Department of Public Safety Secretary and Justice Department veteran Gorden Eden will take over as chief of the Albuquerque Police Department on Thursday, and the hope is his outsider status and extensive administrative and federal experience will help APD shed its gunslinger image and get ahead of a DOJ civil-rights investigation.
That would be a welcome change, seeing how APD’s SOP to date has involved a lot of working from behind.
For example, in the case of the just-completed investigation by the district attorney into a 2011 fatal police shooting, two plainclothes officers announced they were serving a warrant, the mentally ill suspect responded with “I’m going to fight you,” and so the cops jumped over/broke down the backyard fence, then shot the man when he managed to wrestle away a service weapon.
APD waited nearly two years to interview the only eyewitness to the shooting, according to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, which says the unreliable witness statements left it with no means to do anything but clear the two officers. APD dismissed that criticism. Its official response was that a bad witness two years after the fact was undoubtedly a bad witness way back then when memories were fresh, so what’s the big deal.
Answer: Plenty, when you’re watching the body bags and lawsuits stack up in police shooting cases. Failing to interview the only eyewitness for two years adds up to one thing: You really aren’t that interested in asking questions when you might not like the answers.
With less than a week before his first day on the job, Eden is vowing to “take the department well beyond any findings the DOJ has,” recruit more and better officer candidates, improve morale, grow the ranks, restructure and redefine internal affairs, strengthen training, fast-track internal investigations, remain transparent and restore the public’s trust.
That sounds like Eden – a New Mexico native who has overseen the Department of Public Safety since 2010, was a U.S. marshal for eight years, ran the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division for five years, and was a State Police officer for a decade – knows exactly where APD needs to go.
What the community is waiting to see is if he is the guy who can change the department’s mindset and get it there.
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.