Crime Down Slightly In NM And In ABQ; Pandemic Major Contributing Cause

On November 1, it was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued its annual “Crime in the United States Report” for 2019. The FBI collects crime data from law enforcement agencies across the country using a uniform data collection process.

Effective January 2021, the FBI is requiring law enforcement agencies to change their crime data collection from the Summary Reporting System (SRS) to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). According to the Department of Public Safety several jurisdictions in New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Aztec, Bloomfield, Hobbs, Las Cruces and Sunland Park police departments and Bernalillo, Doña Ana and San Juan County sheriff’s offices, have gone from SRS to NIBRS system.

Summary Reporting System (SRS) broke violent crime into four categories and property crime into four categories. SRS index crimes are recorded in a hierarchical fashion. Only the most serious crime is counted whenever multiple offenses are committed in a single incident. Given this “hierarchy rule,” and the fact that many crimes, especially less serious ones, go unreported, the crime index necessarily under-represents the true volume of crimes committed. Nevertheless, the index is a useful indicator of the volume and types of crimes reported to police.

The National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is an incident-based reporting system for crimes known to the police. For each crime incident coming to the attention of law enforcement, a variety of data are collected about the incident. These data include the nature and types of specific offenses in the incident, characteristics of the victim(s) and offender(s), types and value of property stolen and recovered, and characteristics of persons arrested in connection with a crime incident. Incident-based data provide an extremely large amount of information about crime. The information is also organized in complex ways, reflecting the many different aspects of a crime incident.

The NIBRS format divides incidents into “crimes against persons,” “crimes against property” and “crimes against society” and includes a total of 32 crimes, some of which are further divided into even more specific categories.


The good news is that for the first time in several years, both violent crime and property crime appeared to dip in New Mexico. The bad news is that crime rates in New Mexico remain much higher than the national average. The data is also misleading because Albuquerque’s property crime data is not included because the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) overreported burglaries. Also not included in the 2019 report is data from Bernalillo County, Doña Ana County and 8 other counties and a few other cities are not included in the 2019 FBI report.

According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, the problem with APD over reporting burglaries was a result a data compilation change regarding apartments and storage sheds. APD reported more than 80 burglaries, accounting for break-ins at each storage unit across 3 facilities. It should have counted each facility that was broken into, not each unit. APD has since corrected the data but it was not included in the data Albuquerque submitted to the FBI for its annual report.

It is unknown whether crime actually decreased from 2018 to 2019 because some jurisdictions were not reported or fully reported according to a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.


Violent crime and property crime rates decreased across the country last year. The national violent crime rate decreased 1% from 2018 to 2019 and the national property crime rate decreased 4.5%.

The national crime rates are much lower than New Mexico’s. The estimated violent crime rate in the United States is 366.7 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, less than half the New Mexico rate of violent crime.

Nationwide, the estimated property crime rate is 2,109.9 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of New Mexico’s rate.

It was in 2014 that both the violent crime and property crime rates began to increase in New Mexico in 2014. From 2014 to 2018 violent crime rates spiked 43%. From 2014 to 2017, property crime increased 11% then began to fall.

According to the FBI, violent crime began decreasing nationally three years before 2019, and property crime began decreasing 17 years prior.


Major highlights in the FBI’s Crime in the United States Report include the following:
Across New Mexico, the violent crime rate was 2.7% lower than last year. There were 832.2 crimes per 100,000 in 2019 compared to 856.6 crimes per 100,000 in 2018.

Property crime rate was 8.9% lower with 3112.7 crimes per 100,000 in 2019 compared with 3,419.7 crimes per 100,000 in 2018.

In 2019, 17,450 violent crimes were reported throughout New Mexico including murder, rape, robbery and assault.

In 2019, 65,269 property crimes were reported, including burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

According to the FBI annual report, although fewer violent crimes were reported in New Mexico in 2019 than the year before, more murder and non-negligent manslaughters were reported. Statewide, there were 14 more murders in 2019 than in 2018. Albuquerque reported 15 more murders in 2019 than in the previous year. In 2019, the city had a record high of 84 cases of murder or non-negligent manslaughter.


On Monday, September 21, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released the city’s crime statistics using the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). It is the new system the FBI will require of all police departments use in their annual reports starting in 2021. According to APD, this is the third year APD has used NIBRS and for that reason the city cannot compare pre-2018 crime statistics to 2018 statistics and later.
According to the statistics release, crime is down by 5% across all categories in the first six months of 2020 as compared with the first six months of 2019. The good news is APD reported that crime has decreased 15% since 2018. The bad news is that in some cases, the improvements this year were minuscule.

The NIBRS format divides incidents into “crimes against persons,” “crimes against property” and “crimes against society” and includes a total of 32 crimes, some of which are further divided into even more specific categories.

CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS: Under NIBRS, all violent crime combined is called “Crimes Against Persons”. The crimes include murder, deadly weapons assault and injury and rape. The decreases in “violent crime” from 2019 to 2020 was a decrease by only 21 crimes or a 0.28%. Over a two year, it decreased 4%. According to the FBI statistics released, there were 7,362 crimes against persons reported in the first six months of 2020 and there were 152 more in the second quarter than in the first.

CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY: Under NIBRS, “Crimes Against Property”, which includes arson, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny, robbery, and more, have decreased 6% from 2019 to 2020, but decreased by 19% since 2018. There were 24,052 crimes against property reported in the first half of 2020, with about 2,000 more in the first quarter than in the second.

CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY: Under NIBRS, “Crimes Against Society” include animal cruelty, drug offenses, prostitution, weapon law violations and more. Crimes against society have decreased 8% from 2019 to 2020, and 12% from 2018 to 2020. There were a total of 1,644 crimes against society reported in the first half of 2020, with 130 more in the first quarter than in the second.

According to APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:

“Rape and robbery were down, but aggravated assault was up slightly. … The one difference is Albuquerque’s homicide rate was down while most major cities [reported]increases in homicides. However, we have since seen an increase in homicides in the third quarter.”


Following is the raw data gleaned from the 2020 mid-year crime statistics:


Crimes Against Property: 24,052
Crimes Against Persons: 7,362
Crimes Against Society: 1,644


1st Quarter: 13,035
2nd Quarter: 11, 007
Mid-Year Albuquerque Police Department: 24,052


1st Quarter: 3,605
2nd Quarter: 3,57
Mid-Year Albuquerque Police Department: 7,362


1st Quarter: 887
2nd Quarter: 757
Mid-Year Albuquerque Police Department: 1,644

The link to Albuquerque’s mid-year crime statistics report is here:


New Mexico and Albuquerque residents can take very small comfort from the released statistics that reveal that overall crime in the state and the city are down slightly The pandemic certainly is a contributing reason for lower property crime rates and many other crimes. The slight reduction in crime can be easily attributed the pandemic that hit the state and the city hard in February resulting in quarantine, major event cancellations not to mention the closure of thousands of businesses closed for several months. In others words, people being home, malls and businesses being closed means opportunities for criminals were reduced, businesses could not be robbed or have shoplifters, homes could not be robbed and many cars were parked in garages reducing auto thefts.

City Audit Finds Over $400,000 Paid In Overtime To 4 Police Officers; Abolish Overtime and Longevity Pay To Police; Establish Stable Salary Structure

The City of Albuquerque’s Internal Audit Department undertook an audit to determine whether the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has a framework in place to effectively administer, manage and monitor the department’s overtime. On October 26, the Internal Audit Department released the performance audit.
According to the audits “Executive Summary”:

“In a sample that included 56 weeks of officer time tested, the audit identified 64 instances of overpayments totaling at least $4,545, resulting from officers being paid based on their scheduled hours, instead of the actual hours worked. In these instances, the hours reported by the officer to Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) were at least 30 minutes less than the hours the officer was scheduled and ultimately paid for.

Additionally, not all officers had CAD reports to support any non-training related hours paid. Specifically, in the sample tested there were 40 days where CADs were missing. Amounts paid related to this time totaled a minimum of $8,635. The Office of Internal Audit also found Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are outdated and not in line with best practices.

While APD has recently taken steps to limit overtime usage, opportunities exist to further these efforts. Specifically, officers are allowed to use paid time off to work overtime which can cause a cascading effect that increases APD’s need for more overtime. OIA compared APD’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) to those of four other similar police departments and found that unlike APD, three of the four other departments do not consider paid sick leave as time worked when computing overtime.

