Monday, April 07, 2014

APD And You: Federal Court Oversight Seen As Key To Reform, Also: Media's Role In Crisis Questioned, Plus: CYFD And You: Are Guv's Changes Really "Massive? 

APD Protest
As debate unfolds over the APD fatal police shootings (the city council will take up the topic today) you will hear calls for the US Department of Justice to appoint a federal monitor and enter into a consent decree with the city that would have a Federal judge supervise the monitor's progress in implementing reforms from the ongoing Justice investigation.

A consent decree is a settlement that is contained in a court order. The court agrees to maintain jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the settlement is followed.

What worries advocates of APD reform is that the Berry administration will seek to avoid a consent decree and try to strike some form of "gentleman's agreement" with Justice that would not involve the courts.

Berry has not said yet if he is agreeable to the model adopted in Seattle which includes federal court jurisdiction. That's why we and others sounded alarm bells after that news conference last week where the Mayor said he was ready to negotiate with Justice over monitoring of the department.

(And even court-ordered reforms have been resisted in Seattle where their PD--like ours---went rogue).

A Justice Department monitor without the power of the courts behind them is pretty toothless. On the other hand, the appointment of a monitor and a judge to oversee developments does not mean that Justice storms the downtown APD headquarters and takes over all the offices. The police chief is still the chief but with the incentive to improve or face possible fines or an even tougher agreement if he fails to institute the reforms.

Is that a "takeover" of APD? Not formally, but it puts a layer of authority above the local officials that has not been there and what reform advocates say is desperately needed to transform the culture that prevails at APD today.


The institutional failures to police the police department includes the local news media. There has been some good work done, but in retrospect it was obviously not enough.

Even now, the ABQ Journal in recounting the history of the crisis on its editorial pages Sunday and seeking to assign blame, only once mentions the name "Mayor Richard Berry" and not in a challenging or questioning light.

The names of former APD Chief Ray Schultz and former Public Safety Director Darren White--key players in the current and deeply flawed APD culture-- are not once mentioned.

Outlandishly, while ignoring Berry, Schultz and White the editorial  does assign blame to former Democratic Mayor Chavez and District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

The omissions are more than glaring, they are--if there is such a thing-- journalistic malpractice.

It is this failure to hold an administration accountable and to protect obvious favorites that has given the Berry administration cover and more time to stick with its failed policies--policies that have led to the loss of human life and besmirched the city's reputation around the nation and globe.

The Lang family has owned the state's largest newspaper for decades and has often been ahead of the curve. But no more. The decision by the paper to ignore the shadow government that sprouted up in Santa Fe when Gov. Martinez took over has led to the national media filling the gap. The National Journal, Real Clear Politics and soon Mother Jones are covering the real nature of New Mexico's government---the one that our hometown paper has ignored.

And soon the US Dept. of Justice and national media will unravel the real story behind the APD crisis--the one so willfully ignored by the Journal in that surreal Sunday editorial.

The Langs had a legacy to be proud of but it has slipped away along with the Journal's circulation as the paper continues to be a vessel that advocates for the political powers-that-be and not for their readers. That it is being done in a way that borders on arrogance only further alienates the paper from the community it serves.

This is an ailing city that more than ever needs its newspaper. Will we ever get it back?


Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein was among many weighing in with their thoughts on the Journal's decision to give Berry a pass in its Sunday editorial:

Sunday's Journal had me fuming. Berry took office in December 2009. The APD shootings started in 2010. Yet the Journal editorial staff and owners continue to blame everyone but Berry for the last five years.

I know this comes down to politics and money but honestly how do the editors of the Journal look at themselves in the mirror? They are perpetuating a lie for their own gain. I can only think that Berry threatened to pull city advertising contracts from them, but I don't think that matters. They are all in on the Berry flavored Kool Aid.

Does the community buy it? Does it matter? The Journal did great harm to their reputation as a independent news source. They might as well rename themselves the Richard Berry PR Firm.

The Journal is part of Albuquerque's problem. Too bad there isn't an organization that can take them over for not doing their jobs as truth oriented journalists.


The headlines screamed Gov. Martinez was going for "massive" changes at the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD). That in the aftermath of the tragic killing of 9 year old Omaree Varela who police say was kicked to death by his mother, despite previous wrenching pleas for help. But are the changes really massive? One of our informed readers weighs in:

The governor's reform package is nothing to get excited about, in part because some of these measures have been tried before without success. 

For example, the requirement that families with two previous reports must be reviewed by a supervisor is not a new practice or procedure at CYFD, nor should it be considered reform. To me reform signifies change that is intended to impact organizational culture or institutional values. Procedural measures will not have the kind of impact that protects children over the long run.

Implementing a Family Support initiative represents the kind of change that could potentially make a difference. However, Family Support would still be voluntary, and only works if a family accepts the intervention. Why not increase funding for the In-Home Services program, something that's already in place, and have it court-ordered to buttress compliance and support potentially better outcomes? '

What the Governor does not seem to understand is that the number of prior referrals is only one indicator of risk, and that the more critical risk indicators such as drug abuse, criminal activity and violent behaviors are less amenable to treatment without court intervention. In the Omaree Varela case, all three of these risk factors were present. Supervisory review by more than one supervisor did not mitigate the harm that was done to this child. Maybe it's more reform-minded to question how several supervisors "missed the boat" in this tragic case.

 Finally, increasing pay for case workers should make a difference in recruitment and retention, but true reform should aim at hiring and promoting individuals who bring experience, integrity and a commitment to protecting children.


Chris Cervini's lament over leaving New Mexico posted on the Friday blog brought others. Jason Libersky writes:

I feel like new Mexico's slogan should be, "New Mexico's time is coming, and always will be."

We just lowered the price of our house by $40,000 to expedite our moving. We just can't continue to live here, much less raise our new son in a place where dreams and opportunity are small, new ideas and entrepreneurism are stifled, absent leadership prevails and where police need to be feared rather than admired.

I fear New Mexico and Albuquerque have reached the tipping point. Other states and cities have achieved a level of economic and cultural  diversity and growth in business, government, and the arts that young people, skilled workers, and businesses will, at best, give NM and Albuquerque a cursory look but be much more focused on Denver, Boulder, Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, etc.

I wish I had more hope, but I just don't see the motivation and actions by enough business, community, and political leaders to initiate the change needed to make a comeback.

The ship is taking on water faster every day, and the laissez-faire officials we have don't seem to get it. Being a lifelong New Mexican, it makes me very sad...

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