We look at how police unions can be the biggest impediment to police accountability, nationally and in ABQ; plus a new statewide police reform initiative emerging in NM and a list of reforms achieved in the US and internationally in just the past two weeks.
Today’s post includes video of our last Zoominar focused on how PNM has manipulated the legislature to maximize profits and avoid regulation by the Public Regulation Commission. If you’ve been confused by the conflicting characterizations of the Energy Transition Act and the puzzling assaults on PRC autonomy, you will want to watch this video (see below).
Most of today’s post is a guest blog from Alan Wagman, a longtime ABQ activist and former member of the ABQ Police Oversight Task Force. He has seen how police reform is systematically undermined by the ABQ police association and sees June 30, when the contract expires, as an opportunity for ABQ to reinvent how it addresses public safety issues while also meeting federal injunctions insisting on more substantive police reform in ABQ. The city spends millions in penalties for its failure to comply with the federal court order and Alan points to the union as the major impediment.
I share Alan’s Call To Action because, as the list that closes the post illustrates, the murder of George Floyd has opened a window of opportunity, not just in ABQ, but around the world. Communities are forcing that window wide open and the range of reforms being considered is groundbreaking. After Alan’s guest post we provide links to four articles on the ways in which police unions serve as almost insurmountable impediments to police accountability.
Statewide Police Reform Initiative Launched
Loveless Johnson III is an industrial hemp entrepreneur, a Santa Fe radio personality, a racial justice activist for over 30 years, and the co-founder of New Mexico Justice Alliance (NMJA). I interviewed Loveless for this Saturday’s radio show airing at 8:30 am on KSFR, 101.1 FM. We went beyond the 29-minute limit to the show, and the full interview will be available here on Saturday at 9 am on our Retake Conversations series page.
We spoke about how this George Floyd moment in history IS different and how NMJA plans to seize the moment. Loveless has launched a statewide effort to implement meaningful police reform at a state and local level, and I suspect he will be in touch with Alan Wagman very soon. Loveless’ vision goes beyond tackling public safety reform to advocate for all forms of justice as he sees them as inextricably connected. We agree and expect to form a strong alliance with NMJA going forward. Listen in on Saturday and/or watch the full interview video when published Saturday morning.
If you want to sign up to be part of NM Justice Alliance, click here to get to their Facebook page.
Will Union Obstruction Cause ABQ to Miss An Opportunity for Meaningful Police Reform?
By Alan Wagman
The window of opportunity for even the most modest of reforms to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is about to close. Jewish Voice for Peace-Albuquerque implores you to contact Mayor Keller and City Council to keep the window open. Read on to learn how and why.
Almost everyone in Albuquerque wants some kind of change in APD. All people who want change in APD have something in common: All should be demanding that Mayor Keller not renew the city’s contract with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) until after the public has been engaged in a real, meaningful examination of what kind of police department we want and what kind we don’t want. The APOA contract is due to expire on June 30.
If you want nothing more than that APD make the changes the city agreed to and the federal court ordered five years ago, you will lose your opportunity to get what you want if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA. The city will continue to pay millions of dollars because its obligations under the federal lawsuit will remain unfulfilled.
If you want to see APD flat-out abolished, you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA.
If you want something in-between, something that involves real change in who responds to medical emergencies (police or EMTs?), who responds to the mentally ill (police or counselors?), who deals with the homeless (police or social workers?), who deals with problems in schools (police or teachers, counselors, and experts in restorative justice?), who deals with drug abuse (police or public health authorities?), you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA. If you want yet something else, you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA.
Entering contracts with APOA is the surest way to block improvement in APD. Six years ago, I served on the city’s Police Oversight Task Force charged with making recommendations for a new police oversight ordinance. We discovered that the city’s contract with APOA set a time limit beyond which discipline could not be imposed, and the civilian oversight statute required a process which pushed civilian oversight beyond the contract’s time limits. The result was no discipline. The Task Force raised the issue, and the Berry administration responded by renewing the APOA contract, preventing oversight and avoiding discipline.
With the Keller administration it has been more of the same. Under Mayor Keller’s APOA contract, the federal court monitor has been reporting for years that the road block to progress remains unchanged: supervisors stall the disciplinary process until it gets beyond the deadlines set in the APOA contract. Result? Cops aren’t disciplined; APD does not change; we taxpayers continue shelling out money to the federal court monitor. And we continue paying for and being victimized by police officers who break rules designed to protect us.
Without an APOA contract, the city can make whatever change the public desires. Without an APOA contract, the city can force APD compliance with the federal lawsuit and save millions of dollars. Without an APOA contract, the city can abolish the police. Without an APOA contract, the city can reallocate money to better and more humanely serve the people of this city. But only without an APOA contract.
There is little time left – until June 30 at the outside – to deliver our message to Mayor Keller: “We need APD to change; hold public meetings; find out what we want and need. If you do not, if instead you enter into an APOA contract, you raise a legitimate question as to whom you serve: Do you serve us? Or do you serve APOA? Serve us; serve we, the people. Do not enter into a contract with APOA.”
Email Mayor Keller here: https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/contact-us/email-the-mayor
Then email your city council member https://www.cabq.gov/council/find-your-councilor/contact-all-councilors and say you want him or her to tell the mayor that if he signs an APOA contract without first finding out what we the pepole want, he will have a difficult time getting his favorite programs funded. Email your council member before the June 15 council meeting.
In Saturday’s post, Retake will develop contact information for other NM city councils. county commissions and Mayors with a call to action similar to Alan’s.
Then, before the window closes:
SHARE THIS; SHARE THIS. SHARE THIS
If You Want To Read More About the Ways Police Unions Block Reform:
“”They’ve become far too powerful. They form political action committees. They donate to district attorneys’ race or state attorneys’ race, state senators and representatives and so forth,” Charles Ramsey, a former DC police chief and former Philadelphia police commissioner, said Sunday on CNN. “And then we wonder why you can’t get anything done.”CNN
- “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop,” from Medium. This is a powerful and revealing piece that describes the myriad ways in which unions and police training and supervision practices actual promote and protect police violence. A very interesting piece.
- “I’m a Union Guy, and I Oppose Police Union Contracts That Cover Up Abuse,” from the Chicago Sun Times. This piece looks at how police contracts prevent reform and how legislation is necessary to limit what can be included in a police union contract.
- “The Problem With Police Unions” from the Wall St. Journal, hardly a bastion of social justice.
- “Police Unions Dig In As Calls For Reform Grow” from CNN. Outlines how police unions obstruct criminal justice reform by achieving out-sized influence among criminal justice stakeholders and local politicians.
- “It’s Time To Bust Police Unions” from Reason. An interesting example is shared in this piece: Camden, NJ became so frustrated with the police union obstruction, it fired the entire police force, rehired new recruits and focused on rebuilding trust between the community and the police. And it worked.
PNM Shareholders for Responsible Future Make It Clear: PNM Runs Circles Around the Legislature and PRC
This Zoominar illustrates how a handful of local activists can come together and expose how PNM has used its political weight to manipulate the legislature and, with the Energy Transition Act, achieve complete freedom from PRC regulation, not just in relation to the closing San Juan Generating Station, but in relation to all its past and future energy generation and distribution operations. This is a MUST SEE.
Next Zoominar On Public Banking in NM, June 23. The Zoominars are gaining significant traction with more attendees each session and recently with legislators joining in the discussion, chatting about their plans for legislation relevant to the topic at hand. Our next Zoominar is focused on public banking in NM and we’ll host a national expert from NY, a representative of the NM Credit Union Association (a supporter of a state public bank), and three advocates who’ve been pressing for a public bank for 10 years. They may be within reach of achieving their goal, as they have legislation in the works not to study a public bank but to implement one. You must pre-register for this Zoominar by clicking here.
Amazing List of Reforms Achieved
In Just the Last Ten Days
- So what has protesting accomplished? Within 10 days of sustained protests:
- Minneapolis bans use of choke holds.
- 👉🏾Charges are upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and his accomplices are arrested and charged.
- 👉🏾Dallas adopts a “duty to intervene” rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force.
- 👉🏾New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades.
- 👉🏾In Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.
- 👉🏾Los Angeles City Council introduces motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
- 👉🏾MBTA in Boston agrees to stop using public buses to transport police officers to protests.
- 👉🏾Police brutality captured on cameras leads to near-immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities (i.e., Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale).
- 👉🏾Monuments celebrating confederates are removed in cities in Virginia, Alabama, and other states.
- 👉🏾Street in front of the White House is renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
- Military forces begin to withdraw from D.C.
- Then, there’s all the other stuff that’s hard to measure:
- 💓The really difficult public and private conversations that are happening about race and privilege.
- 💓The realizations some white people are coming to about racism and the role of policing in this country.
- 💓The self-reflection.
- 💓The internal battles exploding within organizations over issues that have been simmering or ignored for a long time. Some organizations will end as a result, others will be forever changed or replaced with something stronger and fairer.
- 🌎 Protests against racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd are taking place all over the world.
- 🌎 Rallies and memorials have been held in cities across Europe, as well as in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
- 🌎 As the US contends with its second week of protests, issues of racism, police brutality, and oppression have been brought to light across the globe.
- 🌎 People all over the world understand that their own fights for human rights, for equality and fairness, will become so much more difficult to win if we are going to lose America as the place where ‘I have a dream’ is a real and universal political program,” Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the US, told the New Yorker.
- 🌎 In France, protesters marched holding signs that said “I can’t breathe” to signify both the words of Floyd, and the last words of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who was subdued by police officers and gasped the sentence before he died outside Paris in 2016.
- 🌎 Cities across Europe have come together after the death of George Floyd:
- ✊🏽 In Amsterdam, an estimated 10,000 people filled the Dam square on Monday, holding signs and shouting popular chants like “Black lives matter,” and “No justice, no peace.”
- ✊🏽 In Germany, people gathered in multiple locations throughout Berlin to demand justice for Floyd and fight against police brutality.
- ✊🏾 A mural dedicated to Floyd was also spray-painted on a stretch of wall in Berlin that once divided the German capital during the Cold War.
- ✊🏿 In Ireland, protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside of Belfast City Hall, and others gathered outside of the US embassy in Dublin.
- ✊🏿In Italy, protesters gathered and marched with signs that said “Stop killing black people,” “Say his name,” and “We will not be silent.”
- ✊🏾 In Spain, people gathered to march and hold up signs throughout Barcelona and Madrid.
- ✊🏾 In Athens, Greece, protesters took to the streets to collectively hold up a sign that read “I can’t breathe.”
- ✊🏾 In Brussels, protesters were seen sitting in a peaceful demonstration in front of an opera house in the center of the city.
- ✊🏾In Denmark, protesters were heard chanting “No justice, no peace!” throughout the streets of Copenhagen, while others gathered outside the US embassy.
- ✊🏾 In Canada, protesters were also grieving for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old black woman who died on Wednesday after falling from her balcony during a police investigation at her building.
- ✊🏾 And in New Zealand, roughly 2,000 people marched to the US embassy in Auckland, chanting and carrying signs demanding justice.
- 💐 Memorials have been built for Floyd around the world, too. In Mexico City, portraits of him were hung outside the US embassy with roses, candles, and signs.
- 💐 In Poland, candles and flowers were laid out next to photos of Floyd outside the US consulate.
- 💐 And in Syria, two artists created a mural depicting Floyd in the northwestern town of Binnish, “on a wall destroyed by military planes.”
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
PLEASE POST THIS!
If you haven’t seen the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I highly recommend it It aired Sunday on HBO and is now up on YouTube.
Take a look at EPIC, the program created by New Orleans Police Department which has been effective in changing police culture by using peer pressure to stop inappropriate police conduct.
Will do. Thanks, Roberta
I agree with Wagman on his observation that to sign the contract will negate the possibility to re-invent, and thereby, de-fang the police portion of public safety and law enforcement.
I also do not think that abolishing the unions is a good idea. Unions are there to negotiate for parity in wages, benefits, working conditions and training. Nothing else.
Like everything in ‘murka, unions have become totally political animals, originally out of necessity, but soon because the same bad actors that took over corporate empires took over unions.
That would be – sociopaths, psychopaths, sadists, perverts, narcissists, grifters, and self-perpetuating bureaucrats of the extreme center.
Many intervention-driven police calls have a low probability of violence. Because I have been in this position, I know that the presence of a uniformed, heavily armed officer immediately drives the stress and tension level upward, regardless of the nature of the call. A fanged officer is not what the situation calls for. De-fang these numerous interactions, with complete knowledge that the big dogs are nearby and ready to bite, but only if the public presses the situation downward.
The same drivers I listed above in corporate situations also exist in both police and criminal gang ranks. There are seminal works on this and little doubt of the veracity of the observations. Again, I can speak from experience.
The ages-old war between labor and management, ineptly named but recognizable, is at the heart of public safety debacles. The society, the one with the primary problem, the need for intervention, has become replaced by the artifacts of law enforcement – power, ambition, pecking order control issues, the political clout of both police unions and police administrations, Delta Force machismo and the never-ending weaknesses of ethnic relations, gender relations, LGBTQ vs. straight relations, economic disparity relations, the semantic relations of coded languages and the ubiquitous addiction that champions winning a battle that does not exist at any cost – as long as the cost is not yours.
De-fang the police – the administrations who are political animals, the unions, more of the same animal, and the armament-heavy rank and file.
For 20 centuries minimum, the knee-jerk testosterone-laden miasma of the jocks vs. the nerd/jocks and the true nerds has repeated itself countless times, and not so surprisingly, without any true winners.
And lurking in the middle is the embarrassing truth that the female human is being used as an excuse for the us vs. them, brain-dead behaviors of mostly hetero cops and hetero non-cops still arguing about whose Johnson is righteous and whose is a heathen.
Luckily, not all men are this way, and not all women will put up with men acting out in this way. These are the true nerds, and they need to do what they now are finally doing – refusing to look the other way.
Reading this left me with a question not about reform but about unions.
The issue of police unions blocking change to such an extent that the entity on the other side of the negotiating table, the city, is liable for whopping federal fines for problems caused by unrestrained police actions is all in such contrast to the weak positions that most unions have been in since Reagan that I can’t help wonder how police unions got such bargaining power.
I don’t know how to even think about this. But it’s obvious most workers need stronger unions as a brake on the runaway power of corporations. They are not now in any position to call the shots on much of anything.
Does anyone have any insights on HOW police unions got such disproportionate power?
There is plenty of denial about police brutality and racism right here in Santa Fe! It is time to defend the police and put the money to better use. The population has been traumatized for too long.
I think you meant “defund” 😉
This is tricky! Can we get union reform without busting unions?