City Council Looking to Defund APD's Twitter and the Troll Who Runs it
Updated: Apr 27
By: ABQRAW staff
Posted: 4/04/2023 @1:00PM
Updated: 4/27/2023 @11:45AM (we learned that Gilbert Gallegos was NOT at the OIS incident that happened 2023 on Glendale NW on March 30th. We have retracted that portion of the story and apologize for the misinformation)
Gilbert Gallegos impersonating a ranking officer complete with APD's patch and "gold" colored insignia and patch
Albuquerque, NM - On April 3rd, 2023, at 5PM, the Albuquerque City Council had its monthly meeting to discuss city matters. During the question-and-answer period, City Councilors can ask the Mayor's office and its department heads any questions that they feel are necessary to address during open government.
District 9 City Councilor and Vice President of Council Renee Grout wasted no time during the question-and-answer period to ask the administration about an offensive tweet posted by Director of Communications Gilbert Gallegos. She showed on the big screen a tweet that showed Gallegos attacking one of the largest landowners and businessmen in Albuquerque, Doug Peterson, who owns Peterson Properties.
Councilor and Vice President Grout questioned Chief Administration Officer Lawrence Rael about the behavior of Gallegos's tweets and if it was considered good customer service.
Rael stammered with his answer and said he had already reviewed his response.
"Look, I have gotten the point of what you all have made and we will visit with that. I am in the opinion we should always be professional and stick to the subject matter," said Rael.
Rael then went on to back Gallegos saying he was a very dedicated individual public employee and thanked the Councilor for bringing it to his attention.
Council President and District 6 Councilor Pat Davis then called APD Chief Harold Medina to the podium to answer questions about Gallegos's behavior and why they have not disciplined him for violating APD's social media policy. Davis then asked who Gallegos reports to and Davis followed up with who has access to the APD's PIO Twitter account.
"He answers to the Chief of Police. I would say there is about three who could have access to the PIO account," said Chief Medina.
Sources tell us that Gallegos is the sole person who has exclusive access to all of the APD run PIO Twitter accounts and reportedly, he changed the login credentials when he came into power for the position. The Tweets and response tweets coming from the account indicate that Gallegos is the sole person running the account. On October 24th, 2022, ABQ RAW posted an editorial about Gallegos behavior. The account responded to a person in a mocking manner saying #recallGilbertGallegos.
Davis then went on to say in the public forum that he (Councilor Davis) and Rael have talked about Gallegos’s behavior at least 6 times prior to this meeting. He addressed Rael and Chief Medina with a stern and emotional tone about Gallegos's behavior.
"This issue has been going on for quite some time. We have had personal conversations and news stories. It is very clear this account that engages with our community is disruptive and unhelpful in engaging the community. It is time to stop! Will you commit that person will no longer be allowed to operate that account until they are retrained, or will you continue to allow this person to do so in violation of policy that specifically says they must treat people with respect," said President of Council Councilor Davis.
Rael responded with, “the city will have more conversations with Gallegos about being professional.” Davis then doubled down about the Twitter accounts and Gallegos's behavior.
"I will work personally to defund that position, to defund that account, and prohibit the City from using Twitter in that way if we continue to not solve this problem. We are not going to pick a fight with people online in social media. We are not QAnon trolls but we are participating in it and encouraging it, and elevating all those people by responding to it and it is beneath the dignity of you, and this department. We do not make fun of our former Police Chief's health conditions on Twitter and that is too far, and someone needed to be disciplined for it and as far as I can tell it hasn't happened," said Davis.
Chief Medina would not confirm if Gallegos was ever disciplined or there is any plan to put Gallegos in remedial training. When Gallegos's responses are brought up concerning the various tweets, Chief Medina spins it to say people are attacking his officers and this is a way to fight back. He never answers council directly about Gallegos's job performance. "
"All of our responses are geared to facts and our responses are geared toward supporting our officers," said Chief Medina in response back to City Council.
Gallegos has so much support from Keller and Police Chief he was issued a new police SUV complete with lights and sirens. Gallegos uses this vehicle quite often speeding from his residence in the gated community of Tanoan to crime scenes where he has no purpose speeding and using his emergency lights on the vehicle. This vehicle is disguised with a civilian license plate to conceal his employment as a government official.
