ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Amid federal court-ordered reforms and rising crime, Albuquerque Mayor-elect Tim Keller on Tuesday named a public safety team to oversee the transition of law enforcement in New Mexico’s largest city as he prepares to take office.
Keller told reporters the team will focus on turning around the beleaguered police department and said he would “absolutely” clean up an agency still reeling from criticism from police shootings and excessive force claims cited in a 2014 Department of Justice report.
Mike Geier, who stepped down earlier this year as the police chief in neighboring Rio Rancho, will serve as Albuquerque’s interim police chief while the new administration searches nationally for a permanent replacement, Keller said.
Keller said Geier has the respect of front-line officers and knows the Albuquerque Police Department because he served on the force for about 20 years.
The mayor-elect named Laguna Pueblo Police Chief Harold Medina and former Albuquerque commander Rogelio Banez as deputy chiefs.
“This is a turnaround team,” Keller said.
Albuquerque’s new permanent police chief will have long-term goals of reducing crime, restoring public trust and hiring more officers, he said.
The city of about 560,000 people had a violent crime rate of 1,112 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2016.
While the rate is not among the highest in the U.S. for cities of similar size and demographics, it is well above the average for cities with populations of 250,000 of more. Cities in that category have an average violent crime rate of 711.
Albuquerque also recorded a property crime rate per 100,000 residents of 6,860 — more than twice the average for cities with populations of 250,000 of more.
Geier would be allowed to apply for the permanent chief position, Keller said.
“We are certainly going to go outside and look,” he said. “But this is Albuquerque and this is New Mexico. We are very unique.”
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