Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz spent a total of 50 workdays outside New Mexico during a 21-month stretch from 2011 through the fall of 2012, primarily at conferences.
Many of the trips were to attend events hosted by national law enforcement think tanks, such as the Police Executive Research Forum, and the National Retail Federation, which bills itself as the world’s largest retail trade association.
Destinations included Washington, D.C., San Diego and Las Vegas, Nev.
In all, Schultz took 16 trips during the time period the Journal examined through documents the newspaper obtained via a public records request. The price tag was more than $12,000 in state – not city – money for the chief’s airfare, hotels, per diem and other costs, and another $25,000 in city money for Schultz’s salary to perform “work off-site.”
Schultz made presentations at some of the events, received awards for APD at others, and said he picked up ideas for his department at many of them.
In an interview, Schultz said attending conferences benefits APD because it gives him a chance to share ideas on trends in policing with other law enforcement administrators. He said he has brought several innovations back to Albuquerque from conferences, including a program under which APD issues missing persons’ alerts for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and new camera technology for officers.
And besides, Schultz said, with an iPhone, iPad, laptop computer and the ability to access the city’s computer network remotely, he is always accessible to do his job.
“Going on a trip has changed. The only time you’re not accessible is when they close the airplane doors,” he said. The chief added: “My job is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job.”
A city councilor, the mayor and a police union official contacted by the Journal were generally supportive of the chief’s travels. Two former APD supervisors were critical.
Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association President Greg Weber said he supports Schultz’s travel for conferences, noting the importance of professional development and the positive light presenting new developments in police work casts on APD.
“When other law enforcement agencies contact APD and ask for our people to present our methods, it means we are doing things right,” Weber said.
Retired APD Sgt. Dan Klein said he’s not sold on the value of Schultz’s travel to conferences.
“Property crime is up, the Department of Justice is here, APD is below 1,000 officers, there are only seven cadets in the current academy class, 911 response times are up, APD has lost over $30,000,000 of taxpayer dollars and counting in (police misconduct) lawsuits (since 2002,) and (a police union) survey says the officers don’t have faith in Chief Schultz,” said Klein, who served in several APD units before retiring in 2003.
“I would say the trips are a failure, wouldn’t you? If these are not the standards that we measure job performance by, then what are they?”
Schultz said that although property crimes are on the rise, so are arrests for those crimes. That means, according to the chief, that the District Attorney’s Office, the courts and jail officials share responsibility for the crime rate increase.
And as for the Justice Department investigation, Schultz said federal officials are probing APD solely because of an increase in police shootings in 2010 and “some very poor decisions by a few officers,” which he said he has dealt with through terminations.
Federal officials have said the DOJ investigation is more broad than that.
Schultz dismissed Klein’s criticisms, saying he had no direct knowledge of what it takes to be a police chief. He also said the Journal was fishing for critics to quote.
Through a spokeswoman, Mayor Richard Berry issued a written statement:
“It is apparent from APD’s numerous awards for innovative policing coupled with the fact that crime rates for the past several years have been at their lowest levels in decades that there is value to the citizens of Albuquerque from Chief Schultz’s exposure to best practices and other public safety experts from around the country,” the mayor’s statement said.
Property crimes in Albuquerque rose about 5 percent in 2011, and Schultz has said he expects another increase once the 2012 figures are finalized. Still the number of property crimes reported to police is lower than it was when Berry took office in December 2009.
City Councilor Ken Sanchez said he didn’t see a problem with the chief attending conferences.
“I’m sure the trips were probably justifiable,” Sanchez said.
16 trips in 21 months
Following a public records request made in late October, APD in late December provided the Journal documents related to Schultz’s travel and time out of the office between Jan. 1, 2011, and Oct. 3, 2012.
The documents showed 16 trips the chief took. They included:
The money for Schultz’s travel, the chief said in an interview, came from the New Mexico Law Enforcement Protection Fund – state money set aside for training, equipment and planning for city, county and tribal police departments.
On some of the trips, other city officials accompanied Schultz. Their names were redacted without explanation from the documents provided to the Journal.
However, the city’s transparency website shows, for example, that Deputy Police Chief Allen Banks and Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy, who represents APD, attended the PERF conference on use of force in Washington, D.C., last winter. The total cost for their travel was more than $2,000, although it is unclear where that money came from.
Levy and former Deputy Chief Paul Feist also accompanied Schultz to a conference hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago in October 2011. Schultz’s travel for that trip cost more than $1,700; Feist’s more than $1,600; and Levy’s more than $2,000.
Bringing home new ideas
City taxpayers also paid more than $25,000 to Schultz in salary for the 50 days of work off-site. Schultz said it was money well spent.
He said he has brought several ideas home with him from conferences, including “Silver Alert,” a program under which APD issues missing persons’ alerts for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, and “APD TV,” a closed-circuit, looping hour of programming at police headquarters Downtown and in the substations with news updates, training videos and predictive crime maps.
Schultz also pointed out that he is a salaried employee and often works after hours and on weekends attending City Council meetings and neighborhood forums.
APD Lt. (Ret.) Steve Tate said Schultz’s time out of the office, during the period examined by the Journal, seemed excessive for the leader of a department that was earning negative headlines on a regular basis at the time.
“It does raise the question of who was minding the store,” said Tate, who worked in APD’s Internal Affairs unit and at the department’s training academy before retiring in 2006. “There is a great benefit to spending time with others in the law enforcement community and attending conferences, but what did we really get for it? Was Chief Schultz out padding his résumé? Or was he bringing tangible benefits back to the city and the department?”
Schultz responded that Tate was a “mid-manager” who has been gone from APD for several years and said he wasn’t qualified to assess the work of a police chief.