As chief of police, I was personally committed to making Albuquerque a safer city. I recently prepared a report that highlighted 22 major accomplishments APD achieved since I took office in late 2017. After a record year of violent crime in 2019, I proposed a plan to reduce gun violence in 2020 by 15%. The priority goal was to reduce homicides with firearms and shootings with injuries. Unfortunately, violent crime increased substantially (because) the mayor refused to sign grants providing critical resources needed to fight violent crime and the current interim chief failed to even get this program off the ground. I wonder how many shootings and homicides could have been prevented had the mayor and interim chief put their personal interests and political aspirations aside to simply support public safety.
As for federal Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), we made great progress despite independent monitor James Ginger continually moving the goal posts back. Ginger has always been hypercritical and inconsistent with his reviews of our work. At times, he criticized work products that were already corrected based on his own comments. He even failed to correct his own outcomes report after we pointed out critical errors. It got so bad we were told to document all interactions with him so as to have a paper trail to refute claims where he never received certain documents. I recall he once chastised us for sending him too many documents to review because he was already overwhelmed with finishing his next report.
Ginger’s reports often were repetitive and sometimes inaccurate or misleading. He requires a NASA-like performance standard for compliance with little or no margin for error. He often rambled on during conference calls, making little sense and repeating the same thing discussed in previous weeks. He was always on a fault-finding mission, and it sure appeared to me that after six years he was more interested in job security than anything else. But who wouldn’t be interested if they could be guaranteed a $1.2 million annual payment?
I refused to compromise my principles with the excessive disciplinary expectations demanded by Ginger and the monitors. We went from under 300 annual administrative cases against officers to possibly surpassing 900 cases this year. I even had the city attorney try to convince me to reconsider recommendations on a particular case only to appease Ginger, who had concerns based on inaccurate and false assumptions. I was also lied to by the city attorney on that case just to prevent some negative comments by Ginger in his next report.
I am aware that even our chief administrative officer, Sarita Nair, has been weighing in and criticizing our officers’ actions regarding deadly force encounters and other use of force incidents. Like Ginger and his team, she is also second-guessing our police officers who put their lives on the line and protect our community every day. I am truly concerned that our officers will be thrown under the bus for just trying to do their jobs. More importantly, the officers may become reluctant to be proactive in order to avoid the scrutiny of “Monday-morning” critics who will never really understand what risks and challenges our cops face. Nor will these critics ever understand the effect they have on overall morale and productivity.
I had one case where an officer confronted someone breaking into his vehicle overnight and the offender pulled a gun on him. The officer did not protect himself because he was afraid of getting disciplined or even fired. That officer could have been killed in his own driveway while his young child and wife were inside his home. This is some of what has become of our police culture.
Call it “Counter-CASA Culture” or whatever – I did not want to have officers hurt or killed on my watch because they were afraid to do their job. I always had my officers’ backs and always will.