Help us support local, independent news.
100% of reader donations support our local journalists.
For less than a subscription to the Journal for one reader, you can keep our news free for everyone in ABQ.
Give your input now!
Three years after newly-minted Mayor Tim Keller announced that his administration was bringing in new leadership to “evaluate, restructure, and turn-around” the Albuquerque Police Department, the mayor is starting over.
“I think they’d be perfect for the job!”
At the time, Keller said Mike Geier, a retired APD supervisor and former Rio Rancho chief, would be perfect for the task of leading reform efforts in New Mexico’s largest police agency. And for a while, it seemed that real progress was being made. During Geier’s early tenure, APD achieved 100 percent compliance with DOJ requirements for new policies and began to implement those new policies in the field and retraining programs.
Mayor Keller even announced in his 2019 state of the city address that he was moving to have the department move into “self monitoring” because it had done so well. But privately, things were not so rosy, according to external monitoring reports submitted by the DOJ monitor to the court. (The mayor has still not petitioned the court for self-monitoring).
APD struggled with internal oversight, failed to hold officers accountable for clear violations of new use of force policies and allowed the police union to improperly influence investigations into misconduct, according to the most recent DOJ report filed in September.
In early October, Keller fired Geier saying reforms were not moving fast enough but Geier fired back saying the mayor and the mayor’s chief administrative officer, neither of whom had no public safety experience, micromanaged him and the department.
“The mayor’s office would micromanage in terms of the details of these processes,” Geier told KOB TV. “For example, I was told I wouldn’t be able to do the final discipline anymore.”
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD.”
In the most recent report to the court overseeing APD reform, Dr. James Ginger, the court appointed monitor, told a federal judge that “we are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD.”
The monitor’s report is full of instances of officers violating policy and supervisors failing to hold them accountable.
Other issues within APD also highlight an administration struggling to manage public safety. In June, a whistleblower working in the unit handling the rape kit backlog filed suit claiming the department boggled many of those investigations by assigning them to untrained or inexperienced investigators and rushing the timeline. Completing the backlog tests and investigations was a campaign promise of the mayor who has held numerous press conferences highlighting progress. The mayor has not held any news conferences on this topic since the lawsuit was filed.
Just a month later, a protestor was shot by an armed man appearing alongside a militia group during a confrontation over a statute depicting Juan de Oñate and other conquistadors. The administration was criticized for choosing to have police officers hidden out of sight as the incident escalated.
Public Input Sought
Deputy Police Chief Harold Medina is currently serving as interim chief and he has said publicly that he wants the permanent job. But the mayor is conducting a search for other candidates first and the mayor’s office has launched a public input process to let you weigh in on who our next chief should be.
The online survey is open to city residents through November 30, 2020.