Berry continues to beat the drum that crime will come down if we allow double dipping for retired police officers.
BY DAN KLEIN
The ship of Albuquerque continues to drift aimlessly, as if its rudder were broken, under the failed command of Mayor Richard J. Berry.
Bad news seems to follow this man. His one quality of being able to spin the truth and deflect blame to others appears to be failing. Even his safety zone of conservative talk radio aficionados had him on his heels recently as listeners blamed him for the collapse of the Albuquerque Police Department.
All the while, Berry continues to say that crime is up in Albuquerque because – sadly – we’re part of a national trend.
Be ready, Mr. Berry, mayor of Albuquerque. Be forewarned.
Better yet, stand back, because we now hereby do declare an official “Pants on fire” rating – meaning “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, Berry’s claim is just not true. Throughout the nation, crime during 2015 is no higher than in 2014. FBI crime stats for Albuquerque, however, show that crime has risen dramatically since Berry became mayor in 2009.
Let’s digest that.
Berry continues to beat the drum that crime will come down if we allow double dipping for retired police officers. The mayor says it won’t hurt the cop pension fund. (The people at the pension fund, meanwhile, say it will destroy the fund and ruin New Mexico’s credit rating and cripple us and make us a Wall Street pension pariah.)
Berry also claims that other police departments, such as Santa Fe and the New Mexico State Police, also are having manpower issues. During a recent radio interview, Berry quoted a headline from The Associated Press that said, “N.M. Police, Sheriffs See Officer, Deputy Shortage.”
What Berry didn’t say is that the headline was from December 2013, two years ago!
In October, ABQ Free Press found that the Santa Fe Police Department is down 17 officers but still is staffed at 90 percent. The State Police told us they have 36 officer vacancies but are still staffed at 94 percent. The Santa Fe department graduated five new officers in November (bringing it to 93 percent staffed), and the State Police will graduate 36 new officers on Dec. 4, bringing them to 100 percent staffed!
So, let’s step back:
Who’s to blame when two of the largest three police departments in New Mexico – the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police – are both staffed at 100 percent while the third (meaning the largest) APD, has officers fleeing?
An APD officer likened our current dismal state to a sports team where the players are exceptional but the coaches and general manager are horrible. They are saying, “Albuquerque, your beat cops are top-notch. It’s the leadership of the chief and mayor that have caused APD’s problems.”
I’m saying: Don’t let Berry get away with his lies.
I’m sorry, but the evidence is in: The needle points, again, to Berry and APD Chief Gorden Eden.
I’m not a voice in the wilderness here. In recent testimony before the Legislative Finance Committee, PERA director Wayne Propst said PERA has a huge unfunded liability and that Berry’s double-dipping will only further undermine the fund. Berry denies the negative impact but doesn’t provide proof otherwise. He also blames APD cop retirements on the PERA and pension reform. Yet the county and state police forces are both 100 percent staffed.
Duh! They’re in the same PERA pension plan as APD. So why are those officers staying and APD officers leaving?
On Oct. 19, Berry refused a City Council offer to appropriate money to settle the police contract dispute. One month and two murders later, Berry embraced that same offer.
OK. Here’s my final argument:
Why didn’t Berry or any of his top commanders order a background investigation on APD’s director of training before hiring her?
Her previous employer, the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Office, filed a complaint to revoke her law enforcement certification. Does this sound familiar? It’s exactly what the Albuquerque Public Schools did this past summer when they didn’t do a background check and hired a suspected sex offender. The chief of Albuquerque’s Aviation Police is on suspension. Berry and his aides refuse to comment.
And the words continue.
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him on Facebook.