Lastly, the audit found an isolated instance where one APD employee inappropriately utilized the system login credentials of their supervisor, to approve their own time, which included overtime payments totaling $8,830 in fiscal year 2020.”

The link to the full audit report is here:

APD also said when officers are “on-call” they are not logged onto the CAD system and then called back to work. The audit found several instances of employees being paid based on their scheduled hours and not those hours they actually worked.

The Internal Audit report recommended officers be asked to pay back their wages if they were overpaid. It also recommended regular spot checks to see if officers are really working the hours they are reporting.

APD concurred with the recommendation of repayment if necessary. However, an APD spokeswoman said she was not aware of anyone being asked to repay anything.

Salaries account for upwards of 78% of APD’s annual budget of $211 million. According to the audit report:

“Overtime related costs constituted a large portion of total APD salaries paid for … the fiscal year 2019 … APD paid $17.9 million and in [2020] $18.3 million related overtime costs.”

Notwithstanding the excessive overtime paid, the Internal Audit Department made no accusation of fraud. According to an APD spokesperson, working 38 hours of overtime a week is not always against policy.


The release audit found that 4 APD Officers claimed over 2,000 hours of paid overtime, paid at the rate of time and a half, during the fiscal year of July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2020. The names of the 4 police officers were not released by APD.

The overtime paid average was 38 hours of overtime each 40-hour work week or 78 hours a week claimed in hours worked. During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, 2 other police officers also exceeded 2,000 hours of paid overtime. The amount paid in overtime to each of the 4 was over $100,000 for more than a total $400,000 paid.


The released audit reported that Paulette Diaz, the assistant to former APD Chief Michael Geier, used the credentials of former Chief of Staff John Ross, her supervisor, to approve her own overtime hours. She received 282 hours of overtime and was paid $8,830 in overtime over a 7-month period. An internal affairs investigation has been opened into Diaz’s overtime.

Diaz and Ross were embroiled in controversy when Diaz wrote a memo to former APD Chief Michael Geier outlining multiple allegations against Chief of Staff Ross, including that he improperly purchased electronics for his own use. An internal affairs investigation later found those allegations to be unsubstantiated.

Geier, Ross and Diaz left APD within weeks after the controversy.


The Internal Audit Department made 4 specific recommendations on ways APD could improve or correct and reduce the amount of overtime. The recommendations are:

1. Officers who were overpaid be asked to make repayments if they were overpaid. APD concurred with the recommendation of repayment if necessary, but no repayment requests have been reported.

2. Supervisors conduct “spot checks” to ensure officers are working the hours they are reporting. APD also said when officers are “on-call” they are not logged onto the CAD system and then they are called back to work.

3. APD needs to continue to update policies and procedures around the approval and monitoring of overtime.

4. The city needs to re-negotiate with the police union so that officers can not use “paid time off” as time worked in a 40 hour week and then work “overtime” in the same week to get paid time and a half.

Links to related news articles are here:


Overtime abuse by APD sworn personnel has going on for many years and has long been controversial and scrutinized. In October, an Internal Affairs Investigation concluded that the department’s former spokesman, Simon Drobik, had been paid thousands of dollars of overtime and was paid for work he did not do.

For successive years, as APD Spokesman, Drobik was routinely among the highest earners in the city. Drobik ranked No. 1 among all city employees in 2018 by being paid $192,973. In 2019, Drobik was ranked as the 7th highest wage earner in 2019. When Drobik retired in July 2020, he had already collected $106,607 for the year when his base pay rate was listed as $31.50 per hour, or $65, 520 a year according city records ( $31.50 per hour X 2,080 hours a year= $65,520).

Rather than being fired, Drobik resigned and retired.


At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year.

Starting pay for an APD Police Officer immediately out of the APD academy is $29 an hour or $60,320 yearly. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $29 paid hourly = $60,320.)

Police officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour or $62,400 yearly. (40-hour work weeks in a year X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $30 paid hourly = $62,400.)

Senior Police Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour or $65,520 yearly. (40 hours work in a week X 52 weeks in year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $31.50 = $65,520.)

The hourly pay rate for APD Sergeants is $35 an hour, or $72,800. (40-hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $35.0 paid hourly = $72,800.)

The hourly pay rate for APD Lieutenants is $40.00 an hour or $83,200. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $40.00 = $83,200.)

In 2018, the breakdown of the 250 top paid city hall employees revealed that all were paid between $100,000 to $192,937.23. In 2018, there were 140 Police Officers on the list of 250 top wage earners.

In 2019, the breakdown of the 250 top paid city hall employees showed they were paid between $107,885 to $193,666.23. In 2019 there were 160 sworn APD police in the top 250 wage earners with 70 APD patrol officers in the list of 250 top paid employees earning pay ranging from $108,167 to $188,844.

The excessive pay numbers in APD, especially to patrol officers, can be attributed directly to overtime paid to APD sworn police.

New Mexico Office State Auditor Brian Colon and Attorney General Hector Balderas have announced a joint investigation of APD’s overtime practices. The investigation is ongoing and involves a number of APD police officers.


One major change recommended in the recently release audit is that APD should try to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreement with the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association so that police officers can no longer count paid time off as hours worked which allows them to be paid the overtime pay rate at time and a half for the same week. The report highlights one case where an officer worked 20 hours of their regular 40-hour week, used 20 hours of vacation time, and then worked 42 hours overtime. The audit points out:

“This officer did not work 40 hours before being eligible to earn overtime. ”

APD Spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins in response to the recommendation to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement said the Keller Administration did not agree and had this to say:

“Right now, it’s a part of the contract we have to adhere to. Any changes would have to come from future negotiations with the APOA. … It is understood by all parties that the APOA has no interest in changing their position on this. No change is expected to occur. ”


On October 27, APD announced the major changes to the department’s overtime policy. The Keller Administration hopes the major changes will stop APD officers from abusing overtime. Under the new policy, all overtime will require approval from higher up the chain from a commander or above. The city will audit “Chiefs’ Overtime” records and increase discipline for violations.

According to an October 27 news release, the following 5 major changes to the police overtime policy will be made:

1. Almost all forms of overtime and any exception to normal practice now require a Commander or above approval. This should reduce the instances of overtime being claimed but not worked.

2. In addition, the department has implemented a compensatory time reduction plan. Compensatory time, or “comp time,” has been a source of abuse in the past. This reduction plan will minimize comp time that is paid out once the cap has been met.

3. APD has also added numerous audit functions for anyone approving overtime. To further ensure transparency, the Payroll Department will now release regular reports to help those in leadership keep track of overtime and detect any issues as a warning system.

4. The Chief’s Overtime Office additionally will audit 30 percent of all Chief’s Overtime forms to make sure dispatch records match time worked on the forms submitted for reimbursement.

5. The sanctions for every section of the policy have been significantly raised to equate the sanction for a violation of the seriousness of this issue and to ensure robust compliance.

In October, APD spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins said the changes will go into effect immediately as the formal policy is put through a review process.


Reiterating a refrain used again and again by city officials in recent months, Atkins laid the blame on former Police Chief Michael Geier who Mayor Keller forced to retire in September.

“This is another example of why we needed leadership change at APD. … The former Chief was standing in the way of meaningful change.”


Police officers earning excessive overtime is nothing new. It has been going on for years and is very common knowledge. From a personnel management standpoint, when you have a select few that are taking home the lion’s share of overtime, it causes moral problems with the rest. Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of police resources or the lack of personnel.

Links to related blog articles are here:


A complete restructuring of the existing APD 40-hour work week and hourly wage system needs to be implemented. As an alternative to paying overtime and longevity bonus, the City should do away with APD hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based strictly on steps and years of service.

A base pay salary system should be implemented for all APD sworn personnel. A base salary system with step increases for length of service should be implemented. The longevity bonus pay would be eliminated and built into the salary structure. Mandatory shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete a work load or assignments for the day, the salaried employee works it for the same salary with no overtime paid and a modification of shift times for court appearances.

APD Patrol Officers First Class who handle DWI during nighttime shifts should be required to change their shift times to daytime shifts when the arraignments and trials occur to prevent overtime pay. As an alternative to DWI arraignment, the City Attorney’s Office should explore the possibility of expanding or modifying the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office assisting to include not just traffic citations but DWI arraignments to eliminate the need for APD officers to appear at such arraignments.

Until the APD salary structure is changed, APD will always have patrol officers first class making 2, 3 and even 4 times their base salary. Emotional burnout will be the norm, not the exception endangering public safety. Until the APD salary structure is changed, you will also have more than a few employees “gaming the system”. Historically, time and time again, year after year, the temptation to be paid 2, 3, even 4 times more a year to what your base pay is by padding hours of worked is way too great. The overtime “gaming system” has got to stop.

It’s the taxpayer and other city employees who are getting hurt when APD exceeds its budget by the millions and when APD management do not give a damn about anyone else but APD. When APD exceeds its overtime pay budget, the money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is other city departments and other city employees. If Mayor Keller, APD Management and City Council do not realize that APD exceeding it overtime budget in fact causes morale issues and resentment with other city departments and employee who are not paid overtime, they are fools.

One guarantee way of stopping anyone within APD from “gaming the system” would be get rid of the old system of overtime pay and bonus pay. Sooner rather than later, the city and the APD union need to recognize that being a police officer is not a mere “trade” justifying hourly wages, but a “profession” that requires employees to put whatever time in is necessary to get a day’s work done that may arise in that day and police need to be compensated by a decent salary and not hourly wages.

Negotiations for a new APD union contract have been suspended because of the pandemic. If and when the City and the APD union return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract, the abolishment of hourly wages for APD sworn and implementation of a salary structure should be the first negotiated item for the new contract.

2020 “Orion Center” Type Of Development Foreseen In 2013 “Energize Alb” Plan; PATHETIC: City Set Aside Of $5.8 Million For Economic Development Out Of $1.1 Billion City Budget; Mayor Keller Relies On Luck For Economic Development

On Thursday, November 12, the City of Albuquerque Environmental Planning Commission approved the new site plan for the “Orion Center.” It is an aerospace and technology facility that will be built on the 122-acre plot of land located between Kirtland Air Force Base and Albuquerque International Sunport. “Group Orion”, the developer, is a subsidiary of Theia Group Inc., a Washington D.C. based, privately held aerospace company. The Theia Group is attempting to develop a network of satellites to digitally image and collect data on the physical world, providing solutions in areas from logistics to biology.

The mass area acreage was originally where the North-South airport runway was located. The land has now been designated for industrial development by the city. In 2017 after the runway was removed, the City named the acreage as the “Aviation Center for Excellence”. The city began to offer the vacant land area for commercial and office developers . According to Nyika Allen, Albuquerque’s Director of Aviation, the city began working with “Group Orion” in late 2018.


According to city officials, the city will seek to secure permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and complete a lease agreement with “The Group Orion” for the property. Group Orion is seeking to build a “campus” like facility that will include a 2 million square foot manufacturing center, an eight-story office and laboratory building, a new food hall and an extended-stay hotel. The campus will be named the Orion Center. Other long-term developments and expansion is envisioned. The campus as originally envisioned is to house 1,000 jobs once it opens. The plans submitted to the City on behalf of Group Orion includes a 2,500 jobs expansion plan.

The campus will have a number of separate buildings, spread out on both sides of Girard Boulevard, south of Gibson Boulevard. The square footage size of the campus is estimated to be 4.1 million square feet spread out across a total of 6 buildings to be built. The focal point of the campus will be an assembly building consisting of a 2 million square-foot, single-story building that will serve as the company’s main manufacturing and testing center.

Plans for the campus also include an 8-story building that will include laboratories, offices and additional assembly space. Plans on the western side of the campus call for an “extended stay” hotel to house new hires and other guests, a food hall for employees and an 8 story parking garage. A skybridge over Girard to help employees cross the street safely is also being proposed.

Group Orion has hired local engineers and has paid the city $125,000 as a retainer to hold the land. If the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves the Center, then construction of the Orion Center could start in spring 2021 with the projected opening of the campus being in 2023.

The Group Orion has not requested any economic development incentives from the Local Economic Development Act funds.


During the November 12th press conference announcing the development, Albuquerque Economic Development Director Synthia Jaramillo said the Orion Project represents a real opportunity to attract development from the commercial space industry. According to Jaramillo:

“The global space economy is projected to be worth $3 trillion by 2045.”

Jaramillo cited Albuquerque’s “engineering-savvy” workforce, low property tax rates, which are some of the lowest in the country, and tax deductions that target the aviation and aerospace industries. In addition, the city boasts “large swaths of vacant land, unrestricted air space and low population density.”

James Reid Gorman, Vice President of Administration for Theia, said Albuquerque was appealing to the company because of its “pipeline of engineering talent” from the University of New Mexico Engineering College. One goal is for the company to partner with all New Mexico universities to attract graduates and he said “It’s going to be a big part of our strategy in recruiting.”

Links to news coverage sources are here:


According to the 2020-2021 enacted City Budget:

“The Economic Development Department provides services intended to bring long term economic vitality to the City. Included in the department are the economic development division, the film and music offices, the international trade division, the management of contracts for tourism, the Albuquerque Convention Center and the program for economic development investments.”

The mission statement of the City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department states its purpose is to “develop a more diversified and vital economy through the expansion and retention of businesses; develop appropriate industry clusters and recruit target industries; and assist new business start-ups and promote the film and music industries.” According to its mission statement, the department supports the tourism and hospitality industries through collaboration and oversight of the City’s contractors. The department also fosters international trade efforts and increased international business opportunities for Albuquerque companies.”

On Monday, October 19, the Albuquerque City Council enacted the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget on a unanimous vote with little or no debate. The newly enacted budget totals $1.1 Billion dollars for second year in a row and for that reason is considered a zero-growth budget. The fiscal year began on July 1 and will end June 30, 2021.

Included in the $1.1 Billion dollar budget is funding for the City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department. The City’s Economic Development Department employs 12 full time employees. The approved adjusted proposed FY/21 General Fund budget of $5.8 million, a decrease of 4.0% or $237 thousand below the FY/20 original budget. The approved budget includes funding for the following:

Convention Center Funding: $ 2,202,000
Economic Development: $1,943,000
Econ Development Investment: $474,000
International Trade Program: $198,000

The balance of the $5.8 million is primarily for salaries


It was on July 20, 2018, after a near full 8 months in office, Mayor Tim Keller unveiled his long anticipated economic development strategy for the city.

The Keller Economic Development plan has six main areas:

A. INCREMENT OF ONE: supporting homegrown entrepreneurship and “game-changer” business already in the community.

B. SMART RECRUITMENT: recruiting business in a strategic way. Recruitment outside of the state will focus on businesses that align with the city’s priorities.

C. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: capitalizing on “unique placement” along two interstates with an international airport and foreign trade zone. Keller cited the Railyards as an example of the “Placemaking” initiative. In 2007, the city purchased the Railyards for $8.5 million and it is now being used for weekend markets and other events.

D. CREATIVE ECONOMY & FILM: emphasizing culture, cuisine, art music and film industries as key to economic development. The Keller Administration wants to establish a code of conduct for film productions here.

E. INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: The city will continue to market itself to businesses internationally, targeting Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany and Japan, and is exploring how to bring a direct flight to Guadalajara, Mexico, to the Albuquerque International Sunport.

F. CITY BUYING LOCAL: Directing more government purchases to local businesses. City departments will be required to seek out local vendors with vendor registrations made available to all who want to register to do business with the city.

When Keller ran for Mayor, he proclaimed he would bring in “bold ideas” such as individualized “tax increment districts” to allow small business development. When Mayor Keller announced his economic development plan, he scaled down his comments about what could be done and said there is “no silver bullet” to bring jobs to Albuquerque. When announced, Keller’s economic development plan was met with more than a few snickers and considered very lackluster, totally uninspiring by many within the business and development community. The plan was viewed as nothing more than “the same old same old” from the previous Republican administration that brought the city the disaster and failed ART Bus project.


It was in 2019 that the film industry began to seriously emerge to be one of the biggest hopes for Albuquerque and New Mexico to diversify both the city and states economies. The unmistakable evidence was the immense investment in the city and state by NBC Universal and the Netflix purchase of Albuquerque studios as the site of a new production hub. Both announced NBC and Netflix announced opening film production facilities in Albuquerque.


