- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The man who has been Albuquerque’s interim police chief since a new mayor took office last year has been picked to oversee the department moving forward, officials said Wednesday.

Mayor Tim Keller announced Michael Geier’s appointment as police chief for New Mexico’s largest city in a statement that touted the veteran officer’s two-decade career with the Albuquerque Police Department, and recent stint as police chief of Rio Rancho, an Albuquerque suburb.

The Keller administration said Geier was selected after a lengthy process that allowed for public input, both online and through seven community listening sessions. A spokeswoman for a coalition of Albuquerque organizations advocating for police reform, however, said it had concerns about the transparency of the application process, saying they only learned on the day of the announcement that there had been more than two dozen applicants.

The administration also disclosed Wednesday the names of the other finalists for the job. They included a police chief in Oklahoma, assistant chief for Seattle, and an investigations chief for the San Francisco District Attorney.

Jeronimo Rodriguez, the candidate from San Francisco, also previously served as a former deputy police commissioner in Baltimore.

“This is one of the most important decisions this administration will make,” Nancy Koenigsberg said, who is the senior attorney at Disability Rights New Mexico and a member of APD Forward, the local coalition advocating for police reforms. “We had expected a more deliberate process. It appeared rushed to us.”

Geier’s appointment comes amid a multiyear reform effort for Albuquerque police that was mandated through a 2014 settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

The intent of the reforms is to curb the “culture of aggression” that federal authorities say existed within the department several years ago, and change how the department investigates use-of-force cases involving police.

The department also has struggled with not having enough staff, with fewer than 900 officers in recent years. Policing experts contracted to evaluate the department and others largely have agreed that the city of more than 500,000 residents should have about 1,200 officers.

Keller, a Democrat who took office in December, was seeking a chief with knowledge of the city but outside leadership experience, and Geier fit the bill, he said.

“Chief Geier has already begun to make progress toward reforming APD and re-establishing community policing strategies,” Keller said in a statement.

Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the local union was pleased with the selection process and Geier’s pick after getting a chance to take part in interviews with the top candidates.

The Albuquerque City Council still must confirm Geier’s appointment.

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