It is interesting that all but three of the 456 Albuquerque Police Department officers who responded to a police union survey say morale within their department is “low.” That at least 80 want the Justice Department to investigate APD in the wake of civilian shootings and a wide array of misconduct. That 80 percent say APD leadership does not have their backs. And 50 percent say Chief Ray Schultz should be fired.
Yes, the buck stops with Schultz. And yes, he should lead by example. But a look at that example shows that in the same three years that there have been 25 police-involved shootings — 17 fatal — Schultz has:
♦ Supported a proposal to get rid of a state backlog in certification hearings for disciplined officers;
♦ Fired an officer who was later charged with the death of his stepfather;
♦ Suspended an officer for four days and reassigned him to a lower-profile beat for Facebooking that his job was “human waste disposal”;
♦ Established a social media policy limiting the damage officers can do to APD’s image, then fired one for violating it with an image of a swastika and disciplined another for a rant about a place in hell for an attorney;
♦ Placed on leave, then moved to desk duty an officer whose wife is accused of being a straw buyer of firearms for a felon;
♦ Implemented more than 50 policy and procedure changes involving use of force — many from the Police Executive Research Forum after a $60,000 study.
Should he have been quicker to fire an officer accused of fatally shooting his wife? Yes. Could he do a better job ensuring discipline is meted out evenly across the ranks? Probably. But Schultz’s disciplines are routinely challenged. His discipline decisions have been overruled in personnel hearings. One could interpret that as he is often wrong, but this could also show he is battling a status quo that protects its own.
Schultz and his boss, Mayor Richard Berry, should be very concerned that 453 officers believe morale within APD is “low.” Law enforcement is a challenging and difficult job on a good day, and widespread discontent within the ranks won’t help recruit needed cadets and retain highly experienced veterans, or ensure that when an officer responds to a call for help, his/her mind is squarely on the situation at hand.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.