On June 14, NBC Universal announce it would open a studio in Albuquerque as part of a 10-year venture with Garcia Realty and Development. The media giant took over and renovated and created sound stages at a now vacant industrial building south of I-40 on Commercial Street, north of downtown in the vicinity of historic Martinez town. The media giant is expected to provide more than 330 full-time jobs year-round at the film studio.

NBC Universal employees earn about $58,000 a year which is a far cry from the minimum wage jobs the city is use to announcing with the arrival of new businesses. The studio operation is projected to generate an economic impact of $1.1 billion over a 10-year period.

The state’s Economic Development Department is providing $7.7 million through the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) to the redevelopment and production commitment. The City of Albuquerque will provide another $3 million from its LEDA fund which was approved by the Albuquerque City Council on June 17, 2019 by a unanimous vote.


On October 8, 2018, it was announced that Netflix was buying Albuquerque Studios. The State contributed $10 million of Local Economic Development Act funds. The City of Albuquerque contributed another $4.5 million of Local Economic Development Funds. Albuquerque beat out other places such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, New York, Georgia and Los Angeles. The Albuquerque site will be Netflix’s first hub purchased in the United States. Albuquerque Studios is an enormous complex that includes 9 sound stages, a backlot and management offices. New Mexico’s other 4 production studios are I-25 Studios, Garson Studios, Santa Fe Studios and Las Cruces Studios as other productions seek studio space for their projects.

It is estimated that at least 1,000 well-paying jobs per year will be created. The jobs will run the gamut of film and TV production work, most of which is project-based contract labor. Many of the jobs are expected to pay $70,000 a year. The purchase deal also calls for $1 billion worth of production spent over 10 years which will have a dramatic effect on the City and State economies.


The City Council and Mayor Keller have a track record of bickering on development projects. Mayor Tim Keller took a backhanded approach on the use of the lodger’s tax funding for city wide recreational facilities that are not tourist related nor economic development related.


It was on July 3, 2018, that it was reported that Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the $2.6 million economic development package that would help Topgolf in constructing a $39 million entertainment complex at the site of the former Beach Waterpark. The City Council had voted 8-1 to give the incentives after a 9-0 veto override Keller’s veto of a resolution expressing the city councils support.

At the time Mayor Keller called the incentive’s a “raw deal for taxpayers” which is probably the case given the fact that much construction work has now been done on the project, but after two full years, the facility is still under construction and has yet to open. Keller undercut his own veto message when he said:

“From the beginning, we have expressed our desire to welcome Topgolf, but this project failed to meet our criteria for growing the local economy and creating good-paying jobs. While we were able to improve the deal, we’re still not there yet. … This deal also sends the wrong signal that we are prioritizing out-of-state companies over similar local efforts, and that a company can end-run an independent professional vetting process through a political process. It’s our job to protect taxpayers, and I know that we can do it better. We want to work together and take the time to get it this right.”

When you do not have a job, you’re not interested in hearing economic doublespeak from government officials of creating high paying “economic based jobs”.


Least anyone has forgotten, on September 6, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted his $29 million infrastructure bond tax package to the Albuquerque City Council to be financed by the City’s Lodger’s Tax. The Keller Administration labeled the lodger tax bond package as a “Sports – Tourism Lodger Tax ” because it was to be used for a number of projects around the city labeled as “sports tourism opportunities” that would help with economic development and tourism.

On October 7, the City Council approved a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city. Revenue generated by the lodgers tax will be used to pay off the $30.5 million bond debt.

Seven of the 10 projects are not tourism related and are used overwhelming by the general public and not the tourist industry nor by the hotel or lodger tax industry. It is a real stretch of the imagination to say the projects will attract tourism and help economic development. Without any financial analysis or actual proof to back him up, Mayor Keller and his administration simply argued that the projects would attract conventions or other sports-related tourism and events to Albuquerque and help with the city’s economic development efforts making the city more attractive to businesses to relocate to the city.


The Orion Center Development is truly and exceptional development using the city property and resources to expand the city’s economy, especially during the time of a pandemic. There is no doubt that the success of the project will fit squarely into the long-term need for the city to expand its economy and recruit in a targeted and expanding global aerospace industry. Surprisingly, the Group Orion has not requested any economic development incentives from the Local Economic Development Act funds. With any real luck, the Orion Group will not seek such funding from the city.


The proposed “Orion Center” approved by the city’s Albuquerque Environmental Planning Commission sounds very familiar to the economic development plan called “Energize ABQ” proposed by yours truly during the 2013 election for Mayor. Energize ABQ called for a $300 million expansion at the Albuquerque International Sunport. It called for pursuing partnerships with private groups to build a manufacturing or assembly center at the Sunport or at the Westside “Double Eagle Two” airport.

“Energizer ABQ” proposed a Sunport expansion for a manufacturing, assembly or airline shipping terminal center at either airport. Construction would not have begun until a major shipping company, manufacturing or assembly company or a delivery company like FedEx made a commitment to invest with the city. An initial development by AMAZON would have been a natural and given the fact the Jeff Bezos is from Albuquerque and is known to still come to the city from time to time, it is something that may have not have been farfetched. Another potential source would be to contact Bill Gates who got his start first in Albuquerque but moved on to another State where there was more opportunities for investment.

The problem in the 2013 Mayor’s race was that the local media and the incumbent Republican Mayor seized upon the idea of a Sunport expansion and proceeded to “gut” the idea by lampooning it and falsely characterizing the idea as just building another “passenger terminal” at the airport. It was not. That was never the intent of Energize ABQ, but such is politics, especially when your outspent 3 to 1 during a campaign and try to rely on ideas that have merit while the local media is too damn lazy or biased toward an incumbent. The same incumbent Mayor had the advantage of having two well-known news reporters in prominent positions who also influenced news coverage in his favor.


On August 28, 2019, Mayor Keller called himself the “promoter in chief” when it comes to promoting Albuquerque as a good place to live, work, play and invest. Saying “We rise and fall on Downtown” Keller announced 3 new initiatives to make Downtown Albuquerque as a safer, more attractive place for visitors and for economic development.

The three initiatives were:

1. Opening a police substation at the Alvarado Transportation Center to address the serious crime and homeless problems in the Central Avenue downtown area that have reached a crisis point.

2. In order to create a tourist draw and spur economic development, Keller announced the city would begin remediation efforts and activate a second building at the Albuquerque Rail Yards The historic and vacant Albuquerque Rail Yards has 18 buildings still standing erected between 1915 and 1925 and include four major maintenance facilities built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

3. Keller announced he wanted to ramp up plans to reinvent the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards by finding a development partner to transform a city-owned parking lot into “an amenity where thousands can gather year-round.”

Mayor Tim Keller’s claim “We rise and fall on downtown” resulted in more than a few snickers within the development community. The reason is that it no way reflects the truth and what has been going on in the city for the last 60 years. The truth is “Downtown Albuquerque” has been transforming during Mayor Tim Keller’s entire life of 42 years plus another 20 years before he was born. As one who was born and raised in Albuquerque, Keller showed very little knowledge of the city’s history of downtown revitalization and the city’s expansion away from the downtown he was referring to in his announced plan.


If Mayor Keller views himself as the city’s “promoter in chief”, his approved budget of $5.8 million for the Economic Development Department is an embarrassment to his efforts to promote the city given the fact that the city has a total operating revenue and approved budget of $1.1 Billion dollars for fiscal year 2020-2021. Truth be known Mayor Keller has only given lip service to economic development for the last three years, and then it was to get publicity over projects and to somehow take some credit for the development projects that did come to the city on their own, which were still too few and far between.

Mayor Tim Keller and his Administration have taken great pains to take credit to some extent for the NBC Deal, the Net Flex Deal and the “Orion Center” development by making sure Mayor Keller held press conferences to announce all 3 projects. On Thursday, November 12, standing in the middle of the “Orion Center” vacant land site next to mock up photo of the completed project and accompanied by Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael, and no one from the Orion Group, Mayor Keller called the Orion Center project potentially “transformative” for central New Mexico and had this to say:

“It is a frankly unbelievable bright spot in the midst of a pandemic … This project is such a big deal we haven’t wanted to talk about it that much. We basically don’t want to jinx it.”

The link to the FACEBOOK post is here:

Keller made sure the press announcement was posted on his FACEBOOK page and no one from the Orion Group appeared with him. It is more likely than not the Orion Group did not want Keller to talk about it given his publicity seeking ways and to force development on parties like he did with the University of New Mexico and his proposed the homeless shelter. The truth is that all 3 projects have essentially landed in Albuquerque with little or no help from the Keller Administration and with some help from the State of New Mexico.


