On Friday January 19, a bombshell blew up that rocked the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the legal community when it was reported by all local news outlets that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) executed search warrants and raided 3 homes of Albuquerque Police officers and the home and law office of a prominent DWI defense attorney Thomas Clear III. On the same day, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office announced it had dismissed 152 active and pending DWI criminal cases because of the federal investigation.
At the January 22 city council meeting, the APD bribery scandal was front and center as Albuquerque City Councilors expressed extreme frustration over that lack of transparency over the scandal and the failure of Mayor Tim Keller and his administration to brief them and advise them of the investigation before the FBI executed the search warrants. Several city councilors criticized the mayor’s administration and the police department with councilors going as far as to blame the entire situation on a lack of leadership from the Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina. Councilors complained that they were left totally in in the dark about the federal investigation and only learned of it through the news media reports. Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis summed it up best when he said this:
“This investigation, it does appear to show some unchecked corruption within the department. And these are allegations that are widespread of actions by Albuquerque police officers. … To be honest, it’s the leadership of Chief Medina, the leadership of the APD brass, leadership of the [Keller] administration. These are the questions that we’re going to continue to ask and continue to talk about.”
POLITICAL SPIN CYCLE
On January 23, APD Chief Harold Medina and Mayor Tim Keller made the rounds to the 3 local news stations and gave the Albuquerque Journal exclusive interviews in an obvious effort to explain the investigation the best they could and to spin away the criticism and taint of APD corruption leveled against them by the city council and the public. The full TV interviews are being provided for the reader to judge for themselves. An edited version of the Albuquerque Journal front page story “APD chief decries alleged corruption” is also provided.
CHIEF MEDINA BREAKS HIS SILENCE WITH INTERVIEWS WITH CHANNEL 13 AND Channel 4
Following is the Channel 13 news report:
It’s been called possibly the biggest corruption case in the Albuquerque Police Department history. Now the chief is responding to a federal investigation into his officers that’s led to more than 150 DWI case dismissals.
Monday night, frustrated city councilors asked why APD has been tight-lipped about the investigation. However, Chief Harold Medina says that pressure is not why he’s talking Tuesday. “This is horrible. It was a – it was a violation of trust for victims, a violation of trust for every officer who’s out there doing the right thing. And we got to make sure we get this right,” said Chief Medina.
With at least 150 DWI cases dismissed since last week, Albuquerque’s police chief says he’s heard from a number of victims and understands their concerns. “I am not okay with these individuals being, uh, let off of their charges, but it is the right thing to do, given the fact that these officers are accused of something that is just despicable,” said Chief Medina.
The chief says he’s been working with the FBI since October 2023, investigating allegations against officers in APD’s DWI unit. That was shortly after he found out the feds were already looking into similar complaints of misconduct.
KRQE News 13 learned the federal investigation surrounds accusations of officers being paid to get DWI cases dismissed. The chief can’t get that specific with the feds in charge. “This is a very complex investigation, which is going to involve a lot of parts, a lot of different moving parts within the criminal justice system. So we’re being very cautious about how we move forward. And I have to respect my partners in this,” said Chief Medina.
But Chief Medina shared that APD’s Internal Affairs handed five officers notice late Monday and said they are under investigation in connection to this scheme. Four are on paid administrative leave. One has been reassigned to a different department for now. “We’ve identified five,” he explained. “We don’t know if it’s going to grow further from there. We don’t know where it’s going to grow from there. But we’re currently at five officers.”
Not all are currently in the DWI unit. One started there in 2011 meaning this alleged misconduct may go back 13 years.
How did the chief and administrations before him miss this? The chief says he’s asking himself that same question. “But I think we’ve got to remember that they got away with it. If it was, if it was occurring, it’s something that’s occurred for over a decade. So obviously they were very good at hiding this. And, we are glad that this administration has been able to bring this to light,” said Chief Medina.
Chief Medina pointed out he views this investigation as proof the current administration is committed to reform. “I mean, we had 150 cases dismissed. It’s horrible. So yes, in a way there is a stain on APD, but I think that there is the general public who’s going to realize that leadership is holding individuals accountable. We’re not sweeping anything under the carpet, and we’re making sure that we fully investigate everything to the best of our ability,” said Chief Medina.
Since the officers believed to be involved didn’t just handle DWI cases, it’s possible other types of criminal cases could be dismissed. The chief says that will be up to the district attorney. The chief also talked about reorganizing the DWI unit to include more oversight.”
On January 23, Mayor Tim Keller issued the following statement to KRQE :
“This investigation involves a handful of long-time officers at APD, going back a decade; if true, what these individuals did is a disgrace to the badge, and erodes faith in law enforcement. APD leadership fully supports this investigation and continues to work with our partners to serve justice. Any individuals who engaged in this conduct will never work for the City again, and should be held accountable to full extent of the law. The department’s willingness to drive accountability, especially on its own, reflects how far we have come.”
