On Monday, April 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced in a press release that he had nominated La Tesha Watson, Ph.D., as the new Superintendent of Police Reform to be confirmed by the Albuquerque City Council. The position had remained open since Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley announced his departure on December 1, 2021 after a mere 8 months on the job.
In the news release, Mayor Keller, Chief Harold Medina and Watson praised each other and the opportunities for change.
Mayor Keller had this to say about the 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 May 3, one week after the Dr. LaTesha Watson appointment was announced, the City issued a press release announcing it was not moving forward with her nomination of for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform and that the hiring process will continue. The press release announcing the withdrawal is as follows:
“City Not Moving Forward With Nominee for Superintendent of Police Reform
Hiring for Position Continues
ALBUQUERQUE – After the final round of in-person discussions with Dr. LaTesha Watson, the [Keller] administration has chosen to not to proceed with her nomination to the position of Superintendent of Reform for the Albuquerque Police Department. Watson recently concluded a site visit and a series of meetings with City and Department Executive Staff as part of her nomination for confirmation.
Watson brought alternative ideas and views about the path forward on reform, but the candidate and the administration identified key differences in our approach to the role and for continued progress in Albuquerque.
During the visit to Albuquerque, Watson put forward a proposal for restructuring the role in a manner that ultimately did not align with the position that the city is hiring for, as outlined in the job description created last year to meet the specific needs of APD. The administration determined that her alternative approach could in fact hold back recent progress made in the Department of Justice consent decree.
The city is encouraged by the significant recent reform progress outlined in the upcoming independent monitor report which is set to be released in two weeks. This is a critical moment in Albuquerque’s reform process, with the position of Superintendent playing a key role in overseeing this forward momentum.
The administration will continue the hiring process for the Superintendent of Reform. Although ultimately visions for the role differed, we appreciate her candidacy, and her impressive work on aspects of policing and accountability throughout her career.
The Superintendent of Reform was created last year by the City to bring individual accountability and leadership to reform, create differential use of force and discipline processes from APD chain of command, and add overall governance to the reform process. The position is also designed to enable the Chief of Police to better focus on crime fighting. The position was held by Sylvester Stanley until his retirement in January.”
DR. LATESHA WATSON’S UNION TROUBLES REPORTED
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. Prior to that she was the chief of the Henderson Police Department in Nevada for 16 months before she was fired following an investigation into complaints against her.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in May 2019 that city officials fired Dr. Watson in part for “creating distrust and division between management and unions, and being uncooperative with an independent investigator.” 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.
Though it is not confirmed why she was terminated by the Henderson Police Department, her termination did come after the police union accused her of giving out unfair discipline, breaking rules when it came to promotions, and being a ‘union-buster.’ Dr. Watson later sued the City of Henderson alleging she was pushed out due to racism and gender discrimination.
The link to quoted news source material is 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. Watson did not respond to media inquiries for comment about her name being withdrawn.
Links to quoted news source material are here:
JOB DESCRIPTION WORTH NOTING
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.
One paragraph of the job description for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform is worth noting:
“Recognizing what the Department of Justice has described as the inherent need for internal affairs to exercise independence and have some separation from institutional politics and pressures, the Superintendent will also directly oversee all internal affairs matters related to the Police Department. Exercising the delegated authority of the CAO, the Superintendent will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The Superintendent will ensure consistency and fairness in the application of disciplinary policies and compliance with CASA requirements related to discipline. The Superintendent will also develop policies and practices to ensure that the Police Department has a wide range of tools to foster culture change, in addition to discipline.”
The link to the full Job Description here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The words “sloppy and incompetent” come to mind to describe the nomination of and then withdrawal of LaTesha Watson, Ph.D. by Mayor Tim Keller for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform. It is “Human Resourses 101” in the appointment of high profile positions that under no circumstances should an appointment be announced until the vetting process and interview process of a selected candidate is completed and all questions are resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. That is especially true when it comes to high profile law enforcement appointments such as Chief of Police and Superintendent of Police Reform, given the fact that public safety is at issue.
NO UNION COMMENTS REPORTED
The media never reported on the police union’s reaction the Mayor Keller’s appointment of La Tesha Watson. Channel 7 and Channel 4 especially always seeks out police union comment, but not this time. Confidential sources have said many voiced strong objections to Mayor Keller over the appointment and encouraged him to withdraw the appointment.
Ever since the creation of the position of Superintendent of Police Reform was created, including the release of the job description, the APD Union has voiced objections that the Superintendent of Police Reform will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The union has said that it violates the union contract and that only the APD Chief can impose discipline. It is highly likely that police union and others voiced strong objections to the Watson appointment once the circumstances of her termination by the Henderson Police Department were reported.
NO PUBLIC INPUT
Although Mayor Tim Keller announced that a national search would be conducted to fill the position Superintendent of Police Reform, such as when he appointed Harold Medina as APD Chief, the process was never made public. There were 3 finalists for APD Chief and all 3 were interviewed on line for the public to witness, including Medina’s interview. That has not happened with the Superintendent of Police Reform.
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.
PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED AFTER APPOINTMENT ANNOUNCED
It is surprising that in the press release announcing the withdrawal of Watson it was disclosed Watson “recently concluded a site visit and a series of meetings with City and Department Executive Staff”. One would think that should have been done before her appointment was made. What is shocking is the press release said in part:
“Watson put forward a proposal for restructuring the role in a manner that ultimately did not align with the position that the city is hiring for, as outlined in the job description created last year to meet the specific needs of APD. The administration determined that her alternative approach could in fact hold back recent progress made in the Department of Justice consent decree.”
There is absolutely no specifics given as to what she was proposing with the city only saying “it did not align with the position.” There is no mention if she wanted to restructure APD high command, such as pairing down the number of 6 Deputy Chiefs to the original 3 Deputies nor what she wanted to do when it came to the police reforms of if she wanted to surround herself with her own team of managers. Simply put, it did not matter what Watson wanted to do or what she was saying in that the the Court Approved Settlement Agreement would have governed any way and she could not change it terms nor mandates.
Ostensibly, Watson did not have a complete understanding of what she was about to get herself into when it comes to the APD police reforms and the consent decree. According to her credentials, she has never worked for a police department struggling with consent decree reforms and constitutional policing practices. 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 at 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.
Dr. Watson’s original statement concerning the APD team and Medina’s pledge to “transparency, accountability, and integrity” is now very laughable given the fact that she now will not even comment on what happened with her departure before even arriving here to work. One thing is for certain is she had no idea who she was dealing with when it comes to Mayor Keller, Chief Medina and APD in general.
So much for transparency and full disclosure.
The link to a related blog article is here: