not approve of Police Chief Harold Medina, 98% do not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller’s administration and 89% do not feel supported by command staff speaks volumes for failed leadership, yet Medina thinks he has done a good job.
It’s also likely that Mayor Tim Keller thinks he has done a good job after winning by a landslide not realizing he was elected because voters did not have much of a choice between the lesser of 3 evils.
The link to related blog articles are here: