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Keller administration grilled on handling of APD

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier

An Albuquerque city councilor is publicly raising questions about whether the city’s police chief still has the backing of the mayoral administration that appointed him in light of a social media post suggesting he is on his way out.

Brook Bassan – who called herself an “advocate” for Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier – questioned a top official in Mayor Tim Keller’s administration during Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, asking how much direction the Mayor’s Office is giving APD and inquiring about a social media post alleging the mayor and his team are pushing Geier out.

Sarita Nair, the city’s chief administrative officer, responded that neither she, the mayor nor anyone on City Hall’s “11th floor” were making tactical decisions for APD. But Nair did not give a definitive answer when Bassan asked directly if Geier had the administration’s support.

“I think it’s really important that we can dispel myths, but that we don’t fall into the rumor mill,” Nair said. “Chief Geier was one of the first appointments that the mayor made; he was so clearly the right person for the job at that time that even when we went through a national search, he emerged as the top candidate. … I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumormongering at this point.”

An APD spokesman did not answer Journal questions Wednesday about whether Geier is about to retire.

Bassan had similarly questioned Nair at a council meeting last month. That came in response to media reports that Geier had requested an internal affairs investigation into his chief of staff, John Ross, for engaging in conduct that reflects poorly on the department, altering, misrepresenting or making false statements in reports, and failing to safeguard department property. At the time a Journal article was published, Geier said anything suggesting he is not in control of APD is ridiculous and “petty water-cooler talk.”

Bassan on Wednesday referenced the Ross investigation and a more recent controversy in which APD deleted a tweet from its official account that ostensibly quoted Geier calling a high-profile police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, “senseless.” Geier apologized, saying those were not his words, and department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos later acknowledged the tweet was sent without Geier’s approval.

Asked by Bassan about that Wednesday, Nair said that it was uncommon to quote officials without their permission, but that Gallegos had “stepped up to take accountability for that very human mistake.”

Bassan also raised APD’s handling of the Juan de Oñate protest. APD’s response and its subsequent shooting investigation came under fire from all sides earlier this summer.

Bassan said she was concerned that the Mayor’s Office had helped make decisions about how APD handled that and other protests, an allegation Nair rejected.

“Let me be clear: To the extent you’re suggesting that the 11th floor, as we call it, is making operational or tactical decisions about the Police Department, we are not,” she said.

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