John Strong has written guest columns for this blog on “Boot Camps” for software developers and programmers and data scientists as on where city and state government can spend money to help with economic development. Boot Camps are immersive, intensive training programs of up to 12 weeks or so lasting a full time, 40 hours per week plus. When you exit them, a person is certified as a software programmer and developer or data scientist.

According to one John Strong guest column:

“These Boot Camps are an increasingly important part of the technology ecosystem and are professional occupations that are in very high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says these are the 5th fastest growing professional jobs in the country, and we will be needing in excess of 300,000 of them at a minimum in the next 10 years. Extrapolated for population New Mexico should be getting over 6,000 of these jobs, but we can get many more if we make the commitment. …

We [can] get an incredible return on the investment in boot camps, but don’t spend nearly enough money on them. The demand for software programmers and data science graduates in boot camps is off the charts, and we need them more than ever. We also need technical grads from certificate programs for the film industry in fields such as film and video editing. …

… The placement rate for graduates in these Boot Camps is in excess of 85% in the first 6 months. The average starting salary for a Software developer/programmer or full stack developer is $50,000 per year and increasing to around $60-$70,000 from there. For a Data Scientist it is $95,000 rising to over $110,000 after a year or two. In addition to that for each Data Scientist that we create , they will need the support of as many 5-software developer/programmers. … .”

The link to the full John Strong guest column entitled “New Mexico Needs A Moonshot In Technology” is here:


During the last 3 fiscal budget cycles, Mayor Keller failed to seek any significant increased appropriation for economic development. Ostensibly, the reason for the failure to seek such funding for economic development is that from day one, Keller’s priorities have been public safety, police reforms, increasing APD’s budgets by millions and growing the ranks of APD in an effort to implement community-based policing and increasing the size of APD to bring down the city’s crime rates. The Keller Administration has committed $88 Million dollars to grow the department to 1,200 full time sworn police over 4 years with an additional $35 million in none recurring costs. Keller’s efforts with APD have fallen severely short given the recent Federal Monitor’s report on the police reforms that said that APD was on the “brink of catastrophe” and has failed to police itself.

It is very regrettable that Tim Keller has not made the same type of political commitment to economic development as he has with public safety. On many levels, economic development is ultimately just as important as public safety. A sound and expanding economy go to eliminating major contributors or causes of crime: poverty, reducing high unemployment rates and education and training.

Albuquerque can and must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds, and even fund economic development investment programs such as initial startup funding with claw back provisions. A good start would also be the funding of “Boot Camps” for software developers and programmers and data scientists. Help from Intel who has now severely reduced its operations in the state just may be interested in reviving its relations with the state.

The city needs to get serious with spending more on economic development. Another good start would be creating a $20 million fund for initial startup funds for new businesses with claw back provisions with the program administered by the Economic Development Department. Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industry like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, the film industry and the aerospace industry to diversify our economy.


A $5.8 million dollar budget for an Economic Development Department just is not going to cut it and will never get much done with the City relying more on luck as it has with the NBC Deal, the Netflex deal, and now the Orion Center. Sooner rather than later, the city and its elected officials and the business community need to get their act together and work more to invest far more when it comes to economic development. Otherwise Albuquerque is destined to become a dusty little dying city in the Southwest that failed itself because it failed to make any effort to expand its economy or do any meanifull economic development.

Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana To Be Introduced During NM 2021 Legislative Session; Legalize, Regulate, Tax!

The legalization of recreational marijuana will again be introduced and considered by the New Mexico legislature when the 60-day legislative session starts on January, 19, 2021. The odds of a revised bill will make it to the Senate floor for a final vote have improved substantially because of the turnover in the Senate. New Mexico Democratic legislators backing and sponsoring the legalizing recreational marijuana believe they have an excellent chance to get the legislation passed in the 2021 session because Senate Democratic legislators who opposed marijuana legalization were defeated in this year’s primary election.

During the last two years, bills to legalize recreational cannabis have not gone forward in the Senate because 4 conservative Democrats formed a coalition with Republican Senators to oppose the legislation. Four conservative incumbent Democrats were ousted by progressive challengers in the June primary election and three progressive Democrats went on to win election to the Senate in the November 3 general election. Long time serving Democrats Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, Clemente Sanchez of Grants and Senator Gabe Ramos of Silver City were all defeated in the June primary.

Last year’s defeat of the legalization legislation came after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham created a marijuana legalization working group or task force to study the issue. The group came up with recommendations that were later made part of proposed legislation. On Tuesday, November 10, New Mexico State Representative Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of last years failed legislation, said during a legislative committee hearing, he would again be introducing legislation for consideration. Martinez said he plans to introduce legislation that will be similar to a bill filed last year.

Rep. Martinez said the new 2021 bill would be slimmed down from last year’s version. Notwithstanding, Martinez said it will still contain provisions aimed at protecting New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. New Mexico’s medical program has more than 98,000 enrolled members. According to Martinez, some of the money generated by recreational cannabis sales would be used to eliminate the gross receipts tax on medical marijuana. Rep. Javier Martinez had this to say:

“I believe the time is now, I believe New Mexico is at the cusp of being a national leader in recreational cannabis legalization and am I looking forward to making that happen. … In 2021 we’re looking at streamlining the bill a little bit. That was one of the critiques we heard from some of the opponents, that the bill was too lengthy, too convoluted, so we’re streamlining that bill—but that bill will still be true to the core values.”

New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, for his part said he expects the House will pass a cannabis legalization bill during the upcoming 60-day session. Egolf said the bill will get a “much friendlier” reception in the Senate and said “I think its chances are much improved.”

Democratic state Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque is a sponsor of past recreational marijuana and drug decriminalization initiatives and he had this to say:

“I think the prospect for a recreational bill to pass this year are looking much better. … What matters most is just the numbers in the New Mexico Senate. I think we just have better numbers.”

Candelaria, a medical marijuana patient himself and attorney who represents current cannabis business license holders, urged the Lujan Grisham administration to lift what he called artificial limits on medical marijuana production. According to Candelaria, the current plant limits on medical cannabis producers has led to chronic market shortages.


State Senator Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque was one of several Senate Republicans who filed a legalization bill in 2019 that called for state-run recreational marijuana stores. Moores said he was open to working with Democrats on new legislation in 2021 session.

Moores cautioned that for a bill to win bipartisan support it would need to allow businesses to maintain drug-free workplaces and include provisions for keeping cannabis out of young children’s hands. Moores had this to say in a Albuquerque Journal interview:

“I think there’s a number of senators and representatives on both sides who are willing to work on the issue.


Despite the confidence expressed by New Mexico State Representative Javier Martinez and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, passage is still not assured. Last year’s House Bill was opposed by business groups and the state’s Conference of Catholic Bishops, who described the legislation as too far-reaching.

State Senator Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, expressed doubts during the November 10 meeting of the Economic and Rural Development Committee about how much money cannabis legalization could generate. Tallman challenged claims that the cannabis industry would create roughly 15,000 new jobs statewide by saying:

“I find it kind of hard to believe this is going to generate more jobs than oil and gas and their support industries. … I’m not convinced that we’re going to grow a lot of marijuana here because we have a shortage of water here, and it’s getting worse.”

Republican House minority whip Rod Montoya of Farmington said he is wary of efforts to commute sentences and expunge past drug convictions, arguing it would undermine efforts to stamp out smuggling and black markets.


New Mexico already has a marijuana decriminalization law on its books. Last year, Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill that made possession of up to a half-ounce of cannabis a civil offense punishable with a $50 fine. The governor and other supporters say legalization is still necessary, arguing it would generate tax dollars that could be used on public safety programs.

There are 15 states that have now legalized recreational marijuana or are in the process of doing so. The states of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved cannabis legalization measures in the November 3 general Presidential election. Mississippi approved the creation of a medical marijuana program. The Arizona passage gives urgency to the passing similar legislation in New Mexico to take advantage of the emerging market and demand. Governor Lujan Grisham and other supporters say legalization is still necessary, arguing it would generate tax dollars that could be used on public safety programs.

