It's Saturday morning, do you know where your APD command staff is? Heck, with 200 officers headed out the door, do you know where any cops are?
The cultural problems, along with all other problems, at APD begin and end with its leaders. Our commanders, past and present, have acted more like caretakers than policy makers. Certainly a city the size of Albuquerque has at least one command staff officer on the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not on call, but actually working. If you make this assumption you would be wrong. At APD, when you get promoted to Lieutenant you get weekends off. APD has almost 1,000 officers, and we have had horrible incidents that beg for a command staff officer to lead, but by design, Schultz, Banks, Eden do not require any command staff officers to work weekends. Imagine if our military didn't have officers working on weekends, it makes no sense.
Do you want examples where we needed command staff officers as incident commanders? Let's provide two.
October 28, 2013, Chris Chase goes on a shooting spree throughout Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Wounding several law enforcement officers and almost killing one Bernalillo County Sheriff deputy. This incident lasted almost 30 minutes and went from the South Broadway area, through the North Valley, into Los Ranchos, finally ending at 4th and Montano. This incident only came to an end because Chris Chase wrecked his car. APD had no plan to stop him. Why? Because at APD when you become a Lieutenant you no longer work on weekends. For all of you DoJ attorneys and outside media folks that read this blog, read this a second time. The Albuquerque Police Department by design does not have any command staff officers working on Saturday's and Sunday's. It's a perk for becoming part of the command staff. During the Chris Chase incident all we had was a young sergeant, who was part of the pursuit, as the highest ranking officer. We had a lot of first responders, APD officers, BCSO, APS Police, etc respond but read this again, the person in command was the APD sergeant who was also in the pursuit. If an incident screamed for a Command Staff officer to step up and run it, Chris Chase is that incident. You cannot expect a first line supervisor (sergeant) to coordinate a response that includes several different area commands and at least three different agencies. No sergeant is prepared for, or trained for, something like this. Coordinating this type of response is belongs to the command staff, but they were all at home.
Move forward to March 21, 2014, the James Boyd shooting. During this seven hour incident the highest ranking officers were again, sergeants. From the reports released by APD we had a field services sergeant and a SWAT sergeant. Yet when you read through the huge APD investigation it becomes clear that no one was actually in charge. We had FSB, SWAT, K9, ROP, NMSP and Open Space at this scene, yet not one command staff officer was there. The command staff officer who would have been the "incident commander"; who would have be accountable for making a plan and it's implementation; was at home enjoying his weekends off. The Boyd scene, just like the Chase incident, had no leader, no one in charge.
You can point a finger at the officers at the James Boyd incident but the actual fault is found in the organization of the Albuquerque Police Department. By not requiring a Command Staff officer to be on the clock, working, every day of the week, 24 hours a day, we set ourselves up for failure. A command staff officer should have been present and in command at the Boyd incident. That way everyone would know who was making the plan, what the plan was, and who would be accountable. But at APD is any command staff officer ever held accountable? When was the last time a command staff officer was ever given a day off for an IA issue? It doesn't happen at APD. This lack of command staff officers being assigned to work weekends is done by design. If they are not present they can't be held accountable.
APD command staff officers are more like caretakers than leaders. This is because of the twenty year pension and the culture at the top of APD. Most command staff officers make their move into command in the later part of their career. They realize that if all they do is keep quiet and support the status quo, they will get their three high years for pension and get out. Don't believe me? Just look at 2005, only nine years ago? Are any of those command officers (remember this is lieutenant and above) still around? No. We can only hope that the change to PERA, making a 25 year pension for new hires and allowing current workers to work almost 30 years for 90%, will help APD to keep command staff officers around longer than just getting their high three. But until APD command staff officers decide to bravely step up and dissent with the status quo, nothing will change. Until APD command staff officers step forward and put their reputations / careers on the line by working to change the system at APD, nothing will change. APD command staff officers do not want to rock the boat. They want to get their 20 years, with their large pensions, and get out.
APD Command staff officers (lieutenant, captain / commander, major, deputy chief and chief) are still not scheduled to work weekends, I guess Berry/Eden are waiting for the DoJ to tell them crime occurs on Saturday and Sunday.
Final note to Chief Eden. We know you have an abundance of experience running a large police department, sic, but if you swallow your pride and take our advice start having command staff officers working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Make them accountable. Furthermore, you must set up a training system that prepares all APD officers to handle critical incidents. This training must be incorporated into the MOE training and be held yearly / continually for all APD officers. This is not the type of training that Joe Wolfe could do. Wolfe was never a police officer. This training should involve all APD officers, from top to bottom, everyone is critiqued on the job they are doing. This will show you where APD is doing it right and where APD is doing it wrong. It will show you who, in command, is an actual leader and prepared to handle critical incidents and who will need additional training to get up to speed. Do it now, don't wait for the DoJ. Your Eye fears for all officers and citizens that another Chris Chase or James Boyd incident is on the horizon, do something now to prepare your officers to handle it. Chief Eden you can fix this, or you can do nothing and history will hold you accountable. The choice is yours, Chief Eden, are you a caretaker or are you brave enough to take responsibility and make the changes now?