SANTA FE, N.M. — A Santa Fe City Council committee has rejected a proposal by Police Chief Ray Rael to give the police chief more say on who gets promoted to lieutenant.
At a Tuesday night meeting of the Finance Committee, councilors were more receptive to a request from Rael that would allow him to hire an “exempt” police captain — someone from outside the department — to oversee internal affairs investigations into officers accused of wrongdoing.
But they told Rael they couldn’t accept the proposal in its current form, which calls for funding the IA captain position with the salaries currently allotted to two vacant crime scene technician positions.
“Nobody had a problem with him wanting an (internal affairs) position to be more independent,” City Councilor Patti Bushee told the Journal on Wednesday, “but the committee thought it didn’t mean we had to take two officer positions and convert them to a captain to meet that goal.”
Rael wrote in his proposal that the current internal affairs setup, where someone from within the department becomes the IA investigator and probes citizen complaints against fellow officers, is seen as biased in favor of the police.
That’s because the investigator often personally knows or has worked with the officers who face allegations, the chief said in his proposal. Rael has disagreed with IA findings in a couple of recent cases. The chief supported firing police officers after IA investigators either cleared officers or supported lesser discipline.
As for changing the lieutenant classifications to “exempt,” Bushee said the committee didn’t think it was necessary to get rid of the merit system now in place.
Currently, candidates go through testing that creates a pool from which the chief picks lieutenants. Rael wants to the chief to be able to pick lieutenants without the testing, saying that now not all officers who are promoted to lieutenant and become part of the management team support the policies of the chief.
Adam Gallegos, president of the Santa Fe police officers union, said Wednesday: “I’m glad to see the governing body saw the proposal for what it was and that they did the right thing.”
The union chief has said Rael’s plan could create a “good ol’ boy” system for promotions to lieutenant.
Even though the Finance Committee rejected Rael’s plan, it will still move on to the full City Council for consideration.
Journal reporter Vic Vela contributed to this story.