The credibility issues challenging the Albuquerque Police Department are not the result of sporadic officer misconduct incidents. Rather they are the consequence of persistent deviations from sound management practices and leadership. As echoed throughout the EYE there are endless examples of these deviations. Most recently the violence that unfolds each weekend night downtown was given special attention. The fights and mayhem that occurred during Fat Tuesday are nothing new to any officer who has worked Valley graveyard for the last twenty years. Despite the downtown shootings which occurred on New Year’s Day, APD again failed to adequately prepare for another holiday distinctive for its celebration and partying: Fat Tuesday. APD’s response was to present an effort represented as novel and new: out came a watch-tower, horses, and additional cops on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal. Sadly, nothing is new. The watch-tower was purchased over four years ago. Horses have always been used to combat the crowds, and officers have always been expected to be present at bar closing time. This information may appear to be new to average citizens, but to the ranks of officers throughout the department this representation is false. What message does this send to officers when their chief openly lies to the public when addressing a legitimate safety concern? What issue does this raise for patrons of downtown bars/restaurants expecting a safer environment because of Chief Schultz’s representations when in fact they are simply the same?
Discipline practices continue to be disparate and arbitrary. Some officers seem to do no wrong despite egregious misconduct while others are subject to unprecedented scrutiny. Frequently, officers become scape-goat targets when there is media generated negative publicity concerning APD. Last summer, Detective Russell Perea was named as a target in an IA investigation related to former officer Levi Chavez. The media focused significant attention upon APD’s leadership for the ongoing employment of Levi Chavez who for years had been on administrative reassignment pending a Valencia County investigation. With Chavez’s employment with the city finally terminated when he was indicted for the murder of his wife, attention was given to officers associated with Levi Chavez and those that responded to his house the night it seems Tera Chavez was murdered. This attention immediately followed negative publicity in the Albuquerque Journal. Russell Perea was named as a target because he is Levi Chavez’s alibi as they were working together as a two-man unit that night. Despite the fact that APD had recently just praised Perea publicly for his involvement in some highly publicized cases, APD conducted an IA investigation into Perea. It’s not clear what the triggering offense was that Perea did other than be assigned to work with Chavez but nonetheless he became a target. Ultimately, Perea was found to have violated a few SOPs carrying low levels of discipline (a verbal reprimand for being profane for instance) but was terminated for “untruthfulness.” The issue of untruthfulness draws from inconsistencies Perea made in statements to IA investigators when compared against answers to similar questions made during a deposition of a civil case. APD claimed Perea’s statements to the lawyer of Tera Chavez’s estate were not identical to the statements he made to IA investigators. The statements that were inconsistent or (unforthcoming as DCOP Allen Banks likes to say) involved whether or not Perea remembered seeing Chavez texting a lot the night Tera Chavez died. The difference was much like “Not really” and “I don’t know.” In January, Perea won his labor hearing with the hearing officer finding that APD was without cause in terminating Perea never mind disciplining him.
Yet, in the midst of Perea’s investigation, APD found no issue with almost all of the other officers involved with Levi Chavez. All the APD officers, including APD Lt. Shawn O’Connell, who went out of their jurisdiction to a violent death scene, who removed and destroyed personnel effects not belonging to them, and who intimidated in jurisdiction officers were found to have NOT violated ANY SOPs. That is except for Officer Nick Wheeler who was disciplined with hours off for having a personal relationship with Tera Chavez. Keep the elements of this incident in mind as another tragedy equally as disheartening yet involving even more and higher ranking APD personnel is starting to unfold....
Below is a recording from the closing arguments at Russell Perea’s public labor hearing. While you listen to the representations made by SID Commander Doug West, Deputy Chief Paul Feist, and Deputy Chief Allen Banks, ask yourself the most glaring question of all that remains unasked and unanswered: If Russell Perea in fact lied as he covered up for Levi Chavez, why is he not the subject of a criminal investigation law enforcement? It stands that IF indeed Perea lied in his actions and statements then he is guilty of numerous felonies from tampering with public records to being an accomplice in a murder. Yet, he has not been investigated, nor seems will he be investigated, for these offenses because if he is named as a target than all of APD’s involvement with Levi Chavez is subject to scrutiny—including the numerous attempts of other supervisors who tried to have Chavez terminated before his wife’s death. Ask yourself if the statements and representations made by two of APD’s Deputy Chief’s reinforce confidence in their ability to run a major city police department? Ask yourself, if Perea’s discipline for discrepancies between two sworn statements is termination, what level of discipline for Deputy Chief Allen Banks’s intentional misrepresentations are justified?
Sadly these two examples of APD’s challenges are not isolated but are part of a management culture that has lost all value of what it means to be a police officer. Being a police officer means more than maintaining order and enforcing laws, it means setting an example and doing the right thing ESPECIALLY when nobody is looking….
Due to overwhelming requests;please click here to hear the actual recording.
Quote of the Day
Does this sound familiar? This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes