Monday, August 20, 2012

Our City's Long Nightmare: Police Department Chaos Shows No Signs Of Ending As City Leaders Continue To Duck; Our Complete Coverage: The Mounting Costs Plus Reader Analysis And The Way Out  

Berry & Schultz
Once again the Albuquerque Police Department has jumped the tracks, with another sensational police abuse case that undermines the morale and perception of the department and could cost the city serious money as it inevitably makes its way through the courts.

This is the latest in a long line--a very long line--of abuse cases, police shootings (there have been 25 officer-involved shootings--17 fatal--since 2010) and other astonishing indiscretions at the troubled APD.

The latest case:

The video shows the man lying on the ground on his stomach with his hands behind his back. “I surrender,” the suspect says on the video. Officer Ronald Surran then steps on the man’s head while Rice hits the man’s upper body three times. The two officers slap each other high-fives after the suspect is handcuffed, according to the video.

Yet ABQ Mayor Richard Berry--despite the contrary position of law enforcement experts--some of whom you will read here today--continues to maintain these incidents are somehow isolated:

The mayor said the May incident does not, however, “point to a systemic problem within the department.”

But even Berry must see the clouds darkening by now (over the weekend a couple of disparate groups made TV news asking that he be recalled). In this quote he actually mentions bringing in the Feds to investigate the latest police abuse case:

“I believe the incident needs to be investigated by law enforcement, the DA and potentially the US Attorney’s Office,” Berry said. “There is zero tolerance for this type of behavior within the department. When individual incidents such as this happen it reflects poorly on all other officers who are following procedures and keeping our community safe.”

Critics have been pounding the table for the Department of Justice to get its boots on and get down here and help clean up the mess. Maybe Berry secretly would like them to come because he and Rob Perry, his chief administrative officer, seem constitutionally incapable of making the tough personnel decisions that are needed to restore the integrity of the department and protect the reputations of the great majority of the department staff that work hard to keep the city safe.

After more than seven years of repeated and pained explanations, stonewalling and dodging, ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz resembles the guy in the circus who follows the elephant around and cleans up the mess. And surely it is a rogue elephant in charge of the police department in the state's largest city, not Chief Schultz.

The destructive culture that has caused the nervous breakdown at APD now runs riot and is a stain on the city's national standing and its ability to foster economic development.

The see-no-evil leaders of the business community, the asleep-at-the-switch City Council and the look-the-other-way Mayor are all responsible. And so are the mainstream media that refuses to call for a complete house cleaning at the department.

Where, oh where, has the leadership gone in our beloved River City--and in Washington DC where the Department of Justice resides?


We pass the baton to retired APD captain David Gilmore:

Sometime, somehow, APD has fallen to the wayside since Schultz took the helm. Schultz and his command staff have instilled a culture of vindictive discipline. This in turn has yielded a department of officers that do nothing proactive for fear of a citizen’s complaint and the chief’s resultant vindictive discipline. He and his command staff have failed to instill both individual and departmental discipline. How hard can it be to train an officer to treat the good citizens the way they would  want to be treated and the  many bad subcultures of society in a manner consistent with the “use of  force continuum”?


No systemic problem, Mayor? Yet another APD problem breaks:

An Albuquerque Police Department sergeant found video from a stun-gun incident so disturbing she asked APD brass for an internal investigation, according to a memo obtained by KRQE News 13. Sgt. Cassandra Kukowski wrote the memo on June 1 addressed to her supervisors and APD's Internal Affairs Unit. In it she asked them to investigate a possible use of excessive force by Officer Connor Rice at the scene of a domestic-violence call two days earlier....

Maybe the Mayor and CAO need some help. Here it is: You fire the police chief, you appoint an interim chief and you launch a national search for a new chief with the requirement that he clean house and bring in new leadership. No charge for that, Mayor. We're all in this together,


And then there's the chief's media bashing. The news:

As part of its investigation, APD detectives sought an interview with KRQE reporter Kim Holland, who had filed the first IPRA request for the video. Attorney Marty Esquivel wrote in a letter to the City Attorney’s Office that APD’s requests to interview Holland were “retaliatory in nature and grossly inappropriate.”

