Degradation of APD Continues
I have watched in silence as the Albuquerque Police Department slips into ruin. I talk to people who still love and respect the fine men and women of the police force. These citizens have voiced to me their anger and dismay of how some have chosen to bash the officers but have failed to place blame where it belongs; the main fault lies squarely and firmly with the administration of the city.
I retired from APD as a police administrator, at the rank of lieutenant, at the end of 2007 after serving the City of Albuquerque for twenty-five years. I feel it is very relevant to set the record straight as to who is at fault, why and what should be done to correct and rectify the problems plaguing the Albuquerque Police Department.
Here is a list of what the police administration should implement to stop the hemorrhaging at APD:
- APD should immediately flathead the department and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and its consequence: ambiguity. This would require the elimination of all deputy chiefs and majors with the exception of one under-chief to act in place of the chief when he or she is not available. All area commanders, directors and other lead personnel would answer directly to the Chief of Police. The Chief would know what was going on in the City and who was involved and these endless layers of bureaucratic protection would be removed. The citizens would know the Chief of Police was in charge, responsible and accountable for the department.
- APD should immediately de-centralize the department and force all non-essential personnel into uniform and take calls for service. APD is severely understaffed in the streets. The Chief should have officers as generalists and shift the department from the specialization. Yes, there is a need for certain units, such as, the Crimes Against Children Unit and Homicide Unit, etc…Implement mandatory rotation of personnel and enforce those rotations of personnel in specialized units. This would give an immediate relief to calls for service from citizens.
- Eliminate the college requirements without lowering the standards which are designed to weed out unfit candidates. Eliminate the “College Academy” atmosphere and reinstitute managed stress at the academy. Albuquerque streets are not kind, and we need officers who are not afraid to work in that environment. The mentality of a college atmosphere is great for UNM students but not for cadets who the department is attempting to transform into responsible officers who have very broad authority. I attended a high stress academy and the idea was to ensure the officers could handle the stress of being a police officer. A consequence of a low/non stress academy is officers “immediately going for the gun” instead of using the other skills and techniques taught in the academy.
- Immediately implement training on how to deal with the mentally ill, shoot/don’t shoot scenarios, additional weapons training on the appropriate use of those weapons, verbal judo and other proven methods of dealing with people that do not necessitate the use of force. This training would include a full block on ethical treatment of citizens and leadership. Revamp the Field Training Program where new officers are mentored to seek out less than lethal methods to resolve problems they are confronted with.
- Strictly enforce the use of lapel cameras and audio to include harsh punishment if this policy is violated. While I was a lieutenant I mandated all officers under my command to use the tape recorder on every citizen contact (this was prior to the issuance of the lapel cameras). Some officers told me they hated me for my policy but my team had very few complaints and the few complaints I did receive were cleared almost immediately by listening to the tape recording. I made my officers responsible and accountable.
- Mandate supervisors go out to all critical calls. Accountability starts with the administration and holding supervisors accountable for their personnel is critical.
- Take appropriate action when the situation and/or circumstance dictate. If there is a clean and blatant violation by an officer; the Chief of Police must act responsibly. If an officer commits a crime while on-duty and it is documented by a recording, the Chief must act accordingly.*The APD shooting that made National news is a prime example. The Chief should have had the offending parties’ arrest and booked. The case should have immediately been sent to the District Attorney for any possible prosecution. Some officers would view this as negative when in-fact it is positive and would have saved the rest of the department from the mayhem that ensued. Facts do not lie.
- Implement an educational program to allow citizens an inside view of the police department. Acknowledging that several officer involved shootings are problematic, notwithstanding, the Albuquerque Police Department takes hundreds and hundreds of thousands of calls per year without anyone being hurt. There are relevant facts the public is not educated about.
These are the first steps to gain control of the department and prove the Chief of Police is in charge, responsible and accountable to the citizens of Albuquerque. The citizens must hold the City administration accountable; this includes the Mayor, the CAO and the Chief of Police. I respect the administration but I also believe many mistakes have been made by the administration and more mistakes continue to be made. This culture started many years ago and it will take several years to fully correct the problems in APD if the administration makes the correct movements.
Please take all the facts into consideration before you make a judgment call about the men and women of APD who sacrifice their lives every day in the preservation of peace and of life. While you’re asleep they are out there protecting all of us; when you’re in your pajamas opening Christmas gifts with family, they are out there away from their families protecting us. One last note and it doesn’t matter what side you’re rallying for; always have respect for one another. We have and need police officers because we are a civilized civilization.