From time to time, the Eye puts up guest writings concerning matters important to what is going on. The below writing was submitted by Dennis Maez. In case you do not know Dennis, let us tell you that he was the man, who through his hard work, and commitment to what is right, exposed that his grandson was wrongfully charged in a murder case involving APD. Dennis spent 30 years in law enforcement, and is a well respected, retired federal agent of the Secret Service who retired as a Special Agent In Charge. He is also an Albuquerque business owner.
Below is his opinion on the state of affairs concerning the election, and the plans of our mayoral candidates.
Comparison of the Keller, Colon, Lewis and Johnson crime mitigation plans and APD changes:
I’ve always been a “big picture” guy, and not much for the bits and pieces when it comes to issues. When I was SAIC and ASIC with the feds, I would let the supervisors that worked with me know what the “plan” was, then let them get to work and get it done. I did not micro-manage supervisors, because my thoughts were; if you have to micro-manage the supervisors that work for you, then you probably made a mistake in making them supervisors. But for this little exercise I’m going to get into the weeds, and make some comparisons, then give my two cents on what I think, because I’m the one writing this little gem.
I printed out each “plan” and am going off of what is written on their web sites, and the comments made by each of the four candidates. I don’t spend every waking moment following these guys around like a puppy, so if they’ve added parts to their plan that’s not on their web sites, and stuff I haven’t heard, those additions won’t be included in this little analysis.
The reason I didn’t include Garcia-Holmes, Chaves, Pedrotty and Wheeler-Deichel is because I don’t think they have a realistic chance of making a runoff, much less a first vote win. I’ve only commented on parts of these plans, that I think are the most important. The reason I did this was to try and focus the conversation to what I think is important, which are the issues, and not all the BS about who’s getting what money, and from whom and how. I surely wouldn’t get too wound about the Keller “in kind” issue, because from what I’m told there’s a lot more to come out on that deal, (like his campaign got a legal opinion before they did what they did), and the ethics complainant will have some answering of his own to do soon on some of his contributions. Anyway,,,,,, about the “plans.”
Tim Keller, Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson have said from the beginning of their campaigns that they will replace the current Chief and Command Staff. Brian Colon, at first said he would wait until he was elected, then meet with Chief Eden before saying he would get a new Chief. Brian told me that he has since met with Chief Eden, and as a result of that meeting he will definitely replace him with a new Chief. Brian’s explanation for his wanting to meet Eden before deciding was sincere, and after hearing his rationale I believe he did the right thing for himself, Brian. Everyone else can make up their own mind on that.
I didn’t see a time frame for a new Chief for Lewis, Johnson or Keller after they were to take office, Colon states that he will hire a new APD Chief within 60 day or taking office.
Manpower & APD staffing:
• Brian Colon’s plan states he will have 1200 sworn APD officers within 30 months of taking office.
• Tim Keller’s plan states he will have 1000 sworn APD officers within 24 months of taking office.
• Wayne Johnson’s plan states “we will need to fully staff the Albuquerque Police Department in order to sustain a secure environment.” There is no time frame given, and the budget now calls for 1000 sworn.
• Dan Lewis plans states he will have a “fully staffed” department. Again, I think that’s 1000 sworn but gave no time frame given.
As much as I’d like to see the APD have 1200 fully trained, highly qualified and highly paid officers the fact is that isn’t going to happen for many years. The goal of 1200 officers seems impossible to attain in 30 months, or 48 months for that matter. With the factors in play that the new Mayor will be dealing with on day one, such as the DOJ, a department in transition until a permanent Chief and Command Staff are on board and functioning, and not having an infrastructure to recruit, hire and train large numbers, having 1200 cops in total within even three years I just don’t think is a reality. Even if there were sufficient numbers of qualified applicants, the police academy isn’t geared at this point to handle and train more than three recruit classes a year, which I believe is their current rate. The average is 30 officers graduating per class. Keep in mind that based on attrition in APD in 2015, and 2016 if the same pattern holds for the next few years, there would need to be 500 officers hired to hit a staffing level of 1200 sworn. For ’15 and ’16 there was a combined total of approximately 150 sworn that left for retirement, other departments, or “other” reasons. If you do the math it just doesn’t seem that Mr. Colon’s goal is realistic.
