On Monday, April 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced that he has nominated LaTesha Watson, Ph.D., as the new Superintendent of Police Reform to be confirmed by the Albuquerque City Council. She replaces Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley who was appointed to the job on March 9, 2021 but who announced his departure on December 1, 2021 after a mere 8 months on the job. If confirmed, she will lead the Albuquerque Police Department along with APD Chief Harold Medina. She will be the first African American woman to serve in a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Position overseeing APD. What she will be paid was not released by the Keller Administration.
According to the published city job description for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform it is also a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer position paying $155,001.60 to $185,016.00 annually. It is an unclassified at-will position appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the Albuquerque City Council. Mayor Tim Keller created the Superintendent of Police Reform position last year to help with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice. The Superintendent oversees all APD academy operations including cadet training and education as well as Department of Justice (DOJ) reform efforts, internal affairs and has the final say on police disciplinary matters.
The link to the Job Description here:
Watson was one of 34 candidates for the superintendent. Other applicants included APD Deputy Chief Mike Smathers and Internal Affairs Force Division Lieutenant Matthew Caplan as well as chiefs of police and other law enforcement professionals from around the state and country.
DR. LATESHA WATSON
Dr. LaTesha Watson has 25 years of policing experience who most recently served as the director of the Office of Public Safety Accountability for Sacramento having served in that position since April, 2020.
“Dr. Watson began her law enforcement career in 1994 with the Hutchins Police Department in Hutchins, Texas and worked for the Lewisville Police Department in Lewisville, Texas before joining the Arlington, Texas Police Department in 2002. She was named Deputy Chief in 2014, becoming the youngest individual to hold that position in the history of the Arlington Police Department.
In addition to her law enforcement experience, Watson has a strong academic background that includes earning a Ph.D. in Management and Organizational Leadership, a Master of Science in Criminology and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Dr. Watson is also an accomplished researcher who has studied police management, the history of policing and diversity issues in law enforcement. She emerged as Henderson’s police chief out of nearly 90 applicants screened for the position.
Dr. Watson’s stay in Henderson was brief. The city’s officials fired Dr. Watson in part for “creating distrust and division between management and unions, and being uncooperative with an independent investigator,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in May 2019.
The Nevada newspaper stated that Dr. Watson was terminated for “showing a lack of respect for many employees represented by unions” in reference to a April 2019 letter obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
In her application letter for the job, Superintendent designate LaTesha Watson said this:
“Although police organizations are unique and experience different types of problems, police leaders must identify dysfunctional elements within organizations and effectively implement change. Great leadership upholding the highest standards encompassing integrity, accountability, and trust can only be experienced with strong support.”
“In September 2020, Watson filed a federal lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination based on race and gender. She said she was “undermined, conspired against, harassed, dehumanized, exposed to centuries old bigotry and experienced back-room retaliation from a city government and its cronies.
That lawsuit is pending.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
In a news release, Mayor Keller had this to say about his appointment:
“We’ve put a lot of work into considering what reform means for our community, and how we reach important goals that allow our department to do the best job of protecting and serving the people of Albuquerque. … This means putting leaders in place who understand that there’s a balance, and who will work to break down roadblocks.”
Chief Harold Medina for his part had this to say:
“We are turning the corner on reform at APD, and I look forward to working with Dr. LaTesha Watson to ensure the changes we are making will be both lasting and flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the community.”
Upon being appointed, Watson had this to say:
“It is an honor to be afforded this opportunity to serve in the City of Albuquerque. … The APD team, Albuquerque residents, Chief Harold Medina, and I will remain steadfast in effecting positive change while ensuring transparency, integrity, accountability, and commitment.”
Links to quoted news sources are here
On December 1, 2021, after a mere 8 months on the job, Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley announced his retirement at year’s end. Once Stanly announced his retirement, Mayor Tim Keller announced he was launching a “national search” for the position. Keller in his announcement had this to say:
“[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.”
Although Mayor Tim Keller announced that a national search would be conducted to fill the position Superintendent of Police Reform, the process was not made public. The Keller Administration never released to the public the names of all the applicants nor the application process itself, including who was on the interviewing committee. It was never disclosed to the public if the city conferred with the Department of Justice or Federal Court Appointed Monitor Dr. James Ginger to get his take or input over the applicants.
Dr. Watson’s statement concerning the APD team and Medina’s pledge to “transparency, accountability, and integrity” must be viewed with some degree of skepticism and evidence that she has no idea who she is dealing with when it comes to Mayor Keller and Chief Medina for 3 reasons:
1) APD has never been in “operational compliance” with CASA reforms or mandated Use of Force Force Reporting Policy. In the November 12, 2021 Independent Monitors Report (IMR-14), the Federal Monitor reported Operational Compliance 62% after 7 years of the CASA. APD had to agree with the hiring of a External Use of Force Investigation Team (EFIT) to avoid a contempt proceeding and to deal with a backlog of 660 police use of force cases that APD unliterally decided not to investigate.
2) APD and Keller have violated City Council resolution R-15-148 in publicly reporting CASA compliance expenditures since the last quarter of FY19.
3) APD has not published an annual use of force report as required by the CASA since the end of calendar year 2019.
Further, Mayor Keller, known for never missing an opportunity for a news conference, announced the appointment of Dr. LaTesha Watson simply with a press release.
So much for transparency and full disclosure.