Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Police Beat: Another Shooting Prompts More Questions For Mayor And White, Plus: More Campaign TV, And: Brian Colón's New Job 

Another fatal police shooting brings us back to where we began the week--oversight of the ABQ police department and that dramatic spike in police involved shootings this year--now eight, with five of them fatal.

Few will shed tears for Julian Culbert, the certified bad guy who a police officer shot early Tuesday after Culbert allegedly lunged at him with a knife. Culbert had has wife locked in the trunk of his car at the time of the incident. Not a nice fellow.

But Mayor RJ Berry's statement in the immediate aftermath of the incident seemed impulsive and defensive. "I have no plans to change any polices," he declared.

But even the most pro-law enforcement types are asking questions and raising concerns that the city, justified or not, is in danger of developing a Wild West reputation when it comes to its police force.

The latest fatal shooting came only a day after our Monday blog in which the question again was raised on why the city's chief administrative officer, David Campbell, has been stripped of oversight authority over police and fire and the responsibility rests with Public Safety Director and former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White.

But veteran law enforcement observers say Mayor Berry should also be addressing other questions, including whether we have a less experienced police force than in the past. Is the
police oversight commission and the independent review officer doing their jobs? Who is overseeing White's day-to-day administration of police and fire, if the CAO isn't? The mayor, whose responsibility under the city charter is to delegate that task to the CAO? Is the department adopting a more aggressive posture since Berry and White took over?

And should that aforementioned policy regrading the CAO be repealed and ABQ Police Chief Schultz begin reporting to Campbell and not to White?

As for the police oversight commission, Matthew Archuleta, the head of the panel, told KOAT-TV he believes one solution might be for government agencies to put aside more money to treat people who might be at risk for violence before they reach the flashpoint.

That's not exactly addressing the issue at hand, Matt.

And what of the city's legal exposure if the rate of police-involved shootings continues to skyrocket--there was only one during the first half of last year. Will we be subjected to costly lawsuits? If the shootings are not all justified we will.

ABQ has a deep respect for its police department, as shown through repeated increases in the department's budget. But that respect could be compromised if Berry's administration circles the wagons and is not open to questioning and therefore improving police policies or the current management structure. If the mayor, White and Campbell do not act, then the trial lawyers with their lawsuits could take control. Not a pleasant prospect for police or the taxpayers. Don't say we didn't tell you.

Tom Mullins
New Mexico politico Tom Mullins thrust the state into the national spotlight, but it was a dubious honor. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Tuesday named Mullins the GOP candidate for the northern congressional seat, one of his "worst persons in the world." That came after Mullins wondered aloud about putting land mines along the US-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration, and possibly nuclear terrorists.

And Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, who Mullins of Farmington hopes to unseat, also piled on. He came with this in a fund-raising email:

Let's tell radicals like Tom Mullins that we're not going to stand for violent, inhumane policies that endanger New Mexicans.

Lujan is heavily favored for re-election in the northern congressional district, the most Democratic of the state's three.

Mullins is working overtime to say he was musing over the landmine idea, not advocating for it.


Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish is mixing it up. She comes with two new TV spots. One of them touts her support of small business. The other 30 second ad continues pounding the record of her opponent--GOP Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez. She says Susana "cut deals" that allowed two child predators to avoid registering as sex offenders. Of course, it was Susana who earlier launched an ad saying Denish was soft on a sex offender.

We understand the old bromide that "sex sells" but in this case we don't think the voters' necks are craning to get a look at this merchandise.


Freshly-minted Democratic Light Guv nominee Brian Colón is being put to work by his new boss--Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. Here's his debut as official attack dog as he takes on GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez:

It appears Swiftboat Susana is at it again - throwing out another baseless attack against Diane in the hopes that she can divert attention from the real issues that New Mexicans care about.

In her latest ad, Swiftboat Susana says Diane was behind a policy that led to a horrific crime. That is absolutely false and we are not going to stand by and let her make false claims about Diane or her record.

What Colón did there is the traditional task of the #2. It gives the leader of the ticket the chance to take a more positive tone, although we haven't seen much of that in the early rounds.

And what about John Sanchez, Susana's #2? He has yet to be heard from.

Come on in, John. The water is fine--just a little muddy.


Reader Jim McClure chimes in on our blog this week that reported on a study that showed polls operating in New Mexico that use automatic phone calls--not live interviewers score high in accuracy---

I was the public opinion research director for Illinois Bell back in the 80's and still do a lot of surveys in my nonprofit work.

The principal advantage of a live phone survey is that a skilled interviewer can probe for verbatim comments that add qualitative value to the statistical results. That's helpful for some surveys but unnecessary in a simple poll that asks who you're voting for and what issues are most important.

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