I looked over his plan, and frankly didn’t see any immediate solutions that would be effective in working to get more cops on the streets immediately. The longer term goals are reasonable like, “Strengthen staffing levels of the Narcotics Unit, Burglary Unit, and Area Command Impact Teams to address unique crime concerns for different parts of the city, including a stronger presence in our schools, and improved safety for Albuquerque women.” Another quote “To be a truly Safe City, the Colón Administration will devote the time, effort, and resources necessary to truly embrace effective community policing in the City of Albuquerque.”
Increasing the detective units is a great idea, but with not enough officers now to handle calls that are stacked up I just don’t see where officers would come from to be able to move more sworn into the detective units, until the PD is fully staffed. I agree with Brian that embracing community policing is necessary, but again, I don’t think this is a viable option until there are enough officers to make community policing an option, now and for the foreseeable future.
Disclaimer- My analysis of Mr. Lewis and his plans are tainted so take it for what every you think it’s worth. The reason my analysis is tainted is simple. Dan Lewis has been a City Councilor for 5-6 years (?) and to me it seems like he just woke up recently and discovered that the City has a crime problem, and the APD has a leadership crisis. Now I know that as a councilor, he called for the replacement of Chief Schultz, and I guess that had merit at the time, but I’m more interested about what he’s done or hasn’t done about the current APD leadership, and to my recollection, he hasn’t called for Eden’s resignation, or a council vote of confidence on either Eden or Berry.
I think any city official who sat on their hands, while the situation has been allowed to get to the stage it is has been a part of the problem, and definitely not a part of the solution past, or in the future. It seems to me Lewis should have been screaming at every council meeting that the ship was sinking, and it needed drastic changes. Maybe he did, and I just didn’t hear about it, but if he did he should have been screaming louder, and banging on the table to get more people’s attention.
Also, the Lewis plan has a couple of things that I think are just plain pandering to the voters. Mr. Lewis states that he will pull all APD officers out of DOJ taskforces until “they (the DOJ) comply with the same CASA requirements APD officers have to comply with.” He thinks the feds should wear body cameras, maybe they should, but good luck with that one. Maybe if Mr. Lewis, and his fellow councilors would have shown more leadership in the past, there wouldn’t have been a need for the CASA requirements in the first place! His response has been, “I’m just a councilor”, my response is, and you should have been a vocal leader screaming about the direction crime was going, and the bad leadership at APD, as well as a councilor. Also, from a practical standpoint, taking APD out of federal task forces doesn’t make sense from a law enforcement standpoint, no matter the reason. That’s just bad policing, period.
This seems to be the ONLY plan that has any immediate solutions for dealing with the current crime problem. The Keller plan has the long term solutions that are similar to the Colon plan, but the short term solutions are more defined, and actually are there.
Some of Keller’s short term solutions:
1. Get rid of the Major rank, and evaluate each non-field services assignment to get more officers in the field. One example he gives is having one civilian, and one sworn PIO only.
2. Add the rank of Corporal and Senior Sergeant, to incentivize officers, and reward senior patrolmen, and long serving Sergeants.
3. Have officers not assigned to Field Services on a rotating basis work in the field, in uniform to supplement Field Services officers, until more cops are hired. This adds immediate numbers or officers in the Field to make sure officers have more security for themselves, and quicker response times to citizen calls. Nothing, nothing is more important than making sure that there are enough street officers, when they are responding to high priority, violent crimes, to cover each other, and not making citizens wait for hours, when they need a police officer.
4. Partner with the other agencies to “develop a multi-agency Safe Streets Task Force for targeting high-crime areas with saturation enforcement. The interim chief should immediately meet with the local heads of federal law enforcement agencies; the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Police commands serving central New Mexico. We must recognize that criminals don’t pay attention to jurisdictional boundaries. Our crime problem demands a cross-jurisdictional approach. The more we can coordinate with our local partners, the better positioned we will be to root out organized criminal activity. Cross-jurisdictional collaboration will be a huge force multiplier. If each agency were to assign just two individuals to this task force, and cross-commission officers, they would be able to saturate high-crime hotspots anywhere in the metro area.”
