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APD chief demotes commander who altered police report

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The commander of the Albuquerque police Internal Affairs Division was demoted to lieutenant and moved to the Field Services Bureau after an investigation found she altered a police report.

That was one of four recent changes in the Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff. The shifts were made after a review of leadership positions within the department called for by Chief Michael Geier, Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman, told the Journal.

Jennifer Garcia, the former internal affairs commander, was put under investigation in March after the Albuquerque Police Officers Association filed a complaint that she had altered and backdated a police report that was part of an administrative investigation so that it appeared to be completed within deadlines outlined in the police officer’s collective bargaining agreement, according to a July 27 memo from Geier that police released on Thursday.

The department hired an outside firm to investigate Garcia and the result was that she violated two department policies. She was demoted and reassigned, according to the memo to Michael Miller, who is now the commander of internal affairs.

Commanders are at-will positions and a person can be relieved of duty at any time, Gallegos said.

When the new police administration took over in December, Geier called for a review of all commanders and restructured the department. The purpose of the restructuring was to dedicate more resources to fighting crime and to court-enforceable police reforms, Geier said at the time.

Shaun Willoughby, the president of the APOA, said the formal investigation of a commander, who is not part of the police union, helps front-line officers have confidence that the city holds all officers accountable, regardless of rank.

“Accountability cannot only be for the rank and file,” he said. “Officers wouldn’t trust the institution they work for.”

As part of the restructuring, other recent commander-level changes include:

• Acting Valley Commander Josh McDonald retired and is being replaced by acting Commander Zachary Wesley. McDonald was going to be demoted to lieutenant. Gallegos said commander demotions were in response to the “progress” happening under their commands.

• Former Southwest Commander Michelle Campbell is now the commander of the Compliance Bureau, which oversees police reforms. Timothy Espinosa is the acting commander of the Southwest area command.

• Academy Commander John Sullivan retired. He was replaced by acting Commander Angela Byrd, who had been the chief of police in Bosque Farms.

Sullivan retired after APD had informed him he would be demoted and not long after he testified before a federal judge about the police academy.

The police academy has experienced high turnover in leadership in recent years as the Police Department tries to comply with a settlement agreement between the city and the Department of Justice, which requires that police officers receive additional training.

Gallegos said the police academy, which has experienced a high turnover in leadership in recent years, was one of the primary areas where police compliance with the reform effort was “falling behind.”

“We have appointed a new commander to the academy who embraces accountability and will instill that in our officers as they begin their important work of keeping the public safe,” he said.

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