Our community is facing challenges of enormous proportions, and there seems to be no relief in sight. The community I was born and raised in, raised a family in and spent a career dedicated to public service in, is in crisis. There exists a vacuum of trust in leaders today. The trust in our educational leadership has been shaken by the scandal involving the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and the judgment of the now former superintendent. Our secretary of state has just been given a long list of criminal allegations against her relating to her own integrity. Reports of rising crime, huge settlements against our police department for misconduct by police, assaults on police officers, random acts of violence against members of our community and career criminals roaming our streets are affecting our community.
If you are outraged you’re not alone; however, change is in our hands. As a community we must act to ensure people are held accountable and citizens are being protected. We must demand transparency of our government. To accomplish this, it will require that we engage as a community and select transformational leaders to move us forward.
The scandals are not limited to one political party. It’s clear no one party has a monopoly on bad actors. It ultimately is about character and by which standard we select our leaders. The selection of our leaders has often become a beauty contest, or based on the candidate’s celebrity status or bank account. It’s important to remember, actions are what we do, the rest is just talk.
The recent revelations of the questionable hire of a new deputy superintendent, later found to be facing child sexual assault charges, had many perplexed; how could the newly hired superintendent have dropped the ball on such an important decision? Sadly, our children, the local business community and other stakeholders end up paying the price.
We have a secretary of state who is entrusted with ensuring that elections are run in a fair and impartial manner, so if one of the allegations is true that she breached the public trust, it would demonstrate, yet again, the lack of integrity of an elected leader.
In a report released earlier this year by USA Today, New Mexico was ranked the second-most violent state in the nation, with our violent crime rate rising 6.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 – the most in the nation. The report cited Albuquerque as having an estimated crime rate more than twice the national average.
Over the past several years, Albuquerque has gained a national and international reputation as a community in crisis. The shooting of a former CNN journalist and career criminals committing property and violent crimes has only highlighted this.
Every agency that is part of our justice system must take ownership of the problem in order to focus on the work of the people; protecting our families, our elderly and one of our most vulnerable in society – our children.
It has become difficult to focus on fixing our problems because many have lost confidence in some of our elected officials and appointed leaders. This is evidenced by the anemic participation at the polls for a recent election cycle.
As a former police commander, law enforcement expert and experienced leader with decades of service in our community, I can assure you that we do not have to stand for this. As a prosecutor, I realize the importance of ensuring victims’ rights and the need to vigorously prosecute the most violent criminals. As an educator, I believe each of us has the ability to create a healthier and more cohesive community where everyone is respected and treated fairly.
Change is in our hands if we stand together and raise the expectations we have of our leaders and engage in the electoral process so we select those transformational leaders our community needs. Imagine what could be, a community that protects its citizens, holds people accountable and is transparent. Our economic health, quality of life and the safety of our families depend on it.
Edmund “Ed” Perea, a retired Albuquerque Police Department commanding officer, is a New Mexico attorney and special prosecutor serving the 13th Judicial District, a director with the Albuquerque Bar Association, adjunct professor of criminal law and procedure and has written and been published nationally.