The link to review the Channel 13 interview is here:
Following is the full Channel 4 news report interview with Chief Medina:
“We’re hearing from Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina for the first time since the department confirmed a handful of officers are at the center of a federal investigation.
Medina revealed facts about the timeline of the investigation and the number of officers involved so far. He also had strong words for Albuquerque city councilors on transparency.
Medina said the investigation is too important to the people of Albuquerque and the officers honestly doing their jobs every day for him to give in to political pressure. Medina said this:
“Council was out of line last night. ….They are not privy to criminal, federal investigations. It’s very disappointing. We have two former law enforcement officers on the council. And they were talking about how they didn’t get the memo that this was occurring. I’m sorry, nobody out of the fifth floor and some key people at APD knew that this investigation was occurring.”
The investigation is far from over. According to the chief, APD first got a complaint related to the department’s DWI unit in December 2022. After more than a year of teamwork with the FBI, five officers are either on leave or reassignment.
APD says a confidential source went to a deputy APD chief in December 2022 with the original allegations about the DWI unit.
“They believe it was DWI officers, and that one had made the comment that they were making money off of DWI stops,” Medina said.
After months of investigating, Medina says the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office helped move it forward.
“DA Bregman tells me that there’s some allegations that have come out against DWI officers and that the matter was turned over to the FBI,” Medina said.
APD says the department also handed over its criminal case to the FBI in late 2023, while it handled the administrative side.
“I will defend those officers doing a great job, tooth and nail, but I will ensure that these individuals involved in the scheme are held accountable,” Medina said.
Medina also confirmed some of these allegations go back as far as a decade.
Reporter Giuli Frendak: “How does that happen?”
Chief Medina: “I tried to look at this, and I tried to determine how, and I think it’s individuals. I think that they just developed such a close relationship with other members of the criminal justice system that they were able to hide things very well. And this goes to show how complex and how thoughtful the scheme was.”
Reporter Giuli Frendak: “Is this not how we lose confidence in our local police officers?”
Chief Medina: “You know the actions of few always tarnish a bunch. And right now we have five officers who have tarnished our badge. It is a sense of pride that this administration, and the current leadership was able to break open a case that we feel was happening for over a decade.”
KOB 4 asked Medina about the narrative of the story and what the officers are accused of doing – he could not comment on that today. KOB 4 will not be naming the officers at this time because there are still no charges filed.”
The link to the Channel 13 report is here:
MAYOR TIM KELLER’S JANUARY 23 KOAT TV INTERVIEW
Following is the full transcript of the January 23 interview of Mayor Tim Keller:
KOAT REPORTER: What do you have to say about the APD FBI raids?
Mayor Keller: What I am aware of so far, number one, is that this involves a handful of officers, and I think the accusations that I’m hearing about are patently a disgrace to the badge. I hope, if it’s true, these individuals never work at APD or here in Albuquerque again. But it is a limited to a handful of individuals to my understanding. APD, I also don’t believe is the only agency that’s being looked at. This has been happening for about a decade, if not longer, so this has been going on long before our team. I’m only grateful we caught it now and we’re going to stop it.
KOAT REPORTER: Do you have any confidence in your command staff?
Mayor Keller: I do. In fact, they initiated the investigation on this issue independently, before they ever knew there was a federal investigation. I think it speaks to their willingness to hold the department accountable and broadly the cost of progress has shown that, too. They’re doing the right thing in this case, but we have some bad apples, and they need to be held accountable.
KOAT REPORTER: Do you have any response to the city council meeting last night regarding the APD raid and lack of transparency that people feel, the city councilors?
Mayor Keller: I think there is an ethical issue there. We don’t want to jeopardize the investigation. The number important thing is to hold these folks accountable. In a public venue, like city council, it’s marginally unethical for them to air these concerns, because it might hamper the investigation. We would ask next time that they literally listen to the FBI. That would be very helpful if those councilors would do that.
KOAT REPORTER: The community is in shock. They feel, we all feel, we deserve answers. I know it’s still being investigated at this time, but why did it take the department [APD] months to sit on it before it came out?
Mayor Keller: Well, like any investigation, you want to get the evidence before anyone knows about it, because when people do the wrong things, they hide evidence, or they flee. We know in the state we have a challenge with like prosecution, so put together the good prosecution with all the data and the evidence, we have to essentially catch folks in the act. We have to do things, like legally, do search warrants, it takes time and so forth, so, you have to put the case together. The important thing is justice. I think we’re going to get it in this situation, but yeah, it takes a few months.
The link to the Channel 7 report is here:
ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL FRONT PAGE STORY
On January 24, the Albuquerque Journal published on its front page a banner headline story entitled “APD Chief decries alleged corruption” with the by line “FBI searched home of MADD officer of the year in DWI case probe”.
The Albuquerque Journal report has been edited and is provided in part as follows:
“Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said … that more than two years ago, someone reported overhearing a conversation between officers that hinted at corruption within the DWI unit. [Medina said this]:
“They had details, but they were wrong. … They thought it involved the bars… It turned out to be something different.”
The “something different” is a decade of alleged police corruption that came to light … when FBI agents searched the homes of at least three officers, a prominent local attorney’s office and a paralegal’s home.
Medina said he didn’t know when the FBI began looking into the case, but both agencies’ investigations collided late last year. He said that’s when they started working together to some degree.
The fallout has left four officers on paid administrative leave and one on administrative assignment as they are investigated by the FBI and APD’s Internal Affairs Division. The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office has dismissed more than 150 DWI cases related to the investigation.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2023 Officer of the Year for New Mexico, Albuquerque police officer Honorio Alba, is one of those on leave. His Edgewood home was searched by federal agents … .
Medina said … that he has never looked the other way at police corruption in more than three decades on the force. He said if the allegations against the five officers are substantiated, they will be fired.
Medina added, if true, “they don’t deserve to be cops.” [Medina is quoted as saying:
“I spent 14 years in the field on the graveyard. I saw firsthand the tragedies caused by DWI. … It disgusts me that so much of our department has moved forward… Last year was one of our best years. And it’s disappointing that a small group of individuals put themselves above everybody else in this city and has done something that is going to impact so many people in Albuquerque.”
Mayor Tim Keller said [in a statement] any officers involved in corruption will never work for the city again “and should be held accountable to full extent of the law. … If true, what these individuals did is a disgrace to the badge, and erodes faith in law enforcement.”
Medina said three of the officers being investigated were with the DWI unit and two had been with the unit in previous years. Of those two who had moved on, one was working as a field officer and another was a supervisor.
He said the DWI unit, made up of eight officers, has been temporarily disbanded and the sergeant was reassigned. Medina would not identify the officers placed on leave.
He said it is unclear if more officers or personnel were involved in the alleged corruption.
Medina said the remaining five DWI officers are still on call and have approved overtime to investigate DWI stops. He said no allegations have been placed against those five officers.
Medina said he is looking at policy changes to ensure this type of corruption cannot happen again and set a time limit on a position with the DWI unit. Another issue, Medina said, is that they weren’t being notified every time an officer didn’t show up for a hearing, often leading to a case’s dismissal.
The investigation has resulted in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office dismissing 152 misdemeanor DWI cases [thus far]. Those cases could still be refiled.
Of the 152 pending DWI cases dismissed, 136, or nearly 90%, were filed by three Albuquerque police officers, according to court records. Alba was responsible for 67 of the cases; another officer had 41; and the third was listed as the arresting officer on 28.
Court records show prosecutors dismissed the cases “in the interest of justice.”
The majority of the cases dismissed — 107 — were filed in 2023, making up 10% of APD’s DWI misdemeanor cases for the year. Eleven of the dismissed cases had been filed this year.
Medina said that “it’s very disheartening that City Council, especially two former police officers, would have an expectation that they would be privy to a federal investigation’s details… They do not have the right to know this. … We worked really hard to keep this as a confidential investigation. … We have limitations on what we could say. Let’s face it, City Council has two police officers. We think this goes back decades. Why the hell would I tell them about this investigation? They have no duty not to go tell others? And I just don’t know who’s involved. And that’s why we kept it tight-lipped at APD.”
The link to read the full unedited Journal report is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Both Mayor Keller and Chief Medina were in full fledge “politcal spin cycle” of “pivot, deflect and take credit” in their interviews as they attempted to provide far more information to the local media outlets than to the City Council. Both could just have easily told the City Council the identical information they gave to the media without jeopardizing the investigation. They both attempted to take credit for the investigation and taking action to hold people accountable for the corruption when it was in fact the federal investigation that forced their hand and after they both allowed the problem to fester.
Both failed in their in their interviews to give acceptable answers and explanations as to why there was a lack of transparency with the City Council and the public until now and their downright failure at leadership to identify the corruption during the full 6 years Keller has been Mayor.
Both admitted that the corruption at APD went on right under their noses. This coming from a Mayor who was first elected with great bravado as the white knight State Auditor who stopped “waste, fraud and abuse” and held people accountable for government corruption. This is the same candidate for Mayor who said six years ago he was “uniquely qualified” to be Mayor above all others when he had absolutely no experience in municipal government affairs let alone law enforcement.
