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Backstabbing At APD: Why New Police Chief Will Need New Commanders

Backstabbing At APD: Why New Police Chief Will Need New Commanders

Galvin didn’t know it, but APD command staff had already taken a hacksaw and cut his legs out from under him. They were hellbent on making sure no changes Galvin wanted would be done.

All the mayoral candidates have promised to fire APD Chief Gorden Eden, but will one person change the cancer that has gripped APD command staff for years?

Can just a new police chief reverse the obstructionist efforts that have gripped APD’s command staff in regards to the reform process?

The answer is no. It’s going to take a totally new command staff to get APD back on track.

And here’s why.

It was a summer day in 1999. As a field training supervisor for the Westside Area Command, I was ordered to attend a meeting with APD Chief of Police Jerry Galvin. Present at this meeting was Galvin, the field services deputy police chief, several police captains and sergeants.

Sitting around a table in a chief’s office conference room, Galvin presented us with his vision for the future of the training officer program. This is what he wanted us to work on and implement as soon as possible. After taking questions, Galvin thanked us and left the room.

As soon as the door closed behind him one of the captains spoke up and stated, “like hell we are going to allow any of that to happen.” The deputy chief smiled and shook his head in agreement. APD command was going to subvert Galvin at every step.

Galvin didn’t know it, but APD command staff had already taken a hacksaw and cut his legs out from under him. They were hellbent on making sure no changes Galvin wanted would be done. Like rats crazy with hunger they attacked his policies and leadership, ripping to shreds his ability to lead APD into the 21st century.

I liked Galvin. I didn’t agree with every idea he had but I found him very approachable, probably too nice. If you could present a smart argument against one of his policies he would listen and sometimes change his mind. But he had no chance when those people he was forced to accept on his command staff would smile to his face and then stab him in the back.

Galvin would periodically ride with me during my shift. I remember one conversation where I told him point blank that his own command staff was subverting him. He wasn’t that surprised, but he said there was nothing he could do. The mayor had not allowed Galvin to search nationally for his own command staff (deputy chiefs and captains). Galvin was forced to accept the command staff that was already entrenched at APD and who hated any outsider. Galvin was an outsider.

Galvin came to APD thinking that all police officers worked together for the common good. A nice thought, but a naïve one. It’s not how APD works. The competition among command staff at APD makes gladiator fights look like preschool playgrounds. Some of these staff officers would do anything to get promoted. If a promotion was available they would practically drive over their best friend to get it. They wanted power at all costs.

Right before Galvin was dismissed by incoming mayor Marty Chavez, he told me that he did finally realize what a bunch of betrayers his command staff had been. He said he would have fired the entire bunch when he was first hired, if only he would have known their lack of character. Hindsight is 20/20.

You don’t have to take my word for this. On a posting at the ABQ Free Press website, a retired police commander stated this gem when first presented with Community Based Policing back in the 1990s. In a staff meeting I attended shortly after the philosophy was first brought up, most all of the upper echelon said “to hell with it” after the Chief left the room. We wonder why it is so difficult to change the culture at APD.

And don’t think this Machiavellian activity is only for outside police chiefs. When Chief Gil Gallegos left the department, APD command staffed turned on each other like sharks in a pool of blood. APD commanders attacked each other in order to become the next chief. It was ugly.

It got so bad that, it was rumored, one applicant for chief of police kept a secret dossier on the other applicants. When he found out that another police commander was being seriously considered for the chief position, he anonymously sent the damning report to the mayors’ office.

The report alleged embarrassing information on his competitors’ wife. That commander, who was one step away from being appointed chief, was torpedoed by someone he considered to be a friend. But in APD’s command staff you have no friends. Like hyenas over a carcass, these commanders would rip their best friends to shreds if it meant a promotion. There was no teamwork.

So allow me to give the incoming mayor a bit of advice. Hire a chief of police from outside New Mexico. We need new ideas and there is no one in this state capable of running a large metro police department. Allow the chief to conduct a nationwide search for their own inner echelon. They need a team they can trust.

Give the new chief a chance to get their ideas off the ground, by surrounding them with deputy chiefs and commanders that won’t stab them in the back. Hopefully the new chief will instill in the command staff at APD the idea of teamwork. That would be a cultural change that would be like a tsunami.

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

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  • Elisabeth Endean
    July 25, 2017, 7:06 am

    Powerful writing and informative. I had no idea the dysfunction went back that far. My personal awareness began with Chief Schulz. Your suggestions definitely deserve review for the incoming Mayor. I guess my fear is that (due to the jaded belief I have of politics, currently) is that each Candidate is/has already been working "deals" with friends/colleagues and supporters. It would be a wonderful surprise if I was incorrect and whomever followed your advice.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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