Mayor Keller apologizes to the community for skyrocketing crime rate and for past excessive use-of-force case by APD officers
Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said Wednesday that he will ask members of his command staff to give up their controversial retention bonuses – which can amount to $12,000 a year – and that he will file paperwork today to revoke the law enforcement license of a retired police lieutenant who shot and nearly killed a fellow officer three years ago in an undercover drug bust.
(Photo: APD Chief Michael Geier at Wednesday's news conference.)
And Geier apologized to the community for the failure of APD's former command staff to file a license revocation case against the now-retired lieutenant, Greg Brachle.
“It should have been filed, I apologize,” Geier said of the previous failure to go after Brachle's license (See story posted below). He added that as soon as he gets the paperwork on APD's Internal Affairs investigation into Brachle's behavior – which he said could come this afternoon – he would file the revocation paperwork with the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board.
And in a move that will mostly likely go over well with APD's rank-and-file officers, Geier said he will ask members of his command staff to stop taking the controversial retention bonuses that critics say members of former chief Gorden Eden's command staff hijacked.
“Every commander will be asked to give up their bonuses,” Geier said during his first news conference in front of police headquarters in downtown Albuquerque.
The retention bonuses were approved in late 2014 by the City Council for rank-and-file APD officers. But members of the department's command staff found a loophole in the Council's language that allowed them to get the bonuses as well.
When the Council ended the bonus program in 2015, APD continued to give command staff members the bonuses by funding them from other department accounts - most likely from vacant position accounts.
Geier, who was sworn in as chief on Tuesday morning, appeared at his first news conference with Mayor Tim Keller, who started out the event by apologizing to city residents for the city's skyrocketing crime rate, and to community members who have been affected by excessive use of force tactics by APD officers in the past.
“I am offering an apology on behalf of City Hall. I am sorry, we are sorry [for the city's high crime rate and for past excessive uses of force],” Keller said. “We have let you down in many ways.”
Geier said that a “reset” button for APD's troubled relationship with the U.S. Department of Justice reform effort was hit on Tuesday when he was sworn in as chief. He also said that he and members of his staff had a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon with the independent monitor in the reform process, Games Ginger.
For the past three years, Ginger has accused APD's command staff of deliberately trying to obstruct the reform effort and the settlement agreement the city signed with the DOJ in November of 2014. The conversation with Ginger went well, Geier said, adding that he is looking forward to working with Ginger and completing the reform process.
Geier also said that as chief, his biggest issue is the city's skyrocketing crime rate and trying to find ways to combat it. He added that he is looking at ways to get more officers on the streets and for ways to get them started on community policing efforts and to restore trust between police officers and members of the community.
“Community policing is not just a public relations campaign,” Geier said. “Without it [trust] we have no legitimacy. “We want police officers to do a lot of non-enforcement tactics.”
Geier said he is working on a strategic plan for APD to get more officers on the streets, to engage in community policing and to bring the crime rate down. The plan will have goals, people assigned to implement the plans and achieve those goals, and it will hold APD staffers accountable for reaching, or for failing to reach those goals, Geier said.
Geier also said that he will no longer accept foot dragging from department members and the attitude that there isn't much that APD can do in its current, chronically understaffed state.
“There will be no more dragging of feet, the new attitude is that we can,” Geier said. “There is always something we can do.”