Medina Torpedoes His Chance to Become Permanent APD Chief
“If you have so many officers who are violating state law or being paid for hours they didn’t work, should APD just turn a blind eye to that? It happened so many times. Are you going to ignore it, or are we going to conduct a formal investigation?” Santa Fe Attorney John Day
“Right now, as it stands, we would need time to review every single case, go over every single fact, interview individuals and we have so many priorities that we are working on right now that this is something we are not currently looking at.” Interim APD Police Chief Harold Medina
What would you rather have? More police officers, even if some are suspected of criminal behavior? Or fewer officers, but none are suspected of criminal behavior? This is a question Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque city council need to answer for all of us.
T. J. Wilham, of KOAT, produced a report, based upon a recent independent audit of APD overtime, that asks this question of APD Interim Police Chief Harold Medina. Medina’s response should cause Mayor Keller to grimace in pain. Medina basically says he doesn’t have the time to investigate suspected illegal activities at APD. Activities that are costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. It doesn’t seem to be a priority for Medina to ensure that APD has ethical police officers and that he is spending our tax dollars correctly. The old APD rears its ugly head again.
Ignoring city audits of APD spending is a story as old as time. In just the last decade there have been at least three audits by the Albuquerque Office of Internal Audit and the police chiefs at that time (Ray Schultz, Gorden Eden and Mike Geier) all ignored them all.
Now we have Medina, who says he has bigger fish to fry and is not going to investigate these allegations. Doesn’t Medina know that State Auditor Brian Colon and Attorney General Hector Balderas are both conducting audits into APD payroll and spending? If Medina wants to have the permanent job of chief ignoring this scathing audit is not going to help him
Why would Albuquerque expect anything different from Medina? As Chief Geier’s second in command, Medina was there when the CPOA investigated Officer Simon Drobik in 2019 and recommended his termination for multiple timecard infractions. Geier refused to terminate Drobik and Keller refused to step in. Thus, leading to the investigations by Colon and Balderas.
After the CPOA investigation, Geier had promised to change the system and to supervise Drobik. An ABQREPORT investigation in 2020 exposed that Drobik’s overtime express was moving at full speed with little supervision, Geier was forced to open his own investigation. This resulted in Drobik’s retirement in July.
Medina was there for all of this; he is not new to the game. His dismissal of the city audit report is not surprising. His silence regarding the Drobik investigations (remember Medina was second in command) was expected. It’s what APD command staff members have done for years. Ignore independent audits. If you are in a high-ranking command position you don’t rock the boat by demanding better policing, just go along and take your paycheck. Have you ever witnessed any APD deputy chief of police going public to expose wrongdoing? Would APD be in the situation it is now if deputy chiefs and commanders would have had the courage to speak up?
Interim Chief Medina continues to blame everything on Geier, but where was Deputy Chief Medina the last 3 years? Certainly, he knew what was going on, yet he said nothing. Is this the chief we want to move APD forward? Mayor Keller needs to tell us.
Medina wants to be the real chief, so why would he say investigating possible overtime fraud is not a priority? He said this because he believes it. Safeguarding taxpayer dollars is just not a priority. The idea that an investigation might expose dozens of his officers and supervisors as either violating policies at best or doing timecard fraud (a felony) at worse, would cause Medina to take disciplinary action. That would mean Medina would have to possibly terminate officers, at a time when Keller and Medina keep promising to grow the department. Is having 1,000 officers more important than the integrity of APD? Mayor Keller?
What will it matter if APD gets over 1,000 officers if those officers are not trusted by the community because Medina will not investigate? Medina’s refusal to investigate harms the entire department. That is what poor leadership does. It harms all the good officers to protect a handful of bad ones.
What is the priority for APD in a Medina / Keller administration? More cops but with a cloud of possible criminal behavior hanging over their heads? Fewer cops, but ones that the citizens know are grounded in solid ethical and moral behavior?
By his own statement, we know the type of cops Medina wants at APD. My question becomes, is this OK with you Mayor Keller? Numbers over quality? Mayor Keller, hello?