TO: Luis Saucedo, Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
FROM: Citizens of Albuquerque, Current & Former APD officers, and Interested Parties
RE: Preliminary Report
DATE: November 1, 2013
On November 27, 2012 your office of the United States Department of Justice announced the opening of an investigation into the use of force by the city of Albuquerque’s police department. While the investigation was presented as being limited in scope to the issues of use of force, during the press conference announcing the matter, then Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez made it clear the investigation would be all encompassing and stated:
“We will peel the onion to its core, and leave no stone unturned. We will follow the facts wherever they lead us. We will gather as much information as possible from as many sources as possible. We will examine department policies and practices, review records and interact with police officers in the field.”
Well Mr. Saucedo, as you have seen over the last year in general and over the last few days in particular, if there is anything predictable about the Albuquerque Police Department, it is that as a police department it is entirely unpredictable. And it has gotten worse. Sadly, this unpredictability is in conflict with the goal of your investigation as stated by Mr. Perez: to ensure that APD is an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.
The department’s unpredictability undermines the very efforts of APD’s officers and detectives, its accountability to its community, its effectiveness at controlling crime, and challenges its standing amongst other departments across the state. A police department that is unpredictable is in contravention with the very things a police department is supposed to project: stability and order.
Instead officers and detectives are pushed, pulled, and confused by false representations by the city’s mayor, back and forth changes in their SOPs, a constant rotation of supervisors and commanders, erratic city objectives, department goals redefined on a monthly basis, bold faced lies by its past chief Ray Schultz, and more lies by its current chief, Allen Banks. Mr. Banks insipid and disgraceful press conference will only be exacerbated by the lies he puts forward with today's press statement.
Officers, detectives, and sergeants tell us over and over that they simply want two things so they can do their jobs effectively and serve the citizens they are sworn to protect: they want to know what the rules are and they want to be led.
Unfortunately those are two things APD is sorely lacking: rules and leadership. As your investigation has by no doubt revealed, rules in APD are subject to an endless span of application. There is no constant expectation of what will be enforced and how it will be enforced. Violations of due process rights rule the day within APD’s application of discipline investigation and procedure.
Regarding leadership in APD, the problems are endless. From the current interim chief who shows neither the capacity nor the integrity to lead the state’s largest police department on through most of the lieutenants, there are but few persons in APD that are leaders in the best sense of the word. APD’s existing model of leadership is “you shouldn’t have done that” when in fact it should be “follow me.” From the current chief’s recorded testimony where he fabricates and intentionally omits knowledge, his involvement in tampering with crime scenes and falsifying police reports to the misconduct by deputy chiefs held liable for civil rights damages, sexual harassment, to lieutenants contributing to the deaths of fellow officers, the state of “leadership” in APD rivals that of a poorly run organized crime ring.
As last weekend’s incident painfully reveals, APD is in a critical condition. The actions of a single motivated individual exposed the vulnerability of APD’s state of affairs in a way no court case or investigation could ever do. While the public in general is at risk because of the decreased services and protection by the department, it is the personnel of APD that are most vulnerable to harm. In a single incident, a violent individual shot at least four law enforcement officers, targeted dozens of others, stole a police car, persisted in a shooting rampage throughout the city for over 11 miles, and for over 20 minutes not one supervisor within APD took command of the situation leaving a field sergeant to bear the burden while chasing the offender as the event unfolded. Not only did the department fail to notify the citizens of an unfolding emergency putting thousands in harm’s way but it even failed to alert other cross jurisdictional agencies.
APD’s immediate debrief response to this event is to evaluate how it can train officers to shoot from their cars while they are in motion. The consideration is so absurd on its face given the endless failures that only a department devoid of self-responsibility would consider tactics that are challenging to even the most skilled of marksmen.
In the context of all the incidents which brought you here, from police shootings, department civil liability, misconduct and crimes by department leaders, and what are lies at worst and obfuscations at best by city leaders, last weekend’s incident has shown you but a hint of what the core of the onion you started to unpeel nearly 12 months ago is truly like.
On behalf of the city’s citizens, current and former officers, and other interested parties, we respectfully implore that your office move forward with the release of a preliminary findings report concerning the investigation of APD. The city of Albuquerque and the officers of APD cannot wait three years before you release a report like you did with your investigation of the Puerto Rico Police Department, they need guidance now. They need structure and stabilization. The safety of citizens and officers alike depend on it.