Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Mayor Tim Keller has nominated a woman with 25 years of policing experience to the superintendent of police reform position that has been vacant since the end of last year.
LaTesha Watson, who most recently served as the director of the Office of Public Safety Accountability for Sacramento, still needs to be confirmed by the City Council.
If confirmed, she will lead the Albuquerque Police Department along with Chief Harold Medina.
Keller created the superintendent of police reform position last year as a way to divvy up the responsibilities of fighting crime and the work that goes into complying with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice. The superintendent oversees all academy operations including cadet training and continuous education as well as reform efforts, internal affairs and police disciplinary matters.
In March 2021, Keller appointed Sylvester Stanley to the position as an interim leader. He retired at the end of December.
“We’ve put a lot of work into considering what reform means for our community, and how we reach important goals that allow our department to do the best job of protecting and serving the people of Albuquerque,” Keller said in a news release. “This means putting leaders in place who understand that there’s a balance, and who will work to break down roadblocks.”
In the news release, Watson praised the model and said it illustrated the city’s investment and dedication to implementing long-term sustainable reforms.
“The APD team, Albuquerque residents, Chief Harold Medina, and I will remain steadfast in effecting positive change while ensuring transparency, integrity, accountability, and commitment,” Watson said.
In her cover letter, Watson said she believes police departments must be introspective, transparent and honest. The Journal had requested all the candidates’ cover letters and résumés under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
“Although police organizations are unique and experience different types of problems, police leaders must identify dysfunctional elements within organizations and effectively implement change,” Watson wrote. “Great leadership upholding the highest standards encompassing integrity, accountability, and trust can only be experienced with strong support.”
According to her résumé, Watson had been appointed to the director of the Office of Public Safety Accountability in Sacramento in April 2020. Before that she was chief of police of the Henderson Police Department in Nevada and deputy chief of police of the Arlington Police Department in Texas.
Watson was fired from the Henderson Police Department 16 months into her tenure there. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the city had hired an independent firm to investigate complaints against her, and the firm found the complaints were unfounded or fell short of policy violations. However, the investigators found that there was a serious morale issue and Watson had disobeyed orders from the city manager, according to the newspaper.
In September 2020, Watson filed a federal lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination based on race and gender. She said she was “undermined, conspired against, harassed, dehumanized, exposed to centuries old bigotry and experienced back-room retaliation from a city government and its cronies.”
That lawsuit is pending.
Watson was one of 34 qualified candidates for the superintendent of police reform position.
Other candidates include two already within APD – deputy chief Mike Smathers and a lieutenant with the Internal Affairs Force Division Matthew Caplan – as well as chiefs of police and other law enforcement professionals from around the state and country.