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Keller’s pick for APD interim chief draws praise

Mayor-elect Tim Keller announces his pick for interim Albuquerque Police Department chief during a Downtown news conference Tuesday morning. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor-elect Tim Keller has chosen former Rio Rancho police chief Michael James Geier as the interim leader of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Michael Geier, who served with the Albuquerque Police Department for 20 years and was Rio Rancho’s police chief for three years, is the new interim chief of APD. (Albuquerque Journal file photo)

Geier, who served with APD for 20 years, was Rio Rancho’s police chief for three years. He stepped down from that position in February, saying at the time that he wanted to spend more time with family. Keller also announced the appointments of three interim deputy chiefs, and said a fourth deputy chief position remains open.

“I want to be really clear, this is in no way an interim keep the lights on team,” Keller told reporters during a news conference this morning. “This is a turnaround team, and that’s what they’re going to do for Albuquerque.”

Geier served as commander of APD’s criminal investigations division for about five years prior to retiring from the department in 2014. In that position, he oversaw the violent and juvenile crimes sections.

“He is a former chief of the third largest city in New Mexico, which I think is very important,” Keller said. “He knows APD well, so it’s not going to take him a long time to get up to speed. He has a rare combination of respect from frontline officers and also enough outside experience to understand the changes that need to be made at APD. Mike also had extensive experience with respect to working with victims’ rights victims advocates, so he’s very familiar with especially the sexual assault victims’ rights community and folks even involved in APD reform.”

He said Geier was one of about a dozen candidates he talked to for the interim chief position. Keller said he expects the national search for the city’s next permanent police chief to take months and to wrap up by the end of next year. Geier is welcome to apply for the position, he said.

The three interim deputy chiefs Keller has appointed to help lead APD are:

• Harold Medina, who has served as chief of police for the Pueblo of Laguna for the past three years, following 20 years with APD.

• Rogelio “Roger” Banez, who has more than 24 years of experience in law enforcement, and retired from APD about nine months ago. He rose through the APD ranks to the position of area commander for Albuquerque’s southwest quadrant.

• And current Deputy Chief Eric Garcia, who will work on Department of Justice reforms. Keller noted that Garcia is the only APD executive that has been asked to stay on “at least through transition and perhaps longer.”

The appointments become effective on Friday, when Keller officially becomes mayor. A public swearing in ceremony for them will be held next week, Keller said.

“There’s still one vacancy that we’re going to look to fill over December and January,” he said.

Keller said he has tasked his APD leadership team with three immediate goals.

“They’re going to evaluate the department and every officer in that department,” he said. “Two, they are going to restructure that department, and three, we’re going to turn it around. Then we’re going to go out for a national search for chief of police. We’ll also see how the rest of these folks have worked out.”

Keller said their longer term goals are to reduce crime in Albuquerque; restore trust with the community; implement community policing, and to bring in new officers.

Bob Martinez, with the Albuquerque Fraternal Order of Police, praised Keller’s decision to appoint Geier as interim chief.

“It’s outstanding,” he said, adding that Geier is knowledgeable about the department and is firm and compassionate.

“He’ll be good for the department,” Martinez said.

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