Texas has yet to pass legalization and it is anticipated that will benefit New Mexico’s economy. Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health, New Mexico’s largest medical marijuana company told lawmakers at a recent legislative committee hearing that they need to think broadly about the future of New Mexico’s marijuana industry. According to Rodriquez, New Mexico will be “a production juggernaut” and a magnet for tourists and cannabis patients from Texas, despite federal prohibitions against transporting cannabis across state lines.

Advocates of recreational legalization argue it will generate at least 13,000 jobs and millions of dollars for the economy. Rodriguez, also told lawmakers that legalizing recreational marijuana will generate up to $800 million a year, a $200 million increase from the last years estimate of $600 million. Rodriguez had this to say:

“It’s going to change New Mexico and ways we can’t imagine. … I think we will be a powerhouse, not only within the state, but we have the potential of being a powerhouse not only in this country, but you’d be surprised, we have the ability to also compete internationally.”


A spokesperson for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the governor’s position supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis has not changed since last year. According to the spokesperson, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has reiterated her support for recreational marijuana as an opportunity to expand and diversify the state economy.

What may also be subject to change is who will be New Mexico Governor come January 19, 2021 when the 2021 legislative session begins. January 20, 2021 is when President Elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next President. It is being reported Biden hopes to announce his cabinet picks in mid-December. It has also been reported that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is being mentioned to be appointed as the Cabinet Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department in a President Joe Biden Presidency. Lujan Grisham is one of the co-chairs of President Elect Biden’s transition team. If Governor Lujan Grisham is in fact named to a cabinet position, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales would assume the office of governor for the remainder of Lujan Grisham’s term, which ends in 2022.


Representative Javier Martinez said his new bill will aim to safeguard the state’s 13-year-old medical marijuana program from disruptions, levying taxes of up to 20% on sales and create business opportunities for minority and low-income communities adversely affected by the drug war and criminalization of marijuana. The bill has not yet been published. The contents of the failed 2020 recreational cannabis legislation merits review given the fact the Rep. Javier Martinez has said an attempt will be made to streamline it and keep the core concepts.

The legislation introduced in the 2020 legislative session was a cumbersome 173-pages long. A Cannabis Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Division was to have been created and was to have very broad and extensive authority to regulate the industry. The division would have had the powers to promulgate rules and regulations, including many mandates and limitations on license issuance and quality control

The legislation would have legalized the use and sale of recreational marijuana for anyone age 21 and older. The 2019 New Mexico Legislature decriminalized possession which is now a $50 civil fine with no jail time. The legislation proposed in the last session provided for taxes on recreational pot at roughly 17% to 19% and made medical marijuana tax-free and entirely subsides medical marijuana for low income patients.

The 2020 legislative session bill would have regulated both commercial and medical marijuana programs. The legislation avoided a traditional licensing system as is created for full-service alcohol licenses.

As was written, the recreational cannabis legislation contained no limit on the number of recreational cannabis licenses.

Under the proposed legislation, the holder of a recreational cannabis license issued will have no vested property right in the license and the license is deemed property of the state. A license issued pursuant to the Cannabis Regulation Act would not have been transferable from person to person, corporation to corporation or corporation to person. The licenses could not have been leased and was not be considered property subject to execution, attachment, a security transaction, liens, receivership or all other incidents of tangible personal property under the laws of this state.

The legislation called for food-grade testing of marijuana products. The legislation if passed would have required all cannabis products sold in New Mexico to be tested and free from contaminants. Packaging would have been required to be clearly labeled with the THC dosage. The legislation also included restrictions on advertisements that target youth. The legislation required investments in training that would assist law enforcement officers in identifying impaired driving and not just limited to only cannabis-induced impairment.

The legislation did give local governments some authority to determine where cannabis dispensaries can be located. However, the state’s counties will not have been given any authority to be able to prohibit cannabis sales nor prohibit the licensing of stores. In other words, local zoning rules would have been able to be used to control the number of stores in an area where they the stores could be located. This is identical to zoning restrictions placed on retail stores that sell pornography.

The legalization bill called for a 19% tax rate. Each county and city have varying gross receipts tax rates and the cannabis tax would have been added to those sales taxes. The tax is much lower than in other states and it is hoped it will prevent buyers from turning to the black market. The legislation would have exempted residents in the medical cannabis program from the tax and would require cannabis growers to serve the medical market before the recreational market


When it comes to the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, the legislature needs to avoid a traditional licensing system like it created for full-service alcohol licenses. With present alcohol full-service licenses, the number of licenses are capped and based on population numbers. Liquor licenses are now being sold for upwards of $1 million where only the wealthy or major restaurant chains can only afford them.

The result and unintended consequence will be identical with recreational marijuana licenses purchased for a few thousand dollars from the state and held onto for a windfall profit.

The exact same thing will happen with recreational marijuana licenses unless the licenses are not tied to population. There should be no limit on the number of recreational pot licenses that will create a market of licenses that increase value and are considered an investment by the private sector as opposed to regulation by the state to protect the public health safety and welfare.

New Mexico doesn’t initiate legislation by ballot measures, though constitutional amendments are approved by referendum. If the 2021 NM Legislature were to enact legislation for a constitutional amendment for legalize recreational use of marijuana, voters would no get the measure for almost a full year. If a strong consensus can be achieved and if a recreational legalization program can be supported by large majorities in both the House and Senate, they should proceed and vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Legalize, regulate, tax recreational marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes.

Links to related coverage and news sources are here:

ABQ Journal Editorial On 12th Federal Monitor’s Report Short On Identifying What Needs To Be Done With APD And The Reforms; Mayor Tim Keller Only Has Himself To Blame For Reform Failures

On November 2, 2020, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed with the Federal Court his 12th Compliance Audit Report of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms mandated under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

The monitor’s compliance report covers the twelfth-monitoring period of February 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020. The Federal Monitor’s 12th report is 356 pages long. It follows the format as all the previous 11 reports. It’s a detailed audit of every paragraph of the consent decree and for that reason it is tedious and difficult to read. The link to the City web site with entire 12th Federal Monitor’s report is here:


On Sunday November 15, the Albuquerque Journal published the following editorial entitled “Albuquerque residents, police need timely feedback on reforms”

“Being on “the brink of a catastrophic failure” is a pretty bad place to be.

And no doubt shocking to the people of Albuquerque to find ourselves there with the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement designed to ensure constitutional policing by the Albuquerque Police Department, especially when you consider that we are six years and more than $25 million into it.

The city entered into the agreement after the Department of Justice concluded APD had demonstrated a pattern of excessive use of force.

Despite several much more upbeat reports along the way from the federal monitor, Dr. James Ginger, one could reasonably conclude we’ve gone from substantial progress to impending doom in the last 18 months.
The administration of Mayor Tim Keller and his interim chief, Harold Medina, are quick to blame ousted chief Michael Geier for the downward spiral. Medina told the Journal Editorial Board last week that Geier became reluctant to impose necessary discipline – sending the wrong message to officers on the street.

“The chief stopped listening to his deputy chiefs and started to go his own way,” Medina said.

Ginger, who said APD was “allergic to discipline,” says the problems are deeper. “If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned,” he told the court in a hearing last month. “But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street.

“I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”

While initially portraying Geier’s ouster in September as his decision to retire, the mayor and his chief administrative officer later – after Geier refused to go quietly – said the reform effort had stalled and that was one reason the chief had to go.

When it comes to Geier, it wasn’t always that way. Keller, who is just finishing up three years in office, cut short a national search, saying Geier was the perfect guy to be chief. And in a report last year Ginger said he was pleased with Geier’s efforts and personal involvement.

So what changed?

For starters, we are now in the hardest part of the reform effort. Policy development and training are either done or well on the way to being done. Now, it’s compliance with the training and new policies on the street. Also, we’ve had to deal with the pandemic and a recent survey of officers who said morale was in the tank.

In any case, according to Ginger’s most recent report, field officers were failing to report use of force, detectives in Internal Affairs were “going through the motions” and the high-level Force Review Board that examines serious cases for training, policy and compliance flaws was allowing subpar work. In summary: APD has “failed miserably in its ability to police itself.”

Is all this unduly harsh? The department has done some good work in the CASA effort but City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. says the goal here is to be a “national model for constitutional, community-based policing” and by necessity that requires focus on things that need to be corrected.

One case Ginger highlighted was a man in an emotional crisis who was subjected to an unnecessarily high level of force – bordering on sadistic – that was cleared by every level of the APD review process, including the Force Review Board. One change now in effect that could prevent a recurrence is a system where officer video is reviewed and included in the review process as it moves up the chain.
Seems like a no-brainer, and a six-year slow learning curve.

