As expected, New Mexico’s LEA board rubber stamped and accepted APD Chief, Ray Schultz’s proposal to automatically have a law enforcement officer’s certification be placed in suspended status when that officer is charged with a felony crime. As our Eyes reported, fellow board member and “citizen at large” Nate Korn, and owner of Albuquerque city police contract supplier Kaufman’s West, also voted in support of this measure.
“The misconduct definitely occurred, but the officer on a technicality slipped through the cracks.” For these reasons, Chief Schultz apparently thinks its ok to subvert, and side step, the Constitution of the United States. As Chief Schultz stated in an interview, an officer’s certification is like a license and failure to meet certain requirements may lead to its suspension. Yes, thank you Chief Schultz we are aware of that. And like your statement about officers needing probably cause in order to stop a person for DWI, you are once again wrong. A person’s driver’s license gets placed in suspended status when they fail to do certain things or are to have been found to have committed certain violations NOT when they are accused of wrong doing. A “certain thing” necessary to deprive a person of their license is more than a suspicion. As with a criminal indictment, an officer facing felony charges is again accused of doing something. While Chief Schultz seems to routinely forget we are not in 1933 Germany. Under OUR laws, a person is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. Our Legal Eyes tell us that what Chief Schultz and Mr. Korn are proposing is simply a violation of due process in an effort to remove a person’s property interest in their job. With an officer’s certification suspended, the means by which Chief Schultz can terminate the officer’s employment is clear and fast. We are not saying people have a “right” to be police officers. What we are saying is that once a person is employed, the courts recognize one’s employment as their property. And you cannot take away a person’s property without due process.
Look, we recognize that if an officer has been charged with a serious misdemeanor or felony crime, their ability to function as a police officer is all but impaired. However, remedies exist to deal with this scenario in order to respect the presumption of an officer’s innocence. The officer is relieved of their badge and gun and they are assigned an administrative duty outside of sworn officer responsibilities. In some cases administrative leave without pay may be justified. The case the media loves to point out is former APD officer Levi Chavez. But our Eyes tell us endless supervisors tried to have Mr. Chavez disciplined up through termination before the suspected murder of his late wife. There’s only one person who kept Mr. Chavez from being terminated: Chief Schultz. Now, Chief Schultz wants to put the cart before the horse and terminate officers before they’ve had their case adjudicated. There is considerable precedent where officers have been cleared of charges who have been reinstated because it was found that their termination was unjust. Chief Schultz likes to say “a prima facie showing” is all that is necessary. Maybe that logic works in his office but it doesn’t work in court or the real world. Ask former officer Timothy Chavez who was charged with rape and later cleared. He continues to collect payment from the city because APD terminated his employment unlawfully.
Given the mass exodus of the most senior and talented personnel from within APD we have to wonder to what lengths Chief Schultz will continue to go to deflect his failure upon people other than himself. Our Eyes tell us the lieutenant who has all but coordinated the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta will be retiring. Instead of anticipating this event, Chief Schultz assigned rookie supervisor Dodi Comacho as the balloon fiesta coordinator. Our Eyes tell us that her depth of experience in managing large scale events (remember the Downtown fiasco she was responsible for last winter?) has resulted in Chief Schultz assigning Commander Harold Medina and Lieutenant Fernando Aragon to assist her with this project. Instead of having one lieutenant manage the event, we now have two commanders and a lieutenant. And people wonder if the loss of experience and talent will cost the taxpayers??? Let’s also not forget the myriad issues other commander leaders have within Chief Schultz’s inner circle: DCOP Warfield has one confirmed excessive force judgment against him and one more pending. Commander Gonterman also has a judgment of excessive force against him which resulted in a bill of over $400,000 to the city’s taxpayers. Are these people going to be subject to the new LEA policy? Our Eyes tell us of course not because they are sworn to protect Chief Schultz.
Then, our Eyes tell us the APOA and FOP are all but silent in this matter. While we know many of our readers do not value organized labor, and we respect healthy dialogue, having labor push back on issues such as this is important to maintain balance. In the absence of balance, city and department leaders run amok and the effects of a demagogue such as Schultz are being seen in the spiraling debasement of a once fine agency. Now, under the reign of Chief Schultz, APD is the embodiment of arbitrary and disparate treatment of its officers. And the citizens are feeling the effects of this with poor policing, lack of trust, loss of experience and expertise, and constant scrutiny.
Remember that, in Chief Schultz’s own words, your civil rights are a mere technicality.