On January 19, a bombshell blew up that rocked APD and the legal community when the FBI raided 3 homes of APD officers and criminal defense attorney Thomas Clear, III allegedly involved in a bribery scheme that spanned a decade to dismiss DWI cases. 5 police officers have been identified which includes one Lieutenant. Clear resigned his position as Chairman of the Public Defenders Commission. The DA’s office dismissed 152 DWI cases because of the scandal. Mayor Keller and Chief Medina did not give the city council advanced warning of the FBI raid.
During the January 22 City Council meeting, City Councilors complained that they were frustrated and concerned that they were not given advance notice of the FBI raid. City Councilors Dan Lewis, Dan Champine and Louie Sanchez accused APD Chief Harold Medina and Mayor Tim Keller of failed leadership and being responsible for the APD corruption scandal.
On January 23, Mayor Keller and Chief Medina pivoted by giving exclusive interviews to the 3 TV stations and the Albuquerque Journal denying any responsibility for the scandal proclaiming it went as far back as 12 years. Both took credit for holding police officers accountable and accused city councilors of unethical conduct and interference by demanding information. Medina said city councilors were “out of line” during the council meeting demanding information. Mayor Keller for his part said “it’s marginally unethical for them to air these concerns” and jeopardizing the investigation.
BATTLE BREWS BETWEEN CITY COUNCILORS AND MEDINA
On January 25, Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis and City Councilors Louie Sanchez and Dan Champine sent a letter to Chief Harold Medina asking questions, demanding written answers and demanding that he appear before them at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the 9-member city council.
Following is the full content of the January 25 letter to Chief Medina:
“Dear Chief Medina:
The Albuquerque Police Department has been shaken by the ongoing investigation into criminal behavior of police officers serving under your command. This could end up being the largest corruption scandal in APD’s history and will greatly undermine public confidence in the department and its leadership.
Chief, it becomes difficult to take you seriously when you take to the news to distort and question the intent of this Council. With a corruption scandal of this magnitude, we as a council need to understand what factors make it possible to trust in your continued command of our city’s police force. As elected representatives of the people of Albuquerque, we have the responsibility of asking questions that may make you uncomfortable. Your level of comfort with difficult questions does not render those questions unnecessary. If the buck does not stop with you, where does it stop?
We understand that the federal investigation is ongoing and specifics of the FBI’s investigation will and should remain confidential. At no point have we asked for those details or any information that could compromise the integrity of that investigation.
However, we have basic questions for you not directly related to the investigation. We ask that you provide written answers by 5:00 pm Thursday, February 1.
1) What is the policy regarding officers and court appearances?
2) What are permissible reasons for an officer to miss a pretrial interview, court hearings or trial settings?
3) Who may authorize an officer to miss an otherwise required pretrial interview, court hearing or trail setting?
4) What disciplinary process is there for officers who miss court appearances?
5) What is the procedure for when Department personnel are contacted by defense attorneys on a criminal case?
6) In 2023, how many times did officers fail to appear at required pretrial interviews, court hearings or trial settings in DWI cases?
7) In 2023, how many DWI cases were dismissed because officers failed to appear at required pretrial interviews, court hearings or trial settings?
8) In 2023, how many officers were disciplined for failing to appear at required pretrial interviews, court hearings or trial settings?
Additionally, we formally request that you appear at the City Council meeting on February 5, 2024, to explain the following:
- Outside of cooperating with the federal investigation, what steps are you taking as Chief to ensure this can never happen again?
- What steps are you taking to demand accountability within your chain of command that allowed this to happen?
- When will you provide a full public accounting of what failures in policy and leadership allowed this to happen?
- How can the public have faith in the Department if you remain in charge?
Chief, thank you for your cooperation. We look forward to seeing you at the next council meeting.
