Albuquerque City Hall
Photo: Andy Lyman

The line starts here: ABQ’s crowded mayoral race

The race for Albuquerque mayor became a major focus for a group of Democrats, one Republican and one independent over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of Democrats spoke about their respective visions of what the next mayor of Albuquerque should focus on, while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis officially announced his intention to run for the city’s top office on Sunday afternoon. Lewis told supporters gathered at the business incubator Fat Pipe ABQ that he will focus on public safety, economic development and education. More specifically, Lewis said he wants the city to hire roughly 300 police officers under new leadership at the Albuquerque Police Department. As for paying for more police officers to bring the APD street officer total to 1,200 cops, Lewis suggested that the department could cut “duplications” in dispatch and instead focus on “one professional dispatch center.”

Lewis added that APD must “get ahead of the [federal Department of Justice] reforms” rather than being “dragged” into them by the federal government and the courts.

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‘Picnic’ celebrating APD reform progress in bad taste

The Federal Court ordering barbecue and having a “celebratory picnic” in a courtroom with the parties to the DOJ consent decree to celebrate the reform effort and success in writing police policy was offensive to the general public and offensive to the families of victims killed in excessive use of force cases. Pete Dinelli is a former Albuquerque City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer in the Martin Chavez administration. Having a picnic was a sharp contradiction to what is contained in the July 1, 2016 third monitor’s report. I did not attend the courtroom picnic, but did attend the fourth public meeting attended by Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger the same evening where he talked about his  progress report. I read his report out loud to him at the meeting where he said “Across the board, the monitoring team has found that the components in APD’s system for overseeing (and holding officers accountable for) the use of force, for the most part, has failed.

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Union giving APD officers money after shootings

A practice of a police union giving payment reimbursements of up to $500 to Albuquerque police officers after shootings from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) continues. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday on how one officer, Jeremy Dear, went to Hooters and a Chinese massage parlor two days after he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes. Part of that report, unrelated to Dear’s actions, says “police union officials confirmed officers are still reimbursed up to $500 by the union to use for vacations and other ways to decompress after being involved in a shooting.”

It’s a practice that first surfaced publicly in 2012 when news broke that the union had given out payments to 23 officers involved in shootings. The revelation led to an outcry from critics over the appearance of awarding cops for shooting people in a department where a culture of “excessive use of force” eventually landed a court-ordered consent decree from the federal Department of Justice demanding a reform process. The city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department are still working on the implementation of the reforms.

At the time, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and then-APD Chief Ray Schultz called for the practice to stop.

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DA didn’t sign off on APD selling crack, meth in ‘reverse stings’

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Wednesday that her office never signed off on, or consulted with the Albuquerque Police Department on a court-approved affidavit that gives APD permission to sell heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arrest them on drug charges. An APD detective apparently presented the affidavit to a state District Court judge on Feb. 23. The affidavit said it was being presented in conjunction with the DA’s Office. “Comes now the State of New Mexico, through its Assistant District Attorney and Affiant Detective Marc Clingenpeel,” the affidavit said.

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APD to sell crack, meth in stings to target users

The Albuquerque Police Department is in the midst of a 10-month reverse drug sting operation where cops will be selling heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arresting them on drug charges. The department is engaged in a “Reversal Operation” whereby narcotics officers will be taking up to two pounds of drugs out of APD’s evidence room and selling it to people on the streets. In addition, APD has asked for, and received, permission from a judge to actually manufacture crack cocaine for the operation. This piece originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website. In so-called “normal” sting operations, police attempt to buy drugs from drug dealers.

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

House OKs police double dipping bill

A proposal to allow retired law enforcement officers across the state to return to their old jobs cleared the House floor Wednesday evening after a three-hour debate. The House passed the bill on a 38-29 vote, with five Democrats joining all Republicans present for the vote. Sponsor Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, argued that it would solve staffing problems at police departments across the state. He emphasized that several county sheriffs across the state support the legislation, not just the city of Albuquerque and Albuquerque Police Department. Still, he had Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez as his expert witness.

House panel passes bill to return cops to work

A bill to allow retired cops to return to their police departments across the state passed its first House committee, a marked difference from last year when it died quickly. The measure passed the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee on partisan lines, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against. Sponsored by Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, this time the bill doesn’t hurt the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico fund. Or at least that’s the promise the veteran legislator made. Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez testified that former cops who decide to return to work won’t be able to add to their pensions, but would still have to contribute to the PERA fund.