5. More from his plan. “We will enforce quality of life ordinances regarding liter, public defecation, intoxication, vandalism, and others designed to make public spaces safe again. By enforcing what some would consider minor laws, police can establish a proactive presence in troubled neighborhoods, to send a signal to criminals to get out of the area. We will follow up with saturation patrols in all areas on a random basis, which catch criminals off guard. This method seeks to eradicate criminal activity in high priority areas, and will be employed as a near-term strategy to lower crime rates, and make neighborhoods safer, while the department staffs up.”
The folks who say that this philosophy targets minority, and low income citizens should talk to the folks who live in those “low income and minority” neighborhoods. The good folks in those neighborhoods are begging to get more officers in their neighborhoods, to stop the thugs that prey on their lives. Frankly I’m surprised that any Democrat would advocate for what is basically the Broken Windows policy.
My thoughts about Mr. Johnson are similar to those of Mr. Lewis. Where have you been as an elected official Mr. Johnson, did you just notice the problems in the city and with APD? The one thing I will say about Johnson is that he isn’t as off base as Lewis, (in my humble opinion) in some of his long term strategies, but as with Colon, and Lewis I don’t see any immediate “solutions.” The solutions he proposes are to fire Chief Eden, hire more officers and re-negotiate the CASA with the DOJ. Although I do think (and hope) under the new Attorney General the mandate’s put forth by the Obama AG will not be as stringent, but, the policy proposed by Johnson is more of what we currently have with the current Chief and Command Staff at APD. Simply put, an adversarial relationship with the DOJ will only keep the DOJ in ABQ longer. It seems Mr. Johnson wants to keep the bickering and non-compliance between the APD and DOJ going into the future. At least Colon and Keller want to do what is needed to get the DOJ out of the APD, and start moving forward.
This is a comment I put on the Eye’s Facebook page last week dealing with the DOJ:
“I've been around a long time, 30 years active carrying a gun and badge, and I've been around a lot of police departments both in the US and around the World. To this day I still work with police departments around the country and in Latin America as a consultant, and one thing I know for sure, is even with all the problems with this department it still has great officers that go to work every day and want to be able to be professional and protect the public. Every cop I've talked to here in ABQ that want to do the right thing, but, they are demoralized to the point that many are counting the days they can get on with another agency or retire. Comments like those of Mr. Harness don't help. To the police officers in ABQ, and their families and friends, please strongly evaluate the candidates for Mayor, read the information that is posted in places like the The Eye On Albuquerque, and be smart on who you support. One of two things will happen in the next few months, this city will elect a Mayor who will make the changes that are needed, or one of the candidates who will keep things the same will be elected, and the situation will get worse. Don't let those who scream about the DOJ and the CASA be a distraction, a lot of departments that have been in the same situation have survived the DOJ, and have come out the back end better, and stronger than ever. Candidates that support the DOJ CASA reforms are not necessarily enemies of the street cops, or the Department. It will take a strong Chief to educate the next Mayor about the way to take advantage of the CASA to benefit the department as a whole, and the street officers in particular. It can be done. The big issues for some, is the DOJ use of force standards and reporting. Turn those issues to your advantage, by showing when you handcuff the police you need more police to get the job done to make police officers safer on the streets, because criminals become emboldened. More highly paid, highly trained officers, and more show of strength will result in less incidents where bad guys will take on the police, which will mean less confrontation. And for those who make the mistake of taking on the cops, well, big mistakes result in big consequences. A strong pro-APD Mayor and Chief that will stand up for the officers will make this department one of the best in the Country, again. Hopefully better days are coming.”
The election isn’t far off, it really is time for us to stop with all the cursing and name calling, blah, blah and get down to looking at these folks, to see who’d do the right thing for the city and the PD. The rest is weeds, it’s time to get out of the weeds.