Is there blame to go around? Yes. This ball has been in the Keller administration court for nearly three years now. Geier was his guy. It was just four months ago that the mayor and Geier were touting a new “Accountability Report Card” dealing with officer compliance with on-body camera policies.

And Medina is Keller’s guy. He makes no bones about laying the problems at Geier’s feet. Geier, meanwhile, says Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair was trying to micromanage the department and Medina was working constantly to undercut him.

Sounds like one of those “brink of catastrophic failure” scenarios all by itself. Certainly not a formula for effective management at a time of trying to deal with a pandemic and implement CASA.
And does the union that represents police officers have too much clout and is able to “hijack” IA interviews, as Ginger claims?

And how about Ginger? Shouldn’t he be having more timely conversations or perhaps shorter summary reports for APD to act on before dropping a bombshell once or twice a year – something Medina and Aguilar said they hope to arrange. Ginger’s getting paid plenty. Perhaps the focus should be on timely information that could lead to fixing problems.

Medina is correct when he says that to get to where we want to be it will take culture shift. He says we get there through extensive training and appropriate discipline when policies are violated.
“As other officers see what happens when standards aren’t followed that’s when you get culture change,” he said. The expectations have to come from the top.

No argument there. But he acknowledges the other side of that coin: While requiring police to use minimal force necessary and showing “we are not reluctant to administer discipline,” officers need to not be afraid to do their jobs.

It’s a tall order. And when can we expect to know whether we’ve pulled back from that catastrophic brink? Not for a while, according to Medina and Aguilar. They say the next report from Ginger – which isn’t expected be released until well into 2021 – will cover several months while Geier was still at the helm and before a full-on press to change use of force in the field began.

But given this stark assessment, it’s not fair for the residents of Albuquerque or officers on the street to wait months for what essentially is a report that’s somewhat dated by the time it’s made public. This most recent report covered the time period of February through June.

People deserve to know what’s happening closer to real time – APD has been remarkably slow with its own “report cards” to the public – before we learn we are on the brink. Or that we’ve gone over it.”

The link to the Albuquerque Journal Editorial is here


The November 15 Journal Editorial, as detailed as it is, failed to address a number of points that need to be remembered. It also failed to suggest any real solutions as to what needs to be done now with APD.


For the last 3 years, Keller appointed CAO Nair and Interim Chief Medina worked closely together to manage the day to day operations of APD. It is common knowledge within the APD command staff that Harold Medina will do anything and say anything Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair tell him to do and want him to say. It is also common knowledge that it was Medina that orchestrated Geier’s forced retirement with the help and backing of Keller’s political operative Nair. Medina’s ultimate goal is to be appointed permanent chief and Keller is likely going to do just that after another sham national search.

Interim Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice (DOJ) here in the first place. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the DOJ that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Interim APD Chief Medina will ever truly be committed to all 270 Federal mandated reforms. One thing for sure is that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is not the person who should be appointed permanent Chief.


When candidate Keller was running for Mayor, he promised sweeping changes with APD, a national search for a new APD Chief and a return to Community Based policing. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, Keller did not make the dramatic management changes he promised, but he a relied on past management of the department and past practices. The current Deputy Chiefs are not outsiders at all but have been with APD for a number of years and are eligible for retirement. Keller’s “new” and present Deputies are a reflection of APD’s past. APD’s current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing practices.

The statement made by Mayor Tim Keller that former Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier simply wanted to retire appears to have been as bogus as it could get. In the 12th Federal Monitor’s report, the monitoring team found that APD has completely failed to police itself, pointing to major problems with the former police chief and the former APD Academy Commander. The 12th report outlines multiple cases where officers failed to accurately report use of force cases and the report places the blame directly on APD leadership.

APD needs a clean sweep in management and philosophy to remove anyone who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process during the last 3 years of the consent decree. Mayor Tim Keller needs to conduct a national search to find a new Chief who is not already with APD and allow whoever is chosen to run APD department free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. Mayor Keller should take this as an opportunity to also remove all the current Deputy Chief’s and allow whoever he selects to be the new Chief allow them to select and bring in their own command staff.


The Journal editorial barely mentions the APD Union when it asks the question “Does the union that represents police officers have too much clout and is able to “hijack” IA interviews, as Ginger claims?”

It obvious from reading the 12th report that the union membership of sergeants and lieutenants are still at the center of the “under currents” of Counter-CASA effects. The police union has made its opposition and objections known to the federal court regarding the use of force and deadly force policies. The union has always argued that the new use of force and deadly force policies were too restrictive with rank and file claiming police cannot do their jobs and that their hands are tied.

The police union leadership have said in open court that the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to perform their job duties. During the August 20, 2019 status conference, the APOA union President Shaun Willoughby made it clear his union membership attitude towards the CASA reforms. District Court Judge Browning asked APOA Union President Shawn Willoughby what he and the union rank and file felt about the CASA. Willoughby’s responses were a quick condemnation of the CASA when he said “we hate it”, “we’re frustrated”, the reforms and mandates are “a hard pill to swallow”, that “all change is hard”.

According to Willoughby, police officers are afraid to do their jobs for fear of being investigated, fired or disciplined. The police union has never articulated in open court and in clear terms exactly what it is about the reforms that are keeping rank and file from “doing their” jobs and “why they hate” the CASA as articulated by the union president. It’s likely the union feels what is interfering with police from doing their jobs is the mandatory use of lapel cameras, police can no longer shoot at fleeing cars, police can no longer use choke holds, police need to use less lethal force and not rely on the SWAT unit, police must use de-escalating tactics and be trained in crisis intervention, and management must hold police accountable for violation of standard operating procedures.

What was so damn laughable is when Union President Willoughby says that the union cooperated and participated with the reforms unlike all other Departments in other cities faced with a consent decree. What the union has actually been doing for the last 6 years was disrupting the process by not being fully committed to the reforms and changes and doing what it could to water down the changes to the “use of force” and “deadly force” policies.

Given the Federal Monitors criticism and what is contained in the 12th report, it is downright laughable that Union President Willoughby would actually say in an interview that the rank and file are doing a “much better job than the report lays out” and that he believes officers understand the importance of reporting excessive force. It obvious from the entire 12th report they do not especially when the monitor says in the 12th report:

1.“… [When] … Internal Affairs … allow union representatives … and … officers to respond to salient , and reasonable, fact-finding questions by simply reading a Garrity statement … into the record, as opposed to answering questions posed, there are serious and near terminal problems with process, policy enforcement, and outcome factors.”

2. APD Internal Affairs routinely permits officers and union representatives to hijack internal fact-finding.

3. “[There] are strong under currents of Counter-CASA effects in some critical units on APD’s critical path related to CASA compliance. These include supervision at the field level; mid-level command in both operational and administrative functions, [including] patrol operations, internal affairs practices, disciplinary practices, training, and force review). Supervision, [the] sergeants and lieutenants, and mid-level command, [the commanders] remain one of the most critical weak links in APD’s compliance efforts.

4. Many of the instances of non-compliance seen in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! The Monitor reports he see actions that transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”

5. Supervision, which includes Lieutenants and Sergeants in the union, “needs to leave behind its dark traits of myopia, passive resistance, and outright support for, and implementation of, counter-CASA processes.”


APD is a “para-military” organization and as such the “chain of command” must be honored and the lines of authority must not be blurred to the point where management and subordinates become one and the same for the purpose of enforcing policy. Allowing management positions to be part of employee bargaining unit is a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what is being played out with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

Sergeants and lieutenants need to be made at will employees and removed from the collective bargaining unit in order to get a real buy in to management’s goals of police reform and the CASA. APD Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of Administration Management and Union priorities that are in conflict when it comes to the CASA reforms.

The current police union contract expired on June 30. The City and the Union have now suspended their negotiations because of the corona virus pandemic and the uncertainty of the city’s revenues for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. The union contract negotiations must commence soon. Until a new union contract is negotiated and approved, the terms and conditions of the old contract will remain in effect.

The Police Union no doubt wants to continue the terms of the expired contract, including who is in the collective bargaining unit. There is no real excuse to delay negotiations on the police union contract. Delay will only allow the Union to continue dictating to the city what should be done and continue its efforts to obstruct implementation of the police reforms under the CASA.