And the reader reaction:

Chief Schultz's attack on the news media for demanding a public record, is cause for concern. Chief Schultz's attitude and actions regarding public records requests, that possibly show him and his department doing wrong, is shameful. His opinion that the media is just striving for a "gotcha" moment just shows that he is all about appearances. When he and his department look bad, instead of thanking the media for bringing it to their attention, he turns and blames them. It took weeks to release these lapel cameras, and this was done only after the media sued in court. Yet it took less than 24 hours for the Chief to release video of the latest police shooting. Spin Spin Spin.

And regardless what the motive for a public records request is, the chief should follow the law and just release the records. The chief is the top dog and when he shows disdain for our laws, make no mistake that this message is sounded loud and clear to the rank and file officers. 

It was back in July 2011 when we blogged of the outrageous news conference conducted by Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry as he tried to intimidate the press into backing off from covering the troubles of Public Safety Officer Darren White. It didn't work. White was forced out.

The chief's assault on the media is yet another sign that he has lost command and control of his department and is beholden to the aforementioned culture and its renegade personnel that now run the show. The stakes are high. A thorough federal investigation of this department would reveal matters that would make a sewer system smell like a rose. (Mary Han, anyone?)


And here's retired APD Seargent Dan Klein, a regular contributor on these matters and who has a good as reason as anyone to be getting blue in the face waiting for the clean-up of APD to begin:

I figured out why New Mexico is in the mess it now finds itself in. No accountability for the big dogs. We have all seen Rob Perry or Governor Martinez on TV showing video tape of some low level government worker getting caught doing something wrong or illegal. They pound their drums to let all of us good taxpayers know they are looking out for us. But are they? What about when it comes to their political good old boys in high  positions?

Case 1--Chief Ray Schultz. He has overseen a police department that above all other problems has lost the taxpayers of Albuquerque over $30,000,000 (from the Albuquerque Journal), yet Mayor Berry does not replace him.

Case 2--Mark Sanchez, executive director of the Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. He has overseen the reduction of the Water Authority Bond rating from AAA to AA (again Albuquerque Journal).  This will probably cost the ratepayers millions in higher interest payments for future bonds. Yet Mayor Berry and the other members of the Water Authority Board do not replace him.

Case 3--The New Mexico Finance Authority. The fake audit has resulted in Wall Street putting NMFA on notice that we may be paying higher interest rates to float our bonds. When members of the NMFA were asked about it some responded that they didn't even review the fake audit. If they had they would have seen they were quoted for comments never spoken, at meetings that never took place. Yet Governor Martinez has not announced that the nine members she appoints are being replaced for this total failure to do their jobs.

What is the  common denominator? All three comprise long time New Mexico government    workers. Most have been here well over 20 to 30 years working at different levels of government. Politicos and political favors are costing taxpayers millions. We need new ideas and new people.


And finally, Berry's political situation laid bare as only a Senior Alligator can do. Sit tight in your saddle, here comes the stuff that you can't and won't get anywhere else:

Berry and GOP political adviser Jay McCleskey both know the mayor's poll numbers are soft and could be knocked down 20 points overnight with any serious attack on Berry's record. In addition to being vulnerable on jobs and the economy, Berry also has PR problems with all the officer involved shootings. If he has to get rid of Chief Schultz it would represent the second major scandal involving Berry's picks to run APD. The first was McCleskey's good friend Darren White who received a no-confidence vote from the APD rank and file as Chief Public Safety Officer then was forced out from that position in disgrace after his wife was involved in a one-vehicle traffic accident that White improperly involved himself in. 

Schultz--the only prominent holdover from the Chavez Administration--was kept on in 2009 at the urging of White and has had what can at best be described as a sub-standard tenure. The fact that the Dept of Justice may step in and take over the department (and Berry has had to fight that action) tells you everything you need to know about what's really going on at APD. Regardless, the buck stops with Berry. He's the mayor, these are his picks and he's the one who will have to defend them at election time. Right now it's clear his defense strategy is to circle the wagons. We'll see if it works.


In El Paso there's also citizens unrest, but of a different sort a different sort

A group of protesters who are upset at the way the City Council approved building a $50 million Downtown baseball stadium plan to "Occupy City Hall" beginning on Monday. They also vowed to start a new petition to get the council to put its decision on hold. The protesters, calling themselves the Quality of Life Voters for Democracy, will be at City Hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday to collect signatures to put a proposal on a May ballot asking that all quality-of-life actions, such as the stadium, be decided in an election. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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