APD Still Failing Children and the Public
- APD appears to have lied about circumstances regarding one-year-old Anastazia Zuber
- Children deserve unconditional love, police departments do not. Geier and Keller need to love Albuquerque children more than they want APD to always look good.
- This is going to be their legacy. For the sake of the children they must succeed.
- Will they take up the challenge? Are they capable of fixing this?
It’s been over a year since Mike Geier was appointed Albuquerque police chief. During the last fourteen months Geier has done a lot of things right, but all of that will be for naught if he doesn’t figure out why APD is still having trouble responding to calls involving endangered children.
Seven months into his tenure as chief, Geier, make a colossal error in his response to the seven-year-old prostitution victim. Geier initially defended (and convinced his boss Mayor Tim Keller to go along for the ride down Crazy Street) the officers not taking this child’s bloody underwear as evidence. Geier cited search-and-seizure restrictions that even local defense attorneys found ridiculous. After public outcry, both Geier and Keller retracted their initial statements and pledged to investigate and protect our children. The investigation ended up being a farce with APD and their oversight agency, the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, each starting and stopping the investigation. Where does it stand now? Who knows? And who would believe the outcome at this point?
Now we have Anastazia Zuber, the one-year-old who is alleged to have drowned. APD officers were dispatched to Anastazia’s apartment to check on her welfare on December 18, 2018. This is not like Victoria Martens, Omaree Varela and the bloody underwear child. In this case Anastazia was most probably dead before APD officers arrived to check on her welfare.
It was this welfare check, and what APD did, or didn’t do, in the fourteen days that followed that are once again causing the community to ask, “Why can’t APD get this right?”
As of now what we know is that an APD officer spoke to Anastazia’s mother to check on her welfare. The mother told the officer that Anastazia was with the mother's sister, and the officer left. And for fourteen days we don’t know what, if anything, APD did. FOURTEEN DAYS!
What we do know is that on January 2, 2019, APD sent out a missing person/endangered child flyer on Anastazia. This flyer states that Anastazia may have drowned on December 18, 2018. Then the flyer makes an odd statement, “Police were not called.”
Why would APD put that statement into this flyer? The flyer is for a missing, endangered child. Whether police were called or not
does not matter to the purpose of the flyer. And that statement was a LIE. A lie on an official APD document given to the media to present to the public. A Lie.
Two days later, January 4, 2019, APD arrested the parents and APD admitted that they had responded to a welfare check on Anastazia on December 18.
Who wrote that flyer? Why did they put a false statement into the flyer? Did a supervisor check and approve the flyer and the false statement? We've asked APF spokesman Gilbert Gallegos who wrote the flyer, and he has not responded.
Now Chief Geier and Mayor Keller are again promising another investigation into another APD response involving a child. Aren’t we sick of this? Geier could walk on water across the Rio Grande, but if he continues to fail the citizens when it comes to APD’s response to children all he will be remembered for is failure.
I don’t know what happened when the officer checked on Anastazia’s welfare. I don’t know what happened during the fourteen days in which nothing appears to have happened. APD has now gone dark and refuses all comments, citing an “ongoing investigation.”
This is right out of the past administration's playbook. Delay and hope it goes away.
Let me tell you what should have happened, based upon my experience as a police officer and watching these sad stories unfold since 2013. The welfare check call should have prompted some type of interaction between CYFD and APD so the officer would know if this family had a history with CYFD. Once at the scene the officer should visually check on the child to determine the welfare. If the child isn’t present, you find the child. If you can’t find the child, you notify your sergeant or lieutenant to determine if a missing, endangered child alert needs to be announced. Regardless, the officer must write a report and have it approved by a sergeant or lieutenant.
If the officer can’t locate the child, you don’t wait fourteen days to put out a missing, endangered child alert.
Now we have another promise of another investigation. If history is a predictor of future results, I won’t hold my breath waiting for this investigation and APD to release the results. Geier's and Keller’s initial response to the bloody underwear, and the joke of an investigation into the incident, has caused me to lose faith. I don’t think I'm alone.
I hope Geier and Keller will prove me wrong and show that they can fix APD’s response to endangered children, and that they can do so in a transparent way, so the citizens, their bosses, will know what happened, why it happened, and what is being done to fix it.
Will they take up the challenge? Are they capable of fixing this?
I know that APD's command staff wishes I would stop pointing out issues at APD. I will make them this promise: do your jobs and fix this and I won’t write about it. I think that’s fair.
Children deserve unconditional love, police departments do not. Geier and Keller need to love Albuquerque children more than they want APD to always look good. This is going to be their legacy. For the sake of the children they must succeed.
Dan Klein is a retired APD sergeant.