It is unclear why a civilian PIO needs a police SUV with red and blue lights when other civilians have no take home police cars, no lights, and no sirens at all. We and others have noticed on several instances where Gallegos arrives on scene passing all established crime scene boundaries with his lights engaged.
APD Standard Operating Procedure states only sworn personnel are allowed to use lights engaged in the Use of Emergency Warning Equipment:
2-6-2 Policy: It is the policy of the Department to adhere to statutory restrictions on the use of emergency warning equipment. Emergency warning equipment is employed only under authorized conditions and circumstances in order to minimize the risk of crashes or injuries to personnel or the community. 2-6-3 Definitions: A. Authorized Emergency Vehicle An authorized law enforcement vehicle displaying a government-issued license plate that is equipped with authorized emergency warning equipment and other emergency warning devices required by New Mexico state statute and used for emergency response situations. B. Authorized Emergency Warning Equipment Equipment on authorized emergency vehicles that emits audible or visual signals in order to warn others that law enforcement services are in the process of being delivered, such as a siren, flashing or rotating red and blue lights, or amber lights.
It is also unclear why PIO Gallegos needs to get to scenes in a hurry and who, if anyone, actually authorizes his use of emergency lights to scenes or on scenes.
Gallegos's typical uniform consists of a polo shirt identical to high-ranking officials with "gold" lettering signifying rank and importance. The polo shirts also have affixed the official gold supervisor police patch that sworn supervisory officers wear. All other civilians, such as PSA's, wear a light blue uniform with a civilian city patch. He could be mistaken and probably is continuously as a sworn law enforcement officer dressed in his current outfit. The practice of driving a police car with lights and siren in a police type uniform hinges on impersonation of an officer and places the city at great risk for lawsuits.
Gallegos has an office next to the chief on the fifth floor. Gallegos also has a police radio with a call sign and a police badge, just like Mayor Keller’s. Gallegos is also assigned an assistant director of communications Rebecca Atkins, and he also has two other sworn PIO's at his disposal. Officer Daren DeAguero and Officer Chase Jewell are the sworn PIO's however, none of the sworn PIO's nor Atkins are allowed to make independent comments publicly unless Gallegos has approved it, making the other staff useless.
The sworn officer PIO practice had been in place up until recently when Mayor Keller under his first administration appointed civilian PIO Gilbert Gallegos to the position of "director of communications" for the Albuquerque Police Department. The pay for this civilian PIO position is now comparable to that of a very high-ranking commander at over $100,000 per year. Gallegos, nevertheless, is not of any sworn rank, but he is instead an "at will" disposable employee.
Gallegos is apparently not accountable to the city taxpayers, who pay his salary. Not once has Gallegos had to answer to anyone of authority in the Keller administration about his actions. Gallegos has never faced consequences for his actions.
For as long as recent history can remember, the Albuquerque Police Department has employed a spokesperson to deal with the media on behalf of the Chief of Police and its department. For the first few decades, APD relied on internal employees who were sworn officers within the rank and file to serve as the Public Information Officer, AKA PIO. The officer assigned would be trained by PR firms or internal specialists on how to deal with the public and media station inquiries.
This formula worked for decades because people for the most part trusted a sworn member of the police department to be honest and forthcoming about incidents that were of significance to the public's safety. As we know, upon graduation from a police academy, officers swear an oath to the U.S. Constitution that they will be honest and will be held accountable up to termination if untruthful. By Keller hiring a civilian PIO to replace sworn PIO's, the position in now not accountable to the US Constitution or any rules or ethics. The civilian PIO is now allowed to constantly lie to the public without consequence to their employment or to anyone else.
This civilian PIO is the same city employee that's been highlighted by ABQ RAW for years and now recently KOAT for his unacceptable behavior on social media. The behavior consists of harassing business owners, chastising a crime victim's family, he's been rude to other Albuquerque residents just for making comments on Twitter, and he's made inflammatory and derogatory comments, all of which does not reflect well on the City of Albuquerque or the Albuquerque Police Department.
Questions still remain as to why a full-time, high paid PIO is even needed if they only speak during sporadic press conferences. It seems the old way of having a sworn officer fill in these duties would suffice.