Tuesday, February 10, 2015

APD In The Spotlight (Again): The Long Soft Landing Of Chief Ray Schultz, Firings As An Answer For Department? Is The Fed Monitor Toothless? And: SunZia Draws Reader Interest  

It's one long soft landing for former ABQ police Chief Ray Schultz who presided over the worst chapter in the history of APD. He retired in 2013 with a hefty pension and has a controversial consulting deal with Taser International, the maker of police lapel cameras. Now he has landed a new gig as assistant police chief for Memorial Villages in the suburbs of Houston (The police chief there is a former chief of the Hobbs, NM police department).

The wreckage left behind by Schultz is epic, historic and long-lasting. The dozens of fatal police shootings under his watch sparked a Department of Justice civil rights investigation, numerous lawsuits that are costing the city millions and the city's reputation was landed a body blow as national media reports of the runaway APD culture shocked those looking at us from afar. . .

But there doesn't seem to be much shock and awe where you need it--right here in the city. The Mayor, the new police chief, the city council and the press--while not necessarily circling the wagons--continue to insist that the problem is being contained.

The problem with that, says one veteran politico and businessman, is the issue of accountability. Doug Turner, a partner in the international PR firm Agenda and a 2010 candidate for governor, has these thoughts:

It's hard to believe that a relatively small department of about 900 officers can't be quickly reformed, but the problem is accountability. No one at the top or middle levels has been fired as a consequence of the department's issues. Without such a strong message, a culture--whether it be public or private--is much more resistant to reform.

In other words, Mayor Berry is trying to clean the floor with a dirty mop.


What about the Federal Monitor brought in by the city and Justice Department to oversee APD reforms agreed to by Justice and the city and signed off on by a federal judge? Well, one of our Legal Beagles says make sure you read the fine print:

The "devil is in the details" of the 108 page stipulated settlement. It says: "The Monitor shall not, and is not intended to, replace or assume the role and duties of APD, including the Chief or any other City official. The Monitor shall be subject to the supervision and orders of the Court, consistent with this Agreement and applicable law." 

In other words, the Federal Monitor cannot order APD the APD chief or the chief administrative officer to make any personnel, training or policy changes they have agreed to make, or that needs to be made, and the Federal Monitor only reports to the Federal Judge what is going on with the stipulated settlement. 

Note that it does not say the Monitor can order changes but can only review. Given APD's and CAO Rob Perry's confrontation with Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, it is going to be very interesting to see just how much the City is going to actually cooperate with a Federal Monitor who has no direct authority over them and who can only write review reports of progress to a Federal judge.

Duly noted, Legal Beagle. The Monitor hired for ABQ is said to have had success in other cities under similar circumstances, but judging by the way DA Brandenburg has been excoriated by APD and city right under the noses of the Justice Department, this town is going to be one tough nut for the Monitor to crack.


Some darn good email on the SunZia renewable energy project that has been so much in the headlines. Its planned transmission line--part of which would run through what is known as the "White Sands Missile Range Extension"--would deliver solar and wind energy to Arizona and California. Here's reader Brian Borchers with a missive that gave us pause.

Burying the transmission line for five miles is going to be a massive construction project (It's not just burying a cable in dirt, but rather filling a six foot wide by six foot deep trench with concrete to surround the conduits that will hold the actual cables) that will add many millions of dollars to the cost of the power line and many thousands of truck loads of concrete to the project. No one in the US has ever buried 500Kv power lines before and only a few of projects have done this overseas. This is pretty new technology.
The descriptions of all of this in the environmental assessment is pretty glib, but I expect that the project cost will soar and that construction will be delayed by these changes to the plan.

SunZia agreed to bury part of the transmission line after national security issues with White Sands were raised. The state land commissioner has his own set of concerns and has halted the project for at least a couple of months. This sounds like a promising project but Borchers' email reminds us of the problems we had with the Spaceport getting off the ground, 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign