Monday, June 14, 2010

Watching The Cops: Rise In Police Shootings Raises Questions At ABQ City Hall, Plus: The Pollsters: Who Does NM Best? And: Honoring Bruce & Alice 

Mayor Berry & White
The worrisome uptick in police-involved shootings in ABQ--seven of them so far this year--is being explained by APD Chief Ray Schultz as a sign of the times---the economic times. But is there more to the story? Maybe. First, the chief's take:

We're seeing more cases of the perpetrator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Schultz said.

Schultz also said there is a violent atmosphere brewing in the city. “This year we have had a higher number of cases of actual assaults on our officers."

The chief cited the economy, frustration and depression for the violence...

The chief's reasons all add up, but the rash of shootings again raises the question of who supervises the police department--a subject addressed here when the new mayoral administration came in--but ignored (so far) by the mainstream media. We hit it last year when the power play took effect, and we hit it again April 8 in light of another controversial incident involving APD.

For the first time the city's chief administrative officer (CAO)--currently David Campbell-- does not have direct oversight authority of the APD. That power has been given to the Public Safety Director--currently Darren White--who Chief Schultz refers to as "my boss." Unlike all previous public safety directors, White does not report to the CAO--only to the mayor.

White is a former sheriff and police officer. Campell is not. He is an attorney. The change in the City Hall power structure has effictively removed a layer of civilian authority. Mayor Berry has given White and Schultz a free hand. It is not a pro-cop or anti-cop issue. It is one of effective oversight.

We're not ready to make the leap that the outbreak of shootings is related to the CAO being squeezed out of the power chain. But we know the vibe from the top of any organization influences the rank and file. The presence of the CAO would bring a broader perspective--beyond that of law enforcement--to the daily operations of the department. Without it, APD could conceivably stray to a more aggressive posture.

We may or may not be seeing that now. The chief is certainly right about the negative economic trends and he also cites an increase in police-involved shootings in other communities this year.

Still, we can't ignore the fact that the outbreak here coincides with a dramatic reversal of city policy when it comes to supervising APD. And we can't ignore the likelihood of potentially expensive lawsuits against the city as a result of some of these shootings.

Mayor Berry presides over this new police power structure with the acquiescence of a compliant city council and press. Until now, the issue has been academic, but with bullets ripping into real flesh and blood, the mayor might want to start asking some questions. Ditto for the sidelined CAO.


There should be no shortage of polls for the 2010 Guv race, but which of them will get it right? Well, according to an in-depth study by polling expert Nate Silver of the Web site FiveThirtyEight, SurveyUSA is tops in accuracy among those currently operating in our state. And it comes in third in the nation in overall accuracy. That's interesting because surveys that employ automatic phone calls to likely voters are sometimes derided for not being as as accurate as surveys that use live interviews.

KOB-TV is the media partner for SurveyUSA here. The firm's last poll in the GOP race for Guv showed Susana Martinez 10 points ahead. But the poll that was closest to the final result was an automatic phone poll commissioned by your blog. Our poll a week before the June 1 primary had Martinez taking the prize by 11 points--not much difference than SurveyUSA, but bragging rights nevertheless.

Martinez gained even more momentum in the final days and won the nomination by 23 points. Our polls of the Dem lieutenant governor's race and the land commission contests were taken three weeks from the primary, but correctly captured the trend for the eventual winners.

Rasmussen Reports, which also polls New Mexico regularly with automatic phone calls, also scores high in the Silver study. The same goes for Public Policy Polling, which also uses automatic phone calls. The ABQ Journal scores above average in the rankings, but the newspaper has cut its polling budget and now rarely polls close to the actual Election Day. Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican polling firm being used by Martinez, was the only one of the polling firms operating in the state to finish well below average in Silver's accuracy ratings.

The campaign cognoscenti may prefer their polling with live interviewers, but that method is very expensive and with automatic phone call polling proving its worth with accurate results, the distinction between the two methods is fading fast for political analysts and pundits.


The dress code is appropriately "cowboy black tie optional" for a tribute to the late former NM Governor Bruce King and first lady Alice. The fondly remembered first couple will be celebrated at an American Lung Association dinner this Saturday, June 19, at the Hyatt Tamaya. Legions of Bruce and Alice fans will be in attendance to fete the pair who had three terms in the Guv office. The event will also provide the chance to pick up some genuine King memorabilia during a silent auction. (Maybe one of his bolo ties?)

As for that dress code. Not to worry. If you're not a cowboy, we've got you covered here. Tickets to the event at 505-265-0732.

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