Monday, April 30, 2007

Blowing in the Wind!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

It’s a windsock at the Sunport. The wind is blowing out of the southwest. Aircraft were taking off on runway 21. The most predominant wind direction in Albuquerque during the day is a west to east flow. During the night, a stable air mass will cool down and the settling air seeks the lowest point; the riverbed and then it flows down stream, to the south.

This story is only tangentially about the Sunport. The City’s Director of Aviation, Mike Rice recently retired. April 24, Mayor Martin Chávez announced that Chief Public Safety Officer Nicholas "Nick" Bakas would be taking over the position of Aviation Director.

It seems a strange move. Bakas was a deputy chief administrative officer, one of three under Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman and the mayor. Now he is assigned to be director of aviation, a department head; a step below his current position.

Bakas is a seasoned administrator. He is a graduate of the UNM law school, though he doesn’t practice, not having passed the bar exam. However, his experiences have always been in the law enforcement field. Though management skills should easily transfer from one job to another, aviation skills bring additional challenges. The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules and regulations on operating airports fill volumes. His law degree will come in handy. He will get to enjoy the view from the multi-million dollar cost overrun, “Marty Chávez Memorial Observation Deck.”

Bakas joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 1973 and rose through the ranks to become a captain. He was one of three finalists for the chief of police job when Jim Baca became mayor and fired Chief Joe Polisar in 1997. Baca selected Gerald Galvin from Toledo, Ohio as chief and Bakas was nudged into retirement shortly afterwards.

In 1999, Gov. Gary Johnson, left, announced he wanted to have a public debate over drug reforms, including decriminalization of certain drugs, legalizing, especially marijuana and heroin. Johnson wanted drug treatment included in addition to prison time in an effort to tackle drug addiction as a public health issue as well as a criminal matter.

Much of the law enforcement community lashed out at Johnson. The drug war is a cash cow for the law enforcement/corrections industry. The mere suggestion of trying to address the underlying issues of drug enforcement caused a wave of hysteria. About 25 representatives of the New Mexico Sheriffs and Police Association held a press conference on Oct. 14, 1999, denouncing Johnson’s idea.

Then Bernalillo County Sheriff and senior law enforcement leader in the state, former Albuquerque deputy chief Joe Bowdich, above, spoke for the group.

A quarter of the NMS&PA representatives, seen below, including Bowdich, were associated with the Albuquerque police department. From the left: in uniform, former APD Sgt., Corrales Chief Mike Tarter, former APD deputy chief, Sandoval County Sheriff Ray Rivera, holding yellow legal pad, former APD Lt., former Torrance County Sheriff and Executive Director of NMS&PA, Richard Ness, in the green shirt, former APD deputy chief, Roswell Chief Richard Campbell, red tie and on the far right, is the dark uniform, APD Chief Galvin.

Johnson’s then Director of Public Safety, Darren White, who is now serving his second term as Bernalillo County Sheriff, resigned, condemning his boss’s proposal. Bakas reemerged on the public scene taking over the DPS job.

“We can't keep doing what we have been doing and expect to get a different result can we,” Bakas said? In an interview five years ago, Bakas said, no police officer who had a career behind them could admit that the current incarceration only answer to combating drug crimes was succeeding.

Johnson left office at the end of 2001; Chávez tapped Bakas to be deputy chief administrative office in charge of police, fire, corrections departments and the office of emergency preparedness. The city separated from joint management of the Metropolitan Detention Center last year.

Bakas, left with Sheriff White at the fifth anniversary of 9-11 ceremony in 2006.

There have been several scandals under Bakas’ watch including:

The APD evidence room incident embroiled in theft and embezzlement allegations that ended with Chief Gilbert Gallegos’ retirement.

Former deputy chief and Bernalillo County Sheriff Joe Bowdich was named interim chief until former Deputy Chief Ray Schultz, who was a Deputy Chief in Scotsdale, Ariz., was hired chief.

An off-duty police officer/friend removed a driving while under the influence suspect, Jason Daskalos from a DWI roadblock. It was further determined that Daskalos, a developer and large campaign contributor to Chávez’ mayoral campaign, had dozens of traffic charges vacated before getting to court.

Bakas threatened disciplinary action against police officers and firefighters who signed on to box at an annual charity event. He said it was because the year before, it had been held at a casino where there was drunken rowdiness and skimpily clad girls carrying cardboard signs around the ring announcing what round it was. It took the ACLU‘s intervention in defense of the off-duty employees right to association and free expression to clear the way for them to box.

There are continued problems of providing appropriate due process for red light and speed cameras and the use of mobile photo radar vans in a controversial automated enforcement program.

Since his appointment, five years ago, there were 905 police officers; the goal of 1,000 officers continues to elude the Chávez administration.

Two calls of domestic violence to the 911 emergency call center were not immediately dispatched and three people were killed in a murder and a murder-suicide, resulting in lawsuits claiming huge demands.

Most recently, the newly appointed manger of the 911 emergency call center resigned after receiving a 30-day suspension amidst allegations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

Chávez said Bakas would remain involved in the City’s emergency preparedness planning in coordinating with homeland security, but police and fire departments would report directly to CAO Perlman.

Bakas spoke of his working relationship with the aviation police. That relationship takes the form of his long time association with former APD Sgt. Marshal Katz, left. After Katz’ retirement he made an unsuccessful run against Darren White for the Republican primary position as Bernalillo County Sheriff. He was appointed chief of the aviation police in 2003.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Something is in the breeze if Chávez has reorganized the 911 emergency call center, removing the two long time civilian managers and replacing them with Assistant City Attorney Pete Dinelli. Deputy Chief Michael Castro, who had been in charge of the communication center, had it removed from his command and Civilian Executive Deputy Chief Bowdich assumed control.

Bakas has clearly been demoted, not withstanding any effort to put some positive spin on the move.


Joseph Lopez said...
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Joseph Lopez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhp997 said...

Does Roswell, NM have anything similar to the Police Oversight Commission in ABQ? Are you aware of a process whereby a citizen may take a police officer to task for - in my case - exaggerations in a filed report and inappropriate behavior (i.e. stealing a license plate during a traffic stop)?