Why is Chief Geier Hiding Behind a PIO?

I remember when the face of the Albuquerque Police Department was the chief of police: Bob Stover, Whitey Hansen, Sam Baca, Joe Polisar, Jerry Galvin and Ray Schultz. What happened to those days? Why is Mayor Keller afraid to let Chief Mike Geier step in front of the cameras and represent APD? Why is the face of APD a very tired / overworked patrolman?

APD Officer Simon Drobik’s $146,300 in earnings during the first nine months of 2018 appear to be completely within the rules / guidelines at APD. The problem appears to be with rules and guidelines that allow for an officer to be completely overworked.

When the original story on Drobik's earnings came out I was told by a local reporter that since Drobik is a PIO he clocks “EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW HE GETS CALLED FOR. THAT INCLUDES PHONE CALLS WITH THE MEDIA.”

This reporter stated that Drobik is called multiple times a day and that this is where his tremendous overtime earnings come from. Could this be true? How does this reporter know?

News directors should be questioning why reporters are defending Drobik’s extreme work schedule, instead of investigating it. An investigation doesn’t mean Drobik has done anything wrong, quite the opposite is true. It might be that the system APD has in place is faulty, but we won’t know because the local reporters are too busy dismissing and defending instead of investigating.

You probably will not see any local media outlet other than the ABQReport doing this story. They don’t want to lose what they consider their access to someone at APD. That’s a problem for public safety, Drobik’s health and our pocketbooks.

If what this reporter is saying is true (and we won’t know this until an audit is performed), could the following be a real scenario?

Drobik is off duty, sitting at home at 7 p.m. and a local reporter calls to ask a question that takes a couple minutes to answer. Cha-ching, Drobik may have just charged the city taxpayer two hours of overtime. Drobik’s pay for this call would be $94.50, as his hourly rate is $31.50, which makes his overtime rate $47.25 per hour. At 10 p.m. another reporter (or the same reporter) calls Drobik, cha-ching, the city taxpayer may be charged another $94.50 for another short conversation.

A few minutes of a phone conversation, over the course of five hours might cost you and me $189, and this reporter says it is happening daily. This scenario is completely legal and within the current rules at APD. Do those rules need to be changed?

We don’t know if Drobik is charging for every phone call. Maybe his extreme wage earnings come from other sources, that is why an audit is required.

APOA’s contract used to allow an off-duty officer, to receive a minimum of two hours of overtime, every time they are called in. Is this APOA rule still in effect? Do APD officers also receive compensation for being in “on call status”? These are the questions that need to be answered by an audit.

When Drobik gets called at home by a reporter, that reporter is probably asking about an event that is currently happening. If this is the case, Drobik probably calls the dispatch center or calls the on-duty lieutenant to ask him what is happening. Then Drobik relays that information to the local reporter. Instead of calling Drobik off-duty, the media should be calling the on-duty lieutenant. This will get the job done at no additional expense to taxpayers.

Allowing reporters to routinely call Drobik, or any PIO, when they are off-duty, is abusive to Drobik’s personal life and to the taxpayers’ pocketbook. Mayor Keller and Chief Geier need to change the rules.

This is also a health issue for Drobik. No person can work the number of hours that Drobik is logging without affecting their health. If Drobik were to have a major health issue, the city taxpayers will be on the hook for allowing APD to work him to exhaustion. If we care about our officers, which we all should, we must allow them time away from work. Police work is stressful, cops need their time away.

When asked about Drobik’s pay, PIO Gilbert Gallegos (APD’s real PIO) replied:

“Officer Drobik has historically worked overtime, doing duty as a master patrolman and as a uniformed Public Information Officer, often working 7 days a week. When the new administration took over, we advertised for a full-time, uniformed PIO to help carry the workload, but no other officers expressed interest. We appreciate that Officer Drobik stepped up and continues to do patrol work in addition to PIO duties.”

If Drobik is doing the PIO’s job, then why are we paying Gallegos ($43.65 / hour, $90.792 / yearly?) Why are we working Drobik seven days per week to do PIO work, when Gallegos is the full-time PIO? What is Gallegos doing?

APD employs over 50 full timed uniformed PIO’s, they are called command staff officers. The chief, deputy chiefs, commanders and lieutenants all should be handling this duty during their normal work hours. APD has a command staff officer on the clock, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, so why aren’t we using them to handle the phone call from a reporter at 9 p.m. or 3 a.m.? This would save the citizens a lot of money, give Drobik a good night’s sleep and still give the media the access they crave.

But wait, Gallegos said no one put in for the uniformed PIO position? Then why does Officer Tanner Tixier and Officer Deaguro still appear in local media reporting as APD’s PIO? And why do we need both civilian and uniformed PIO’s at APD? One or the other should be able to perform this task, shouldn’t they?

An audit of this PIO mess is called for. How many PIO’s does APD need? Why isn’t APD using their on-duty command officers to handle the phone calls at midnight from reporters? What does Gilbert Gallegos do? Do off-duty PIO’s log overtime every time they are called? If so, do they log which reporter is calling them each time? If it is the same reporter, or station, that is calling nightly or multiple times per day, is something else going on? Are reporters abusing this system? We won’t know until an audit is performed.

The city council and the former state auditor, now our mayor, Tim Keller, must recognize there is a problem here. They are the stewards of our tax dollars. Keller must call for an audit and figure out what is going on with APD’s PIO program.

It’s our money, and we deserve answers.

Independent Journalism

I've been a reporter, writer and editor for 37 years. I'm dedicated to honest, fair and hard-hitting reporting. I'm not conservative or liberal, but am just a reporter who tries to get to the truth at any given point in time. I don't believe in pulling punches or being a lap dog because that serves no one. A free and aggressive press is essential to human liberty. That's why the Founding Fathers put a free press in the Constitution. So on this site you'll get a variety of news, fearless opinion, analysis, humor, satire and commentary. It's kind of like a free-for-all. My motto is "Without fear and without favor."  But good journalism takes time and money, so I hope you will contribute what you can to these efforts by clicking on the "Donate" button above. I could use your help. Thanks, Dennis Domrzalski.

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