Council Watch: Bully Tactics

Pot Decriminalization And Police Retention Discussed

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
ABQ Meanies
(Robert Maestas)
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Albuquerque City Councilors called out a squadron of Albuquerque Police Department brass for what looked like a show of force at the Council’s Sept. 9 regular meeting. The topic was retention bonuses for top cops on the 19-member command staff approved seemingly on the sly by Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry. The bonuses were approved last year and Council members said they thought the money was intended to help entice all ranks of officers who are able to retire at 20 years to not retire and stay on the force. But apparently the bonus program was stopped for the rank and file cops, but not the top guns, when the current budget kicked in July 1.

City Councilor Diane Gibson said the command staff demanding bonuses to stay on when the program was halted for everyone else was akin to extortion. “I find this very offensive and distasteful,” Gibson said.

Right about then a half dozen of the top cops entered the council chambers from the lobby where they had been gathered, utilizing the first level of force on the APD use of force paradigm: physical presence in otherwise neutral space.

“I am not sure what kind of message that was intended to send to this council,” Councilor Dan Lewis said to the officers after their demonstration style entrance. Council President Rey Garduño stared down the half dozen members of the 19-member command staff at the back of the Council Chambers and said “It is disheartening when there is a discussion of public safety there is a show of inordinate force. I don’t know what the intent is, to intimidate? It certainly feels that way.”

Councilor Ken Sanchez said he supports the retention pay. He said the city is seeing a spike in crime and needs to keep the experience of the command staff, and the extra cash can only help. CAO Perry said he was the one who asked the top cops to attend the meeting. He also said none of them asked for bonuses, but that they deserve it. City Attorney Jessica Hernandez told the council the extra pay is legal. The handouts range from $6,000 to $12,000 a year.

Reporter’s Take: A quick check of the city’s payroll shows the lowest paid deputy chief or commander is pulling down a salary of $87,160. Chief Gordon Eden’s salary is $129,954 with the rest of the top brass falling in between. That’s a hefty salary in our poor state. Giving the bonuses to the powerful fat cats is not a good idea, and if you’re handing out cash to cops, why not the men and women on the streets, especially including hard working sergeants? Having brass show up en masse to try to look like a gang of Blue Meanies is an even worse idea. Spending the bonus money on rank and file retention incentives would have been the smart idea. This is the same command staff that is under fire in a threatened whistleblower lawsuit that claims the chief and other members of the command staff directed the police records custodian to withhold public police department records.

New Blue Eye

Wisconsin attorney and former Milwaukee Police Officer Edward Harness was questioned and confirmed as the new executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency. Harness has also served on a police oversight commission. He was the police oversight board’s top choice. The board recently accused the police department administration of cutting out their input into policy changes. There was some squabble between the Council and Attorney Hernandez as to what role the Department of Justice mandated for the oversight board. Good luck Mr. Harness!

Back Up

Food trucks will now have to stay at least 100 feet away from any restaurant building entrances except with permission. Food trucks must also provide their own trash collection and pay any parking meter fees if applicable. Some brick and mortar restaurant owners had complained to the city about the mobile restaurants being unfair competition.

Welcome Amigos!

The city zoo has several new exotic and rare residents, including a brother and sister set of capybaras—the planet’s largest rodents—and a 40-year old African slender snouted crocodile. There is also the baby giraffe born earlier this summer. These alone are worth a trip to the BioPark now that fall is on the horizon and things are cooling down.

Cannabis Decriminalization: Just Do It

Councilors Isaac Benton and Rey Garduño said they are sponsoring legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and paraphernalia possession in the city. The proposed ordinance changes would make possession of an ounce or less and/or associated paraphernalia civil offenses instead of criminal. 59.62% percent of Bernalillo County voting residents agree that marijuana possession should be decriminalized. The Santa Fe City Council voted to decriminalize pot possession under an ounce last year. Why not go all in, like Colorado, and make both counties completely decriminalized, but taxed, so there are more public dollars for schools and police retention bonuses?

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The next meeting

Monday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m.

Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall

View it on GOV TV 16 or at

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