- Dan Lewis, City Council President
- Louie Sanchez, City Councilor, District 1
- Dan Champine, City Councilor, District 8”
The links to the news sources are here:
MEDINA SENDS LETTER TO PUBLIC DEFENDER COMMISSION DEMANDING INVESTIGATION INTO DEFENSE ATTORNEY THOMAS CLEAR
On Friday January 26, APD Chief Harold Medina sent the following letter to the Law Office of the Public Defender Commission:
Law Office of the Public Defender Commission via email to each Commissioner. individually
Re: Investigation into Thomas Clear Ill and APD DWI Officers Dear Commissioners,
I am writing to provide information regarding former LOPD Commission Chair, Thomas Clear II, and allegations regarding the LOPD management. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) received information about alleged illegal conduct by officers on the APD DWI Unit and a local criminal defense attorney. The FBI is conducting a federal investigation, and I ordered an administrative investigation into the officers who. have been implicated in this alleged scheme. As you are likely aware, the attorney who has been implicated in this alleged scheme is Mr. Clear, then-Chair of the LOPD Commission.
During the investigation, I learned that multiple line attorneys in the Albuquerque office of the LOPD were concerned regarding the conduct of Mr. Clear and reported their concerns to the LOPD management. While I cannot speak to the exact nature of these concerns and the specific individuals involved, I understand that the Albuquerque upper management of the LOPD ignored such concerns and did nothing to investigate the activities of then-Chairman Clear.
The allegations about the allege scheme are extremely disturbing, and it ought to concern all criminal justice partners. APD continues to investigate this alleged scheme and will hold accountable all involved officers. I hope that the LOPD Commission will similarly take any action necessary to cab gov investigate and hold accountable anyone who was involved in turning a blind eye. For the sake of our criminal justice system, we must work together in thoroughly investigating and holding accountable anyone who took advantage of the system.
Harold Medina, Chief of Police
Chief Public Defender Ben Bauer responded to the media and Medina’s letter by issuing the following statement:
I’ve seen the letter from APD Chief Medina. This letter is a self-serving distraction from the ongoing investigation. Chief Medina is responsible for the conduct of his officers. We are responsible to our clients, and are guided by our ethical responsibilities to them, our office and our profession.
The link to the news source is here:
In his January 26 letter to the Public Defenders Commission, Medina states that he “learned that multiple line attorneys in the Albuquerque office of the LOPD were concerned regarding the conduct of Mr. Clear.” Chief Medina makes the allegation known only after the scandal broke and after Defense Clear resigned as the Chairman of the Public Defender Commission. Medina’s January 26 letter to the Public Defenders Commission amounts to nothing more than deflection and an attempt to lay as much blame elsewhere as he can.
“PIVOT, DEFLECT AND BLAME” IS NAME OF THE GAME FOR KELLER AND MEDINA
Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina have been in full throttle “politcal spin cycle” of “pivot, deflect and blame” since the news of the scandal broke and since the Albuquerque City Council accused them of failed leadership in dealing with the scandal as they attempt to get ahead of it with public relations tactics to control the negative press coverage.
In a January 23 interview with Channel 7, Mayor Tim Keller said this in part regarding the federal investigation:
“I also don’t believe APD 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.”
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen was quick to react to Mayor Keller’s attempt to lay blame elsewhere and other agencies and said this:
“That’s an irresponsible statement coming from an elected official … Pay attention to your own agency when you’re casting shade to someone else’s agency that you have no clue what it’s about and to begin with. If it’s a federal investigation, those comments should not be made to begin with. If you have that information, that’s pertinent to an investigation and keeping the integrity of an investigation.
“It’s a tactic for deflection. I can only speak for my agency. I can’t speak for what’s going on over at APD. What I can speak for is our deputies . … Our culture doesn’t represent what is going on at APD at all. We have two separate and different cultures to begin with.”
The link to the news source is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The January 25 letter that Councilors Lewis, Sanchez and Champine sent to Chief Medina was totally appropriate and necessary. It’s a letter that should have been signed by all 9 city counselors unless they were not asked by the 3 councilors who did sent it who were the City Council President and the two City Councilors who are retired APD police officers. If the 6 other councilors declined to sign it, it would be a reflection that they do not fully understand the magnitude of the crisis nor have a full understanding or the willingness to excercise their oversight duties and responsibilities.
