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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All APD All The Time: Ongoing Crisis Generates Unprecedented News Flow; Mayor Says Don't Listen To "Naysayers" But Frustration Grows  

Berry and APD Chief Eden
When Dave Letterman ended his multi-decade run as a talk show host last week he had several former US Presidents joke that "our long national nightmare is over."  That was first said in 1974 by Gerald Ford after Nixon's resignation over Watergate. Everyone laughed with Dave, but here in ABQ many may have also pined for those words to be uttered over the long nightmare featuring the ABQ police department and the Berry administration.

The ceaseless, demoralizing and often maddening news flow--now several years old--is unprecedented. At this point we are in wheel of fortune territory--where it stops nobody knows. Just look at the most recent cascade of nightmarish offerings:

---Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg--in a sometimes surreal hour long news conference--announces she is asking federal authorities to investigate APD's investigation of her on bribery charges. Attorney General Balderas says those charges appear politically motivated and in retaliation for her decision to charge two APD officers with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd. (Full news conference video here.)

---A settlement of yet another lawsuit against APD and the city for a fatal police shooting ends with a mammoth $6 million judgment. That's money out the door that is sorely needed for improvement to the city's social services as well as maintenance and repair of an aging infrastructure. Strange that we hear nothing from fiscal conservatives over the tens of millions being lost.

---In a bizarre development, an APD cop critically wounded by his own boss as he sat in a car with two suspected drug dealers threatens to sue the city unless a settlement can be reached.

---APD, under the legal gun, finally releases a video of possible APD and State Police abuse (welcome to the party Chief Pete Kassetas) of an already dead suspect after denying it existed:

Albuquerque Police body camera video shows an APD SWAT officer firing three beanbag rounds at an unresponsive suspect’s face, followed by a State Police sergeant flicking the suspect’s eyeball before stomping on his groin. Lusian was dead. The lapel video, which APD denied existed after KRQE News 13 first requested it, shows the end of a March 2014 SWAT call out at a tow yard in the Heights. Police said 56-year-old Dale Lusian had been seen rummaging through cars in the fenced-in lot before hiding in a metal container. When a police service dog went in, Lusian shot the dog three times. Medical investigators ruled Lusian’s death a suicide from a gunshot wound to the chest.

That APD in 2015 was sitting on 2014 lapel video shows the cover-up culture at APD remains as virulent as the AIDS virus at its peak.

The establishment press and most players in the business community--for whatever reason--continue to run interference for Mayor Berry who is now rebutting his critics not by not addressing their charges but trying to marginalize them. Says he:

One thing that makes me mad as mayor is when people in our community would like us to be seen in less than a positive light. . . we should stop listening to naysayers. 

Well, Mayor, maybe if we all put cotton balls in our ears and blinders over our eyes all those morbid news stories we just cited will go away--or at least not seem to place the city government in the middle of an unending crisis--which is what it faces but refuses to acknowledge.

OTHER VOICES

The apathy, defensiveness, resistance to change and downright parochialism that have been hallmarks of much of the community's reaction to the APD drama and attendant events does not speak well of the body politic.

Only recently has there been some meaningful movement--DA Brandenburg's conversion via intimidation, AG Balderas' hardball report on APD's probe of her, Auditor Keller's hit on the suspect APD Taser deal and the City Council's questioning of the Department of Justice Federal Monitor for APD. But with the mayor and APD continuing to resist transparency and change (as seen in that very recent KRQE incident and Berry's quote above) it will take much more from the aforementioned politicians as well as any new voices that choose to join the fray. An editorial in the ABQ Free Press sums it up this way:

There seem to be no consequences for failure or malfeasance in this administration. One debacle follows another and nothing changes. Could it be that the cancer Downtown has so metastasized that if any one person were scapegoated, everyone goes down? We have a crisis at City Hall and no one in charge seems to care. We have a police department that is rapidly becoming the pariah of the Southwest. Beat cops struggle to maintain public trust while the people at the top cover their asses. So what’s the answer? Fire everyone at APD at the rank of lieutenant and above? That’s a lot of people to replace. Bring in a new chief who methodically cleans house among APD’s top commanders with a “My way or the highway” approach? Or do we fire someone over at City Hall calling the shots from an “us vs. them” proposition. Oh, wait, it’s not “we,” Mr. Mayor, it’s you. Do us a favor and clean up the steaming, stinking pile of problems that have accumulated on your watch. Show us there are consequences for screwing up. Otherwise, we can only conclude you don’t care or you’re not really the one in charge.

And from our reader email we get this incisive lament:

Joe, I guess we have finally reached the point where consumerism trumps democracy, narrow self-interest wins over any commonweal and frustration and/or cynicism about politics and government renders the people impotent. Without a doubt "community" has always been difficult to achieve in these unnatural political conglomerates that have been labeled "New Mexico" and "Albuquerque." As a thirteenth generation New Mexican and a fourth generation Albuquerquean, I am disappointed and saddened with the current state of affairs. At least some people are taking some action; some are communicating about our dire situation; and others are contributing in whatever manner they are able. Thank you for the great public service you are contributing with your blog. This is an example that there is still hope.

BERRY VS. DINELLI

Dinelli
One could see Pete Dinelli, the losing candidate to ABQ Mayor Berry in the 2013 election, picketing City Hall with a sign that says, "I told you so." He isn't going that far but the onetime city councilor and former chief deputy DA, is having a say and it doesn't sound like sour grapes:

DA Brandenburg and I have had our differences over the years. However, what APD has done to her is an affront to out criminal justice system. People should be appalled by the findings of the Attorney General that APD accused her of felony crimes for political gain. The Albuquerque public and voters have a right to demand that APD’s investigations not be politically motivated. What happened in this case is a throwback to the 1980’s when APD used to keep and maintain investigation and intelligence reports on elected officials.

The AG investigation of the DA reflects the kind damage that can occur to people’s lives and reputations when initial police reports are released to the media to promote a political agenda. APD was attempting to tarnish and destroy the DA’s reputation and destroy her career because of her prosecution of the two cops in the Boyd murder case. How many other elected officials or private citizens has APD targeted because of being outspoken critics of APD? 

As Dinelli mentions it's not as if the police have not gone off the reservation before when it comes to civil liberties and intimidating public officials. We've been around long enough to remember the 1980's when the department publicly announced the destruction of files that should have never been kept or opened. That is a flagrant and intolerable abuse of power. The fear of it now may be responsible in part for the public quietude over this latest police crisis. It's why federal authorities need to take seriously the DA's request for an investigation and peel the onion even further.

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