Chris Ramirez & Joy Wang
Updated: September 30, 2020 10:27 PM
Created: September 30, 2020 09:56 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Mike Geier, former chief of police for the Albuquerque Police Department, has a story to tell. He said he forced out of the department, and he believes the new interim police chief played a role the mayor's decision.
"This is where things kind of went bad. (Harold) Medina wanted his agenda, he wanted to be chief, he made that clear from way back," Geier said. "At some point he convinced the mayor that the dog and pony shows were where it's at."
Geier said Medina, who was deputy chief before being promoted to interim chief, and Mayor Tim Keller often met privately without him. Geier believes the two conspired against him so Medina could be his replacement
"People came and warned me," Geier said. "In my last month, people were warning me, 'be careful, he's going to do this.'"
Geier said a few days after he tried changing Medina's duties, Keller asked to meet at a park. That's when Geier said Keller told him his time with APD was up.
"When I asked why, he said, 'well crime is too high and it's all on you,'" Geier said.
Geier appears to understand that the crime is a problem in Albuquerque, but he said he was doing his job.
"It's my responsibility as much as I can, but I have to depend on my people and there are factors outside my control," Geier said. "I took it personal. When I saw a homicide, it would inspire me to push harder with what we were doing. The mayor didn't resist actively, but we could have used more help from the feds and gotten more help because we need more officers on the streets."
Geier said the mayor did not express dissatisfaction with the way he was doing his job. He said the firing came as a surprise.
"I felt blindsided, but when it came to fruition, now looking back, I see the signs were all there," Geier said. "He never gave me that."
Interim APD Chief Medina denies the allegations made by Geier. He said the mayor doesn't need to conspire with anyone to get rid of a police chief. He added that there is no truth to him and the mayor working to get rid of Geier.
Medina claims that he and Geier were close friends, however, he now feels like he was stabbed in the back.
"When I returned to Albuquerque, I returned because chief asked me to. And it was his hope that he would give me the experience, and like he stated, he was going to leave after the first four years," Medina said. "Look back in my personnel file. He sent me to chief developmental classes because it was his hope that he would gain, I would gain enough experience."
Geier accused Mayor Keller of mixing up his messages to the community. Geier pointed to the days in July surrounding President Trump's announcement about Operation Legend being launched in Albuquerque.
Geier believes Keller politicized public safety when he commented about Operation Legend, a plan that brought in federal agents to help solve violent crimes.
Geier said those concerns were disingenuous because federal agents had been working in Albuquerque for weeks. He said he even briefed Keller.
"When we had the conversation, it was right before he gave the big, 'Trump, it's going to be like Portland, it will be troopers and it will be secret police and everything,'" Geier said.
Geier said Keller spoke with the U.S. Attorney before President Trump made the Operation Legend announcement. Geier said Keller was reassured the agents were not going to have a riot-control mission.
"The next day it's 'oh, we don't want Trump here, it's all Trump's fault,' and I was thinking, how did this become political," Geier said. "It's just a simple thing, they are already here. They were already doing results under Relentless Pursuit without the funding."
Sarita Nair, the city's chief administrative officer, said it's not uncommon for the city to work with federal agents. However, she said there was a huge outpouring of concern from the community about Operation Legend. She said they had more questions than answers when the initiative was announced.
"We talk to U.S. Attorney John Anderson on a regular basis, whether it's about DOJ reform, or about operations going on in the city, and again, you know, he is always speaking from his best knowledge. But he, he had not, I don't think been given the heads up necessarily on the change of branding from Operation Relentless Pursuit to Operation Legend. And we don't expect him to be able to speak for the unpredictable Trump administration," Nair said. "When the questions are that big, we want to give him time to make sure that he has the right answers, and to put those in writing so that there's no question."
Allegations of Micromanaging
Geier claims his job as chief was crippled by the level of micromanagement from Keller and Nair.
"The mayor's office would micromanage in terms of the details of these processes," Geier said. "For example, I was told I wouldn't be able to do the final discipline anymore."
Nair claims the oversight of Geier was necessary because the job wasn't getting done.
She added that there was little engagement from Geier.
"You know, this is a specific concern that we had. And when we talk about sort of spending the whole summer expressing our concerns about Mike's performance, this is a great example of that. So, you know, both the officers within the department and the Department of Justice had huge concerns about Mike's discipline. It was unfair, it was uneven, and it was unpredictable. And so when we confronted him with these concerns, he said that he didn't believe he had it in him to improve, and to do discipline better, and he actually chose the deputy chiefs that he wanted to delegate his disciplinary authority to."
Geier claims Keller puts on a show, and doesn't yield results.
"There were a lot of press conference, more than I ever saw before. In the past, and I've spoken with other chiefs, when it's about policing, the chief should be doing it. I got called out one time where I did one, somebody from the mayor's office was watching, and they went back to the mayor and said, 'Well the chief said this." I got called in. After that, I saw less and less. It was more orchestrated," Geier said. "It was like, we are going to do this, we are going to rehearse what the questions might be from you guys-- just anticipate so that it was a scrub version of what may come our way. There is nothing wrong with that, but it became where the order of who was going to speak, and what was going to be said and it couldn't overlap."
Geier believes Keller was more interested in controlling the message and the image, at times, rather than releasing important information.
Nair claims the mayor was not trying to take credit when he held press conferences. Instead, she said he was trying to give credit to the department, and recognize the officers for their work.
"If mike had been more engaged on that content, I think he would have actually come forward and say, 'hey, we should talk to the community because my officers are doing some great work.' But because he was distracted and dealing with the petty interpersonal disputes, rather than focusing on fighting crime, it was up to the rest of the department and us to say like, 'let's recognize some of these great initiatives.'
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