The Albuquerque City Council plays and extremely critical role of overseeing the Albuquerque Police Department. That role includes review and approval of APD’s annual budget and holding public hearings and giving advise and consent to the appointment of the APD Chief of Police. Simply put, the Albuquerque City Council must exert its oversight authority over the Albuquerque Police Department during a crisis like this that goes to the very credibility of the police department. City Council has every right to ask the questions and demand answers no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing Mayor Keller and Chief Medina think they are.
It was sure arrogance and deflection 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 governing body by calling out the 2 city councilors who are retired cops saying they should know better and to not ask questions of the chief on pending criminal investigations. Medina showed a disrespect for elected officials and he owes the counsel an apology.
It was “pivot, deflection and blame” when Mayor Keller accused the City Council of “unethical conduct” when he said “it’s marginally unethical for them to air these concerns” that may jeopardize the investigation. The city counsel was simply asking for information they are entitled to have in order to carry out their oversight duties and responsibilities over APD. It was Keller who was out of line and unethical with his dealings with the city council.
Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina must ultimately be held accountable and take full responsibility for failed leadership of APD in this most recent APD scandal. They both have attempted to take credit for the investigation and for taking action to hold bad cops accountable for the corruption when it was in fact the FBI investigation that forced their hand and after they both allowed the problem to fester for 6 years.
Keller and Medina have made more than a few stunning admissions. They admitted that the APD bribery and conspiracy scheme has been going on the entire 6 years they have been in charge of APD but 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.
These admissions come 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 6 years ago said he was “uniquely qualified” to be Mayor above all others when he had absolutely no experience in municipal government affairs let alone law enforcement.
Chief 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 does not mention if he ever told Keller in December 2022 no doubt believing he could cover up and deal with the problem himself. Medina said “They believe it was DWI officers, and that one had made the comment that they were making money off of DWI stops” yet Medina did not turn the matter over to Internal Affairs at the time who could have easily investigated.
BOTH KELLER AND MEDINA LOOK THE OTHER WAY
It is downright laughable when Chief Medina told one news outlet he has never looked the other way at police corruption in more than three decades he has been on the force. Keller in particular has gone out of his way to defend Medina proclaiming Medina was holding APD police officers accountable. They both simply lie. Both have an extensive history of allowing, ignoring and looking the other way when it came to overtime pay abuses as police officers were paid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in police overtime by gaming the system and being paid 2 and 3 times their annual salaries. Many of those officers were assigned to the DWI Unit when Medina was the Deputy in charge of Field Services with some of those DWI unit officers now being accused of bribery and conspiracy to dismiss DWI cases.
There have been no less than 7 audits documenting the corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in APD police overtime over the past 8 years with one audit done by none other than former State Auditor Tim Keller. Keller and Medina 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 and paid over $124,000 because of excessive overtime. Bribes taken to get DWI charges dismiss may have been considered by the guilty as a bonus of some sort by.
There is absolutely no doubt that APD’s reputation has been trashed to a major extent by 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 but that will be accomplished only if the Feds pursue the case which will likely take at least a full year before charges are bought.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Six years ago, newly elected Mayor Tim Keller hired as his first APD Chief Michael Geier who spent 30 plus years with APD. Gieir in turn recruited Harold Medina to return to APD and then appointed Medina Deputy Chief of Field Services. Medina as Deputy Chief of Field Services was in charge of the APD DWI Unit. As Deputy Chief Medina never took steps to put a stop to the DWI units documented, excessive overtime pay abuses.
When Medina got wind that Chief Geier was about to remove him for insubordination, Medina helped orchestrate Geier’s removal to become Chief with the help of then Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. Mayor Keller summoned Chief Geier to a local park and told Geier his services were no longer needed and forced him to resign calling it retirement. (Geier reported that Keller showed up in partial disguise.) Medina is known to be a micro manager and it difficult to believe nor understand that at no time did he ever get information regarding the nefarious conduct of the DWI unit.
Should APD Chief Medina choose to ignore responding to the January 25 letter and answer the questions or refuse to attend the next city council meeting as requested by the City Council President, the council should vote “no confidence” in Chief Medina and move to rescind his confirmation and demand his removal as Chief of Police by Mayor Tim Keller. Notwithstanding, it’s time for Mayor Tim Keller to invite Chief Medina to a “walk in the park” as he did with Chief Geier and ask Medina to move on.