Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Obama's New Friend: Gary Johnson, Plus: We Go Long And Deep On The Continuing Woes Of APD And Company; It's New Mexico's Wednesday Blog 

 President Obama has a new friend. Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico Governor who failed in his bid to capture the GOP presidential nomination and switched to running for the Libertarian Party nod has scored 7 percent in a national poll. You can bet most of that would come out of the GOP's hide as Johnson's message is overwhelmingly conservative. For example, he wants to literally cut the federal budget in half.

Johnson is well on his way to securing the Libertarian Party nomination, having so far won half of the party's caucuses. Support for third party candidates often comes down as the campaign heats up. But is 7 percent possible for Johnson in his home state of New Mexico? Perhaps. Even if it is 4 or 5 percent it could throw the state's five electoral votes to Obama. It's a continuing story and one being closely watched here at the home of New Mexico politics...


Now to a Senior Alligator tracking the Dem race to replace retiring ABQ west side State Senator Bernadette Sanchez.  25 year old Jacob Candelaria is up against Carlos Villanueva, with Candelaria looking like the front-runner. There is no R running. The winner of the June 5 primary gets the trip to Santa Fe. There has been talk in the district about Candelaria's ties to former State Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon who is now serving time in a federal prison in Colorado on a corruption charge. Our Gator picks up on that:

The grandparents of Jacob Candelaria, Jack and Gloria, were stalwarts in the San Jose Community. Gloria was active in the formation of the “Community Dental “ non-profit. The San Jose community center is named for Jack. Unfortunately, the lining is not all silver. There was an allegation of Medicaid fraud at the clinic in the 90’s. A considerable amount of state pork went into the facility via Manny Aragon. But as State Rep. Kiki Saavedra says, “That don’t make him bad people.” There are always skeletons, even if they skip a generation....

Indeed there are and the skeletons promptly make their appearance when the jockeying for power begins on the crowded stage of La Politica. By the way, a friend of Villanueva says he is looking at the validity of Candelaria's petition signatures as this race draws increasing attention.

APD Chief Schultz
Now to today's in-depth blogging....First this news from the ABQ Journal which came in as we were preparing this report:

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Joey Sigala and Vice President Felipe Garcia have resigned, officials said. The pair stepped down after a union board meeting this morning amid a growing chorus of city leaders condeming their practice of paying officers involved in shootings up to $500 and a forthcoming audit of union finances that follows revelations of possible financial irregularities.

We'll be following that, but now to our report prepared before those events..

Two more fatal police shootings this mionth (that makes for 18 in just over two years) and trouble at the police union over payments to officers who are involved in such shootings. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice remains silent on whether it will conduct a probe of the many fatal shootings in ABQ.

We're back on the police beat today, although apparently not quick enough for some. Ousted ABQ Public Safety Director and former GOP Bernaillo County Sheriff Darren White took to his Twitter account Tuesday and joined earlier criticism leveled against us by his former boss, ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz. White tweeted from his political exile:

Joe Monahan has been pounding the APD chief on police shootings, but is silent on the recent union scandal. Why? APOA advertises on his blog.

In January, Schultz emailed us:

The shootings have occurred because of the actions of the individual, i.e. pulling a firearm, pulling a knife, attacking the officer, etc...If you don't support the officers, you should not take the Union's money and display their banner on your web page!

Well, the ABQ police union isn't on yer little 'ol blog to stifle criticism of its activities or influence our coverage. (And if they are, they forgot to tell us). In fact, our positions directly contradict those held by the union--we support a Department of Justice investigation into the fatal shootings and we also think that it is high time for a change in ABQ police chiefs.

Anyway, enough about how the sausage is made around here, let's get to the latest action. Retired APD Seargent Don Klein has been blogging this story with us for well over a year. He's critical of the police department's leadership but shoots his analysis down the middle. We see that today as he delivers some hits to the police union. And if that makes the union want to stop advertising here, c'est la vie. There are no hard feelings around here--just the reporting and blogging of the hard political realities of ABQ and the state of New Mexico. That's why we're a truly independent media voice. Now to Klein who starts with the paying of "bounties".

If I remember correctly this practice has gone on since the early 1990's.  I remember Albuquerque police mental health professionals telling officers that after a deadly force incident they need to take their families and get out of town for a few days--just time spent with their families to decompress and get their heads together.  The way the media works, after 48 hours they will move on to new story and the family can try to get back to a normal life.  One of the worse things that can happen is for the child or spouse of a police officer to watch TV and see people saying their spouse or parent is a murderer. This message has been lost because of a several different things:

--When our mayor and his administration give a knee jerk a response instead of taking the time to research it first.  This is politics and I don't really see any way to get away from it.  The mayor is currently on the ropes and his political opponents are going to go after him, truth be damned.  The mayor might not like what the APOA (police union) is doing, but his response seems uninformed.  He could do better in explaining his position.

--The public and the police department are getting mixed messages from Chief Ray Schultz. When the Chief at first denies knowledge of this practice (Journal March 23, "Police Chief Ray Schulz said he was unaware of the practice.)  In fact, Schulz said through a spokesman he was not aware of such a practice when he was a member of the union, and he did not receive any money from the APOA after he was involved in a shooting after an armed robbery in 1986.  (Schultz declined through a spokesman to comment on the practice saying he wanted to speak to Sigala first").

 Later he reverses himself, On  March 25 the Journal reports "Schultz said late Friday that he has been aware the union provided support to officers after critical incidents, but he did not know until a Journal reporter told him on Thursday that the APOA was making payments to officers involved in shootings on a regular basis".

So the chief didn't know, but he did know, he just didn't know how?  Does this make sense to anyone outside of the spin zone?

Ray would have been better served on March 23 to have said "I have to get back to you" and then go research it and if necessary speak to union president Sigala.  That way he would know what was going on before he spoke.  His March 25 comment seems reasonable, but he has a huge mountain to overcome with creditability (public and police) when you compare it with his comments on March 23. 


Klein continues with more examination of the police union problems:

--Explaining it to the public. I agree with Bill Pounders, past president of the APOA, that it would look better to the public if the APOA made the reservations instead of making a cash payment.  That said, it would still be misconstrued as a paid vacation by those who wish to paint it that way.  Sometimes you are damned if you do or damned if you don't, but I think the APOA could be doing a much better job of explaining what they are doing and why.  Remember getting the officer and their family out of town for a few days is what the mental health folks recommend.

--The other problems with the APOA. This issue is coming on the heels of questionable spending of APOA money.  Once Fred Mower, APOA attorney, raised the flag that something stinks in the APOA budget, it has caused the public and the police officers to question the leadership at the APOA. At this point the only thing the APOA leadership can do is have total transparency.  I don't know if that will be enough to get back in good standing with the public and their own members.

So we have a public and a police department who are getting mixed messages from the people in charge, politicians using this for political gain and a police union who can't seem to clearly explain what they are doing and why.

I would like to add, 99% of the Albuquerque Police Department are professional, hardworking officers/civilians who are good members of our community.  They deserve better from the leadership of the police department, leadership of the city and the leadership of the APOA.  I hope that the citizens of Albuquerque realize the officer on the beat is a good person doing a hard job.  Right now the officer on the beat needs a pat on the back, they are going through hell.

Thanks for that, Dan. Our coverage will continue.

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