City urged to slow down on search for APD chief - Albuquerque Journal

City urged to slow down on search for APD chief

Nancy Koenigsberg and Robby Heckman talk about some of the criteria that the members of the APD Forward group would like the search committee to use in searching for a new chief of police for the City of Albuquerque
Nancy Koenigsberg and Robby Heckman talk about some of the criteria that the members of the APD Forward group would like the search committee to use in searching for a new chief of police for the City of Albuquerque. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

One question was on the minds of many citizens who attended a Saturday afternoon “listening session” on the search for a permanent city police chief: Why the rush?

“It is my feeling, personally, that you need to extend this process into a much longer time frame,” community member Linda Donohue said during the session hosted by APD Forward and attended by the newly announced chief selection committee. “… It’s deeply concerning to me, what I see as a strong push to do this in six weeks.”

The chief position officially opened May 1 and will close May 21, Mayor Tim Keller’s chief of staff Sunalei Stewart said.

Stewart said the administration hopes to have found a permanent chief by June, before the City Council breaks until August.

The time frame was also one of the main concerns of APD Forward, a group comprised of multiple organizations that advocates for reform of the city’s police department, and multiple other citizens who spoke at the meeting.

“My wife is a former corporate officer and I’m from the university side, and we’re sitting here saying, ‘It takes six to 12 months to get a university president. It takes much longer than 60 days to get a high corporate officer,’ ” Bob Walling said. “And they affect only a tiny portion of the population. The chief of police affects us all.”

Nancy Koenigsberg of APD Forward discusses criteria the group hopes to see in the permanent APD chief
Nancy Koenigsberg of APD Forward discusses attributes the group hopes to see in the permanent APD chief. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Some worried the “nationwide search,” especially at just a month-and-a-half-long, won’t go beyond current APD employees.

“Whenever a chief is being selected, there’s this push to bring somebody up from the ranks,” Albuquerque attorney Pete Dinelli said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore. You’re going to have to reach out and find somebody and bring somebody in.”

Stewart said the administration feels that, after communicating with constituents on the campaign trail last year and during the transition, it already has a good idea of what it is looking for in a new leader.

In February, Keller appointed James Lewis, who is also sitting on the chief selection committee, as the city’s senior advisor for public safety to oversee department reforms and help implement a community policing model.

“Frankly, the mayor directly has taken a lot of public comment on the campaign trail, where this issue was hotly discussed and debated,” Stewart said. “We do feel there has been a lot of opportunity, a lot of discussion about the direction APD needs to go and qualities we need to see in a chief of police.”

APD Forward and others also expressed concerns over what they view as a lack of representation on the selection committee, whose members were referred to as “insiders” by one commenter.

The majority of the five-member committee have worked for the city at some point in their careers.

Among the members, in addition to the ability to reform the department, leadership appeared to be a key quality sought in potential candidates.

“It’s not just a matter of managing a process,” committee member Bob Martinez said. “It’s about being a leader.”

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