The city council needs to create a Department of Public Safety, appoint a civilian police commissioner and take Internal Affairs out of the APD.
BY PETE DINELLI
The ABQ Free Press reported what the eight mayoral candidates say they will do to bring down crime rates, as well as their plans for the Albuquerque Police Department if elected. But frankly, what all the candidates have said they intend to do with APD is weak at best.
Many of the candidates have shown a lack of understanding and ignorance of the fact that the federal court has complete authority and total jurisdiction over the Albuquerque Police Department as well as the implementation of the Department of Justice’s settlement agreement-mandated reforms.
Not a single mayoral candidate has ever attended any presentation made by the federal monitor to the federal court on the Court Approved Settlement Agreement, and whatever changes that are desired with the reforms by the candidates must be approved by federal court order.
Many of the candidates say they will terminate APD Chief Gordon Eden and hire more police officers.
A few of the candidates say the city needs 1,200 sworn police officers, but they’re not saying how they will pay for the staffing increase.
All eight candidates show a surprising ignorance of the APD, how it operates and the extent of the law enforcement and crime crisis we are facing. Every candidate for mayor needs to articulate a clear platform on what they will do with APD.
Until aggressive action is taken with APD and the DOJ’s mandated and agreed to reforms, APD will continue to spin out of control, crime rates will continue to rise and Albuquerque will continue to see dramatic spikes in violent crime.
So here are some of my ideas for reforming APD.
The new mayor needs to seek a hearing with the federal court, the independent monitor, the U.S. Attorney, the city attorney and the chief of police to outline all changes to be made to APD. They also need to seek a court order approving modifications to the consent decree if needed, and restructuring in order to continue with the implementation of the DOJ-mandated reforms.
The entire APD chain of command must be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.
The command staff that created, contributed or who did not stop the “culture of aggression” needs to be replaced.
A national search must be conducted to identify and hire a new management team to take over APD, including a new chief, new deputy chiefs and a new chain of command to assume control of APD.
The City Council, by ordinance, needs to create a Department of Public Safety, which would include both the police and fire departments, the police and fire academies, the 911 emergency dispatch center and the emergency operations center.
And the council should appoint a public safety commissioner.
Until the creation of the public safety department, a police commissioner needs to be appointed immediately to assume civilian control of APD.
The police commissioner would be appointed by the mayor with advice and consent of the city council.
The chief of police would be appointed by the police commissioner but serve at the pleasure of the mayor with advice and consent of the city council.
The police commissioner would assume direct civilian oversight, management and control of APD and could only be removed for cause and would not serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
A police commissioner and chief with extensive and proven leadership in managing a municipal police department must be hired, not political operatives.
The civilian police commissioner would assume primary responsibility for implementation of all the DOJ-mandated reforms.
Implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms would include continued formulation, writing and implementation of standard operating procedure and changes agreed to under the consent decree, expansion of crisis intervention mandates and certified training of APD department personnel in constitutional policing practices.
The police commissioner, with support assistance from the chief, would assume the responsibility for interacting and reporting to the Police Oversight Board and the Community Policing Councils.
The commissioner would completely overhaul and restructure APD, appoint new chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager and each would report directly to the chief of police, with the Police Commissioner in the Chain of Command as the Commissioner determines to be necessary and appropriate to carry out their duties.
The positions of APD majors would be abolished and the chain of command would be streamlined where necessary.
Every single APD felony unit would be increased in personnel by anywhere between 40 percent and 60 percent, including the following APD units: Armed Robbery, Auto Theft, Burglary, Homicide, Gang Unit, Narcotics, Property Crimes and Sex Crimes Units and the Criminal Nuisance Abatement Unit.
The number of sworn police officers patrolling the streets is currently 436 and would be increased to at least 650 out of a fully staffed department of 1,200.
The civilian police commissioner would be responsible for preparing budgets, personnel management and enforcement of personnel policies and procedures and imposing personnel disciplinary action.
The police chief would be responsible for day-to-day operations of APD, public safety initiatives, tactical plans and management of sworn staff and report directly to the police commissioner.
The public safety department would consist of four civilian staffed divisions and managed by the police commissioner:
1. Personnel and training, for recruiting, hiring, internal affairs investigations and police academy;
2. Budget and finance;
3. Information technology support and crime lab; and
4. 911 emergency operations center with a civilian manager.
“Deadly use of force” cases would continue to be investigated by the Critical Incident Review Team and the final reports with finding and recommendations submitted to the police commissioner.
APD has consistently shown over many years it cannot police itself, a situation that contributed to the “culture of aggression” found in the department by the DOJ.
The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by the Office Independent Council.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm would be done by civilian personnel investigators.
The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police would be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit where necessary.
The Office of Independent Council would make findings and recommendations to the Police Commissioner for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
The city needs to fund and implement a non-negotiated major hourly rate increase for entry level sworn officers, excluding management, to improve recruitment, retention and morale.
Sign on bonuses, tuition debt payoff and mortgage down payment bonuses need to be offered to new recruits. Yearly experienced officer retention bonuses must be made permanent.
APD needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year.
If necessary, the city council needs to enact a public safety tax to pay for APD’s staffing expansion, pay incentive programs, needed training programs, DOJ-mandated reforms, equipment acquisitions and 911 emergency operations, staffing and equipment.
Dinelli is a former city councilor, two time mayoral candidate and political blogger.