On Sunday, February 4, the Albuquerque Journal published two guest opinion columns, one authored by Pete Dinelli and the other authored by west side District 1 City Councilor Louie Sanchez. Both opinion columns come to the same conclusion: APD Chief Harold Medina needs to go, either by resignation or termination.
Below are the guest opinion columns followed by the Albuquerque Journal links:
DINELLI GUEST COLUMN
Dinelli Column Headline: “Mayor Keller and Chief Medina Must Be Held Accountable For DWI Scandal”
BY PETE DINELLI, ALBUQUERQUE RESIDENT
“A bombshell blew up that rocked APD and the legal community when the FBI raided the homes of three APD officers and a DWI defense attorney allegedly involved in a bribery and conspiracy scheme spanning a decade to dismiss DWI cases. Five cops, including one lieutenant, have been implicated.
District Attorney Sam Bregman ordered 159 DWI cases dismissed because of the scandal.
The City Council has accused Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina of failed leadership. Keller and Medina have pivoted, deflected and blamed others, denying responsibility. They take credit for holding officers accountable and have accused city councilors of unethical conduct and interference by demanding information. Medina said city councilors were “out of line” demanding information.
It was appalling when Mayor Keller accused the City Council of “unethical conduct” by saying “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.
Keller and Medina have made more than a few stunning admissions. They admit that the APD bribery and conspiracy scheme went on the entire six years they have been in charge of APD, but they never detected what was going on.
Both admitted that only after they found out the FBI was investigating APD, the decision was made to initiate a city criminal and internal affairs investigation and to proclaim cooperation with the FBI. 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.
Keller’s admissions come from a person who was first elected as the white knight state auditor who stopped “waste, fraud and abuse” and held people accountable for government corruption. Medina’s admissions come from a chief who claims he has never looked the other way at police corruption. Both have looked the other way on documented corruption involving overtime pay abuses by police officers. There have been seven audits in eight years documenting the corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in police overtime.
APD’s reputation has been trashed to a major extent by the scandal. APD will be viewed by many as having another bastion of “dirty and corrupt cops” who have brought dishonor to their department and the department’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness and Respect.” The whole scandal places an ethical stain on the department that may never be removed. This is before any charges have been filed, before anyone is fired from APD and before we ever know who is responsible.
The public must demand that there be a thorough criminal investigation of the police officers involved in the crimes and the APD command staff who should have known what was going on. Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Medina must be held accountable and responsible for what has happened.
Until the mayor 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. The first step to restore APD’s reputation is the immediate termination of Chief Harold Medina.”
Pete Dinelli is a former Albuquerque City Councilor, former Chief Public Safety Officer and former Chief Deputy District Attorney and a 45 year licensed attorney. He publishes a News and Commentary blog at www.PeteDinelli.com
SANCHEZ GUEST OPINION COLUMN
Sanchez Column Headline: Lack Of Leadership Has Ruined Moral Within APD
BY LOUIE SANCHEZ, Albuquerque City Councilor
“Recent incidents involving the Albuquerque Police Department since last fall concern not just myself, but all citizens and residents of Albuquerque.
APD’s mismanagement is evidenced by a spectrum of tragedies and scandals. This past fall, a police cadet was killed in a murder-suicide following reports of an affair taking place during her training at the police academy that APD leadership was aware of: An academy class where seasoned instructors were moved because the son of a deputy chief attending the academy faced termination for untruthfulness. Instead, he weaponized the EEOC process at the advice of his father and was reinstated to the academy.
Under current leadership, APD’s Gang Unit was all but dissolved along with such critical units as the Narcotics and Vice units. Record numbers of officers have resigned or retired, leaving the department dangerously shorthanded.
It gets worse. More officer terminations followed with more officer involved shootings — the highest number in decades, if not in APD’s history. Response time for 911 calls increase with some citizens holding for hours while hundreds more sit unanswered.
The city saw the highest number of homicides in two recent years under this mayor and under his current police chief — at least 328 people were murdered on the streets of the city. At least two multi-million-dollar lawsuits are pending against the city and APD, each claiming wrongful death of family members who suffered from mental illness. Such shootings were among the very reason the DOJ came to Albuquerque.
These low-points, now a part of APD’s history, are, as Dr. James Ginger puts it, the result of poor leadership. Now a public corruption investigation by the FBI of APD officers threatens the integrity of entire department.
An immediate consequence of Chief Medina’s failures is the dismissal of over 150 DWI cases. All those offenders now skate on being held accountable for their alleged offenses.
Medina says he knew about their alleged misconduct but if that’s true, why had the DWI unit been praised by him throughout last year? Why did Chief Medina permit this to happen? Why was APD leadership caught off guard? Is it because cronyism thrives under Mayor Keller’s chief of police, or merit and performance are not valued but loyalty is?
I served 26 years with APD and never have I witnessed such failed leadership and integrity issues by any of APD chief of police. Now all APD is being painted with a broad brush of corruption and Mayor Keller and his appointed police chief are the prime examples of what you are not supposed to do as a leader.
Could it be that they are so occupied with patting themselves on the back that they were indifferent to such egregious misconduct in their own ranks? Could it be they are so consumed with spiking the football on their fictional belief that DOJ’s oversight is almost over?
Chief Medina seems to have missed the class on integrity. Lack of leadership and hypocrisy ruins morale. Now we have a city reeling from scandals and tragedies from its police department. These leadership failures are why Dr. James Ginger says he will not release APD from its mandates under the 2014 Court Approved Settlement Agreement.
These failures and tragedies reflect an institution in dire need of intervention. It’s time to recognize that failings of leadership have dire consequences for our city. We must work together to address these concerns and improve our quality of life.
We need to prevent the “Fall of Albuquerque.” We need change. It is time for Medina to resign or be replaced. Our honest, hardworking officers deserve better.”
Louie Sanchez represents District 1, Albuquerque’s Central West Side, on the Albuquerque City Council.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYIS
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. Once approved by the city council with a majority vote, the Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the mayor and can be terminated without cause.
Only the Mayor can terminate the Chief of Police and so long as a Chief of Police has the confidence and support of the mayor, the Chief remains in office. The only option the City Council has to try and remove a Chief of Police is with a motion to rescind his appointment or with a “Resolution of No confidence”. Even if a “Resolution of No Confidence” were to pass by unanimous vote, only the Mayor can fire the Chief.
It comes as absolutely no surprise that Albuquerque City Counselor Loui Sanchez is calling for the resignation of Chief Harold Medina given the fact that ever since he took office two years ago, Sanchez has established himself as one of Mayor Keller’s and Chief Medina’s main critics on the city council. The real question is how many more city councilors will do the same, and will they vote no confidence in Chief Medina to pressure Mayor Keller to fire Chief 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 on February 5 at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the 9-member city council. Sources have confirmed that on February 1, Chief Medina sent an 8-page, single space letter to the City Councilors answering their questions. Medina had the letter distributed to all APD sworn personnel.
Sources have confirmed that Chief Medina is resisting appearing before the City Council in public on February 5 to answer questions and is suggesting that he brief the City Council and answer questions in private and during an executive session of the City Council. Should Medina in fact fail to appear before them on February 5, the council should proceed with an introduction of a Resolution of No Confidence, conduct hearings and vote to demand Mayor Keller fire Medina.