ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – During the race for mayor, the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) endorsed Tim Keller, but during his first week in office, the mayor has already made statements about police behavior that has the union firing back.
Wednesday, Mayor Tim Keller stood alongside his new command staff and talked about the task ahead of them to reform the Albuquerque Police Department. Before he could get to the plan, the mayor announced he had a few apologies to make.
One for a “historical tone at the top of the department and a culture of excessive force.” It was an apology that did not sit well with many officers.
“My phone has pretty much been ringing non-stop since it happened,” Union President Shaun Willoughby said.
Then, according to Willoughby, it was the statement that followed that really caught them off-guard.
“I also want to tell the victims of families who have been hurt by unnecessary use of force that I am sorry,” Mayor Tim Keller said.
Thursday, the union fired back.
“That’s kind of a global apology. Every single circumstance, in every instance, is dynamic and there’s two sides to every one of those stories,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby went on to say that rank-and-file police officers felt discredited.
It wasn’t the first time Keller had critiqued the former command staff that served under former mayor, Richard J. Berry’s administration. Throughout the campaign, Keller maintained he would change the culture and rebuild the department around community policing.
During a mayoral debate in October, Keller told a crowd of supporters, “We cannot deal with crime if a huge part of our population does not trust us.” He was referring to the community’s trust in APD.
Willoughby said while he respects Keller’s broader goals, his apologies are an insult to the men and women in blue.
“It’s important to understand that the APOA is not a political organization. I’m actually employed by the cops that we serve,” Willoughby said. “I don’t think that the APOA having discontent is wrong or reminding anybody that we felt that, that was dishonorable to apologize for a group of police officers.”
Willoughby said although he feels it was a “small misstep,” he’s confident in the candidate the union chose to back.
“It doesn’t cross our hope for the future and it doesn’t make me less objective, less focused or less willing to work with this administration in order to move forward,” he said.
The mayor’s office declined to comment on the incident but sent a statement saying: “The mayor aims to attack crime from all sides by both better supporting officers and restoring trust in the community. We will work together with frontline officers and the new leadership at APD to achieve that goal.”