Albuquerque native Allen Banks will head the city’s police force, starting next month, upon the retirement of longtime Chief Ray Schultz.
Banks, now a deputy chief, said he hasn’t decided whether to apply for the job permanently, but if selected, he would become Albuquerque’s first African-American police chief.
“This is a beautiful opportunity for me,” Banks said Thursday in a news conference. “I’m very happy. I’m very blessed.”
Mayor Richard Berry made the announcement at City Hall.
The change in leadership comes at a critical time for APD, which is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation and has been sharply criticized over the number of people shot and killed by police.
Banks, who’s now in charge of field services, the largest bureau within APD, could be acting chief for months.
Berry said he won’t decide on a permanent replacement until well after the Oct. 8 municipal election. He said if he wins a second term, he would make a decision in the months after the election.
The administration plans to hire a firm in September to conduct a national and local search for candidates to run APD permanently. The firm should cost less than $25,000, Berry said.
The mayor said Banks is the “logical choice” to run APD in the interim, and he described Banks as a great local candidate for the job permanently. He noted that he promoted Banks to deputy chief after taking office in 2009. He said Banks’ name had surfaced even before that, when Berry was knocking on doors as a mayoral candidate.
“Several times, people would mention Allen Banks by name,” the mayor said. “He’s known in the community. He’s known in the department.”
Stephanie Lopez, APD police union president, said she and her fellow officers are looking to Banks for leadership in what she called the “most challenging times in the history of APD.” She said the deputy chief is independent and open-minded, attributes she hopes won’t change when he takes over the top spot.
“I would hope that it doesn’t change him,” Lopez said. “I would hope that he remembers his officers are his first priority, not just appeasing politicians.”
Lopez also thanked Schultz for his service as chief and wished him well in retirement.
Schultz will stay on as an adviser to the department through Sept. 6, Berry said. He makes about $137,000 a year, and Banks’ salary will climb to that level, too, when he becomes interim chief.
Berry described Schultz as a “tremendous leader” who has overseen “great strides in crime reduction.”
Schultz is known for having made property crime a priority, introducing new technology and creating the Family Advocacy Center, which helps victims of domestic violence and other crimes.
This year, Schultz opened a video command center that uses live camera feeds to provide real-time information to officers in the field. Last year, he ordered officers to use lapel cameras to record every call for service to which they are dispatched.
But the department has also faced intense scrutiny. The Justice Department is investigating whether APD has a pattern of violating people’s civil rights, specifically through officers’ use of force. It’s also looking at whether department brass does enough to police its officers.
Ongoing federal criminal investigations, on which federal officials have declined to comment, are focused on the actions of individual officers in specific situations. Those probes are separate from the civil rights investigation, which federal officials have characterized as a detailed look at police culture in Albuquerque.
The families of people shot and killed by officers – 19 men since 2010 – repeatedly testify, sometimes through tears, at City Council meetings.
In June 2011, state District Judge Theresa Baca issued a scathing opinion that said, in part, the department’s training is “designed to result in the unreasonable use of deadly force.”
Berry didn’t directly mention the DOJ investigation during his opening remarks about the transition.
In response to a reporter’s question, he said Schultz is “retiring under circumstances that are positive. This isn’t like a situation where someone has to leave today and you have to start picking up the pieces tomorrow.”
Lopez implored the mayor to appoint the next permanent chief from within the department. A new police chief from outside APD, Lopez said, would not understand the cultural differences in Albuquerque and the problems the department is facing.
Banks said he hasn’t decided whether to apply but that he’s proud of his heritage, background and accomplishments.
“I know the ins and outs of this department and the external aspect of that, as well,” Banks said during the news conference. “I look forward to this opportunity.”
Journal staff writer Jeff Proctor contributed to this article.