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Keller ‘misstep’ irks APD officers

Mayor Tim Keller

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police officers were a bit riled when Mayor Tim Keller apologized for their behavior this week.

During a news conference to introduce Albuquerque police Chief Michael Geier, Keller apologized to the victims of excessive force by police.

“Our community deserves an apology for its historical tone at the top of the department and a culture of excessive force,” Keller said earlier this week. “I also want to tell the victims and families who have been hurt by unnecessary use of force, that I am sorry.”

Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque police union, said his phone quickly started ringing with calls from officers who were upset with the mayor’s remarks.

“We just didn’t think it was an appropriate way to move forward by ripping open an old wound,” Willoughby said. “Most police officers don’t feel they have anything to apologize for.”

Willoughby said officers use force during dynamic situations, and a blanket apology didn’t sit well with the rank and file.

“Let’s pick one (use-of-force case) and look at all the facts of the case and not jump to conclusions,” he said. “You can’t apologize to a criminal element that forced a police officer to use force against them.”

It marked the first spat between Keller, who took over as mayor and the start of the month, and the police union. The union and former Mayor Richard Berry had a tumultuous relationship and rarely saw eye-to-eye on issues.

The mayor’s office issued a statement Friday night that didn’t directly address the union’s being upset with his remarks.

“The Mayor aims to attack crime from all sides by both better supporting officers and restoring trust in the community,” Alicia Manzano, a spokeswoman, said in an email. “We will continue working together with frontline officers and the new leadership at APD to achieve that goal.”

Willoughby said that, despite the “misstep,” police officers are still supportive of Keller, whom the union endorsed.

“It doesn’t make us waver. It doesn’t make us think that he’s not the right leader for Albuquerque. It doesn’t make us second-guess his ability to move Albuquerque forward,” he said. “I view this as somewhat of misstep.”

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