Deputy chiefs say Geier left them – and the department – hanging - Albuquerque Journal

Deputy chiefs say Geier left them – and the department – hanging

Michael Smathers
Michael Smathers
Donovan Olvera
Eric Garciaa
Eric Garciaa
Art Gonzalez
Art Gonzalez
J.J. Griego
J.J. Griego

As the five deputy chiefs of police of the Albuquerque Police Department, we feel compelled to speak out on the recent media attention given to former chief Michael Geier. We come from different backgrounds, and we have different strengths, but we were all part of the same team – a leadership team chosen by Geier.

We also shared the sad experience of watching Geier foster an unhealthy environment that undermined our efforts to fight crime, succeed at reform and embrace the need to change the culture. Geier claims that his leadership of APD was under attack. But at the end of the day he failed to support his entire command staff and his front-line officers. Geier finished his tenure by embracing the same favoritism and resistance to change that paved the way for the Department of Justice to intervene into the daily operations of APD in 2014. It saddens and shocks us to see him lash out at us because, collectively, we want the department to succeed.

We all believed Geier showed promise when he was appointed as chief in December 2017. The department made important strides, focusing on reducing property crime and revamping use-of-force policies. But over time, he lost his way. When he needed to hold problem officers accountable, he wasn’t up to the task. As deputy chiefs, we know the many, many officers who conduct themselves with integrity. We also know how important it is to identify the problems within the ranks and make the necessary changes to implement constitutional policing. Recent news stories have explained how Geier ignored recommendations to terminate an officer who left a prisoner to die in a holding cell, having him instead take a few days of leave per week to serve out an abbreviated suspension. Unfortunately, this was just one example. Even when we were united on fair and even discipline, Geier would subsequently undercut his own leadership team and go his own way.

Just as important, Geier expressed little interest in our ideas and strategies for fighting crime in Albuquerque. We implemented Problem Response Teams in all six area commands; started the Metro 15; created the Gun Violence Reduction Unit with detectives who are investigating and working to prevent shootings; and created the Shield Unit to produce quality cases for prosecution and increase indictment rates. We worked as a team to lobby for investments to modernize the department. We put aside differences and worked with our partners in the criminal justice system to make improvements. When we ran into roadblocks to hiring more officers, we created a partnership with Central New Mexico College to help with training. These are the innovations in crime fighting that we are focused on and taking responsibility to make our community safer.

While we carried out these key initiatives, Geier increasingly started blaming everyone else for the shortcomings of the department under his watch. He was obsessed over rumors spread by retired officers, lawyers who make a living by suing the city, and a small circle of friends who convinced him to distrust his own command staff and the administration. This year he was rarely available during critical incidents like the dozens of protests, including Oñate, over the summer, and encouraged a culture of disdain for protesters. He rarely appeared at the scenes of officer-involved shootings. We heard from officers on the front lines who felt like their chief of police was not there for them.

As Mayor Tim Keller conducts a national search for a permanent chief, we will continue to work together to ensure continuity and leadership at APD. With distractions out of the way, we have stepped up our efforts to fight crime. We have held five citywide, anti-crime operations in the last several weeks, resulting in 202 quality arrests. We are taking guns and drugs off the street, recovering stolen vehicles, and sending a message that APD is going after the drivers of crime. We are reinvigorated and moving forward, with our focus where it needs to be – on our community.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Deputy chiefs say Geier left them – and the department – hanging

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