Another option the City and the Department of Justice need to explore is to move for the dismissal of the police union from the federal court proceeding. This will allow APD command staff and management more authority do its job with enforcement of the CASA mandates and implementation of all 270 reforms.


Another option that needs to be considered is to abolish APD’s Internal Affairs Unit. APD has consistently shown over decades it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice. The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by other civilian departments.

The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators, not sworn police. The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of the General Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department.

The Office of Independent Council could make findings and recommendations to the APD Chief and Police Oversight Board (POB) for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.


It is clear from the 12th Federal Court Monitors report that “Operational Compliance” and the “counter casa effect” have been and continue to be the biggest sticking points for APD and present the biggest obstacles for the department under the consent decree.

Operational Compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency. In other words, line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.

After 6 years of work under the CASA, the City and the Department of Justice need to recognize that as long as the Police Union continues to be a party to the case and Sergeants and Lieutenants are allowed to be part of the collective bargaining unit, not much more is going to be accomplished. And neither is relying on the current interim Chief and Deputy Chiefs.

After almost 3 years in office, Mayor Tim Keller under his leadership still has a police department that is failing miserably to police itself and on the brink of catastrophic failure. Keller has only himself to blame given the fact he personally selected those that have been in charge of APD and he went back on his campaign promise to hire a new Chief from outside the agency.

U.S. Attorney For NM John Anderson Announces $500,000 To Combat Violent Crime; Update On “Operation Legend”; Sheriff Needs To Grab The Money And Run Before January 20, 2021

On November 3, U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson announced $500,000 to combat violent crime in New Mexico. In a press release, Anderson said the grant, awarded by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, is part of more than $458 million in funding to support state, local and tribal law enforcement efforts to combat violent crime in jurisdictions across the United States.

A link to the full press release is here:,in%20Bernalillo%20County%2C%20New%20Mexico.

The $500,000 in funding is a continuation of the Trump Administration’s commitment to reducing crime and improving public safety. According to the press release:

“In the two years before President Trump took office, America had experienced a precipitous rise in crime, particularly in serious violent crime. The President elevated community safety to the top of his domestic agenda and crime rates have fallen steadily since. Recent data from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2019 show a drop in crime and serious victimization for the third year in a row. However, a number of cities are experiencing conspicuous countertrends.”

In making the announcement, US Attorney John Anderson had this to say:

“I am pleased to announce this additional funding awarded to Bernalillo County as part of Operation Legend. … [Bernalillo County] Sheriff Gonzales and his department have been integral partners in identifying and apprehending perpetrators of dangerous crimes in our community. This funding helps to ensure that our efforts are sustainable over the long term.”

More than $458 million in federal funding has been awarded nationwide. The US Department of Justice has made 1,094 grants totaling more than $369 million to support a broad range of initiatives, including efforts in enforcement, prosecution, adjudication, detention and rehabilitation. Funding has included programs for efforts to suppress youth gang activity and to support research and evaluation on the prevention and reduction of violent crime.

Department of Justice “Office of Justice Programs” (OJP) awarded more than $10 million across 24 jurisdictions to intervene in and suppress youth gang activity as well as $1 million to the Institute for Intergovernmental Research to continue operating the National Gang Center. OJP’s National Institute of Justice awarded $7.8 million to fund research and evaluation on the prevention and reduction of violent crime. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics provided more than $69 million to strengthen the quality and accessibility of records within the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Bernalillo County will receive $500,000 to assist in continuing efforts as part of Operation Legend. Operation Legend is an ongoing, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across federal law enforcement agencies work with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the current surge of violent crime in American cities.

In the press release, the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Office had this to say:

“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for our federal law enforcement partners supporting our office in the removal of career criminals from the streets and combating Albuquerque’s out-of-control crime crisis. This additional funding proves we have the federal government’s full support to make Bernalillo County a safer place to live.”


On Wednesday October 14, Attorney General William Barr and federal and local officials held a press briefing in Albuquerque on Operation Legend and proclaimed it a success. It was in July at the White House that President Donald Trump announced the Operation Legend where federal law enforcement agents were being sent to 7 cities that have some of the highest violent crime rates in the country.

The Department of Justice reported that since the start of Operation Legend in July 2020, it has been expanded from 7 cities to 9 cities with some of the highest violent crimes in the country. Operation legend has resulted in more than 5,000 arrests and of those arrests, about 247 have been for homicide, over 2,000 firearms have been seized in addition to the seizure of nearly 22 kilos of heroin, over 15 kilos of fentanyl, more than 130 kilos of methamphetamine, over 28 kilos of cocaine and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds.

Of those approximately 5,000 arrests, 1,057 have been charged with federal offenses. Around 568 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses with around 411 being charged with drug-related crimes. Those remaining have been charged with various offenses.


Forty federal agents were sent to Albuquerque for the operation that worked with local law enforcement. Operation Legend targets violent criminals and crimes. In 2019, Albuquerque had a violent crime rate 3.7 times the national average. In recent years, property crime has decreased slightly but overall violent crime remains high.

During the October 14 press conference, Attorney General Barr, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich announce the results of the 3 month initiative. According to a news release from the Department of Justice, 113 defendants have been charged with federal crimes as follows:

47 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses
56 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses
10 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

FBI Deputy Director Bowdich said that in Kansas City, another jurisdiction included in Operation Legend, there was a 30% reduction in violent crime, a 15% reduction in homicides and a 24% reduction in strong-arm robberies. However, no statistics showing if violent crime decreased in Albuquerque during the three months since Operation Legend began in the city.

FBI Deputy Director Bowdich had this to say:

“These are significant statistics, but these require the community to work close, hand in hand with law enforcement. … So I want to plead for help. … We need the community’s help, please trust us, please pick up the phone, and trust us to do the right thing and make sure we aggressively respond to tips and your complaints.”


During the October 14 press conference in Albuquerque, US Attorney General William Barr had this to say:

“The first priority of law enforcement has to be to get these people off the streets and get them into prison and to protect the people, and when you do that crime goes down. … Stop the revolving door and keep the chronic offenders off the street. Our problem back in 1992 was the problem we’re seeing here in Albuquerque today, which is revolving door justice in the state system. … If you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the street, you have to start paying attention to who you vote for to retain as judges, to who you make district attorney, to who you make mayor. … I’m saying this across the board, not just to the people of Albuquerque.”


In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal after the briefing, Jennifer Burrill, a public defender and the vice president of the N.M. Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had this to say:

“ … I’m very concerned this is not addressing the issues that we need, which are poverty and employment. Those types of things are what we see that reduce crime rates, not putting people in jail and pretending to throw away the key.”

Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in response to AG Barr’s also said:

“You can’t just incarcerate your way out of crime issues. … The best way to address community safety is to look at the root causes: lack of education, lack of job opportunities and lack of affordable access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.”


Operation Legend is a major crackdown aimed at driving down violent crime in 9 of the nation’s most violent cities in the country. Not at all surprising, Albuquerque is one of those cities. The other cities include Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. All the cities have violent crime rates significantly higher and above the national average. FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.

By all accounts, Operation Legend has been successful. Even with the initial success of Operation Legend, and the additional $500,000 in Federal grant money, it is very doubtful that it is going to make that much of difference anytime soon. Even with the initial success of Operation Legend, it is very doubtful that the 35 sworn law enforcement brought to the city for Operation Legend as well as the 40 new sworn police paid for by the Operation Legend grant, are going to make that much of difference anytime soon given the city and counties existing law enforcement personnel resources. APD has 984 sworn police and the BCSO has 300 sworn police, for a total of 1,284 sworn police, with city’s crime rates being some of the highest in the country for the last 10 years.

For the past 9 years, Albuquerque has experienced a sharp increase in crime. Six of those crime years were under Republican Mayor RJ Berry and for the past 3 years the crime rates haven gotten even worse under Democrat Mayor Keller. Keller himself is saying APD alone needs at least 200 more cops and have a full force of 1,200.

President Elect Joe Biden will be sworn on January 20, 2021 and United States Attorney William Barr will soon be gone with United State Attorney John Anderson likely to be replaced within 8 months. With the election of President Biden, the priorities of the US Department of Justice will likely come to a screeching halt and then begin in a new direction. New Mexico will still be dealing with high violent crime rates.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department would be wise to grab that $500,000 in grant money before January 20, 2020.