Simply put, the Albuquerque City Council has oversight authority over the Albuquerque Police Department and they have every right to ask questions no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing Keller and Medina think they are. It was sure arrogance by Chief Medina proclaiming that the city council was “out of line” for demanding information and exercising their oversight authority. It is Medina who showed contempt and insubordination to the elected city council by calling out the two city councilors who are retired cops saying they should know better and to not ask questions on pending criminal investigations.
It was appalling that Mayor Keller would essentially accuse the City Council of “unethical conduct” when he said “it’s marginally unethical for them to air these concerns” that may jeopardize the investigation by simply asking for information they are entitled to have in order to carry out their oversight duties and responsibilities over APD.
Both made more than a few stunning admissions. They admitted that the APD bribery and conspiracy scheme has been going on the entire time they have been in office and they never detected what was going on. They admitted that only after they found out the Feds were investigating APD they decided to put things in high gear with their own investigation and to proclaim cooperation.
Medina admitted that he knew about the corruption as far back as December 2022 when APD first got a complaint related to the department’s DWI unit in December 2022, yet he waited and essentially did nothing for a full year. Medina said “They believe it was DWI officers, and that one had made the comment that they were making money off of DWI stops.”
It is downright laughable that Medina said he has never looked the other way at police corruption in more than three decades he has been on the force. Keller in particular went out of his way to defend Medina proclaiming Medina was holding his officers accountable. They both simply lied. Both have an extensive history of allowing and ignoring overtime pay abuses as police officers were paid in the hundreds of thousands in police overtime by gaming the system and being paid two and three times their annual salaries.
There have been no less than 7 audits documenting the corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in police overtime over the past 8 years with one audit done by none other than former State Auditor Tim Keller. Both have done nothing to curb the overtime pay abuse and there have been no prosecutions for time card fraud or overtime pay abuse by police officers, especially those assigned to the DWI Unit, even when found by the audits. In fact one of the APD Officers identified in the current scandal was assigned to the DWI unit and was the highest paid city hall employee in 2023 and paid over $250,000 because of excessive overtime. Bribes taken to get DWI charges dismiss may have been considered a bonus of some sort.
They both emphasize that only 5 police officers have been implicated knowing full well that the federal investigation is continuing and is likely going to reveal far more officers are involved with the corruption and perhaps result in the dismissal of even more cases.
BASTION OF “DIRTY AND CORRUPT COPS”
There is absolutely no doubt that APD’s reputation has been trashed to a major extent because of this scandal. APD will likely be viewed by many as again having just another bastion of “dirty and corrupt cops” who have brought dishonor to their department and to the department’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness and Respect”.
There is little doubt that the whole scandal places an ethical stain on the department that may never be removed. The public will demand that there is a thorough investigation of the officers involved in the crimes and the people and supervisors who should have known what was going on.
This is so even before any charges have been filed against anyone, before any one is fired from APD and before any action is brought against the police officers involved for government corruption and criminal conspiracy to dismiss cases working with a prominent criminal defense attorney. Should the criminal defense attorney be charged and convicted of the crimes, he is likely facing disbarment from the practice of law.
Throughout the APD Police Academy and most of its classroom walls as well as APD main station and substations are placards that proclaim APD’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness And Respect”. Until Mayor Tim Keller and his administration and for that matter the City Council take aggressive action to deal with this latest APD crisis, APD’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness And Respect” are meaningless words on a wall.
REASON FOR KELLER’S FULL COURT PRESS
It is very easy to explain why Mayor Tim Keller has pushed so aggressively to get out in front of this latest scandal involving APD and going so far as to disparage the Albuquerque City Council. Keller knows that this scandal is, or is likely the beginning of the ending of his politcal career as Mayor. This is one scandal that will likely be a major issue in the 2025 race for Mayor that Keller will not be able to shake free from.
Keller has already made it known to top aides he intends to run for a third term in 2025. As it stands now in 2024, Tim Keller has extremely low approval ratings with one Journal Poll showing he has a 32% approval rating and his approval rating is likely to go down even further over the next 2 years with an adverse city council and with negative publicity such as this scandal.
Keller no doubt thinks he can turn his popularity around over the next two years and like the last time believes he will have weak to no opposition. Don’t bet on it given that sources are already confirming efforts are now underway to find candidates to oppose Keller in 2025 with another poll taken and potential candidates listed and where Keller garnered 18% in that poll. Names are already beginning to surface to run against Tim Keller in 2025 and lets hope that they do run. Hope springs eternal that some one will emerge to end the nonsense and corruption of the Keller-Medina Administration
The links to a related blog articles are here: