ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The pressure is on to find the next chief of police for Albuquerque’s troubled police department after the interim chief announced he’s moving to Texas.
Interim Chief Allen Banks, 42, made the announcement Wednesday that he will retire from APD and leave at the end of February.
The news comes as the department is still at the center of a federal probe and just weeks after the city announced it had hired a firm to conduct a nationwide search for the top cop spot.
Mayor R.J. Berry said the news of Banks stepping down also came as a surprise to him. Banks told the Mayor on Tuesday.
“Just knowing that he has a lot left to law enforcement we’re sorry to lose him,” Berry said.
As of right now, the mayor said he has no idea how many people have even applied for the position or if any hold the qualifications the city wants.
“We are right in the middle of allowing the national search firm compile candidates from around the country,” Berry said.
Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association President Stephanie Lopez worries in light of the Department of Justice investigation, into allegations of excessive use of force, many top cops will not want to tackle the issues within the troubled department.
“I don’t think the mayor is going to get the turnout that he wants for people putting in for this position based on everything that is happening,” Lopez said.
Lopez said Banks would have been a great chief. In a video message Banks sent out to officers, Lopez said it’s clear he wasn’t ready to go.
“I was more than excited to take on that opportunity, the challenges that laid ahead and take care and run this department,” Banks said.
Lopez blames the mayor for his departure.
“It’s unfortunate that the mayor prolonged his decision and his ability to appointing somebody and that it forced, we believe, the chief to look elsewhere,” Lopez said.
The mayor said he encouraged Banks to apply, but said Banks never did. In light of the federal probe, the mayor felt it was important to evaluate many applicants.
“We have a national search going on. So it would be disingenuous to say that we have a national search but say the job has already been given to someone,” Berry said. “So from a standpoint of guarantees, there are no guarantees.”
But KRQE News 13 has learned Banks will formally be announced as chief of police in Round Rock, Texas. Will Hampton, the city’s communications director, confirmed the hire.
Round Rock is a fast-growing community of more than 100,000 residents in Central Texas. According to the Round Rock Police Department’s web site, 147 sworn officers patrol the city. In 2011, the city began a red light camera traffic enforcement program.
Hampton says Banks will make $140,000 per year in Round Rock. While the chief earned just shy of $117,000 last year, his hourly rate put him on track to make about $137,000 in 2014. Banks’ years of service at APD – more than two decades – make him eligible to collect a pension from Albuquerque regardless of whether he’s working another job. Based on department pension rules and Banks’ service as deputy chief, his pension stands to be at least $80,000 per year.
The Austin suburb is largely young and white according to census data. The city does have a large Hispanic population and roughly 10 percent of residents identified themselves as African American. It’s also wealthier than Albuquerque: household income hovers just below $70,000.
Banks is now the second person to step down from the top spot at APD since the U.S. Department of Justice announced in November 2012 that it had launched a sweeping civil rights investigation of the police department.
In March, then-Chief Ray Schultz announced he would step down after eight years at the helm. That announcement came while a jury was deliberating how much money the 7-year-old son of an Iraq war veteran who was fatally shot by an APD officer should be paid in damages for the unlawful shooting.
Hours after Schultz’s announcement, the jury entered a $10.3 million judgment against the officer, Bret Lampiris-Tremba, and the city.
Schultz remained at APD for several more months, then spent a month in an “advisory capacity.”
Banks was named interim chief in mid-July, then sworn in on Aug. 3.
He held several high-profile positions at APD before taking the top job, including a stint as a lieutenant at the police academy, and in the department’s Internal Affairs division.
Both of those divisions are among the areas of APD under scrutiny by the Justice Department.
Mayor Richard Berry appointed Banks to the position of deputy chief shortly after taking office in late 2009. Banks oversaw APD’s Support Services division for more than two years.
In May 2012, he took over for the retiring Beth Paiz as deputy chief of the Field Services division, which oversees all field officers and detectives.
In all, Banks spent 21 years at APD.
Banks recorded a statement directed to APD officers and the department posted the video, seen below, on Wednesday morning.