EDITORIAL: Another Twitter Feud for APD's PIO
- Bullying crime victims - one tweet at a time.
APD Public Information Officer, left, Gilbert Gallegos, at the scene of a crime with the Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Harold Medina.
As silly as it sounds, adults who have actual power over our city government have been using official City of Albuquerque Twitter accounts to engage in juvenile personal attacks against victims of crime.
And now there is an established pattern and practice of this type of cyber-bullying from the Official Albuquerque Police Department's Twitter account.
We sat on this story for months in the hopes that leaders within the City of Albuquerque (once made aware of this controversy) would recognize the error, apologize, and then ensure the public that there would be a more professional social media presence going forward from the City of Albuquerque.
Unfortunately, that was only wishful thinking as the ideals of government transparency, tolerance of different ideas, and common sense have not yet emerged victorious in the minds of those that run the City of Albuquerque.
The purpose of this editorial is to highlight, document, and most importantly question the unprofessional communications via social media from high-ranking city officials towards crime victims and the general public who dare to question them.
This all began in early October when KOAT reached out to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) for a comment in reference to the evidence of criminal activity that a local business leader/real estate investor (Doug Peterson) had posted via social media. See, Mr. Peterson is the largest property owner in the Albuquerque Metro area and on a nearly daily basis he shares pictures and videos (via Twitter and Facebook) that document the criminal activity that occurs against his tenants and buildings.
KOAT reported that APD Chief Harold Medina provided the following response,
“We have reached out and tried to work with Doug Peterson but he is more interested in political attacks. Doug Peterson's constant criticism of city leadership is ironic since Mayor Tim Keller has invested the most financial support for police officers in the city's history. The Mayor also supports our approach to put criminals in jail."
Mr. Peterson (@MrDougPeterson) then tweeted @ABQPOLICECHIEF (Chief Medina) that he has: 1) never met Chief Medina and 2) never ran for political office.
These are relevant facts pointed out by Mr. Peterson that easily refute the veracity of the statements from the Chief of Police.
Not to be outdone the APD Public Information Officer PIO (Gilbert Gallegos) (@APD_PIO) inserted himself into the fray and responded on Twitter to Mr. Peterson and commented,
Most victims of crime do not view their experience as “political”. But that is clearly the lens through which Mr. Gallegos views victims of crime - as a political problem.
To recap - a business owner reports and documents crime and is subsequently asked by a news organization what his thoughts were on the issue. The City (via the Police Chief and PIO) choose to respond by personally attacking the crime victim - instead of trying to solve the issue. See, there’s the rub - they are solving the issue. The issue for them is an outspoken serial victim of crime. It is far easier for Mr. Gallegos to try to bully Mr. Peterson into silence than it would be to stop his windows from being smashed out by drug-crazed maniacs who roam free on our city streets.
Pattern and Practice
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that ABQ RAW has covered the topic of Mr. Gallegos, in his capacity as APD’s PIO, using social media in an unprofessional manner to mock a crime victim. Check out our prior story as it helps to document the evolution of Mr. Gallegos from merely complaining about his six-figure salary to outright cyber-bullying the public.
The cyber-bullying from Mr. Gallegos to victims of crime in this city should stop immediately. However, this should be a directive from the Mayor’s office - not from local journalists.
We all fully understand that social media often contains sarcasm, rude comments, and personal attacks that warriors behind a keyboard would never utter in face-to-face conversation. But, the citizens of this city should expect some professionalism from their Police Department's PIO - if they expect us to view city leaders as serious persons capable of solving complex issues.
Aside from the likely violations of the city/police department Social Media policy, the main concern is that this type of cyber-bullying from the PIO (on behalf of city leaders) will undoubtedly discourage other victims of crime from coming forward and advocates for victims from expressing legitimate concerns.
Mr. Peterson’s biggest offense is that he publicly posts evidence of crime that occurs on or near property that he owns. The crime is caused (at least in part) due to the social decay that has been tolerated and allowed in the city via the public policy set forth by our locally elected leaders. Mr. Peterson (and other serial victims of crime) are the ones who have to deal with the real consequences and clean up the messes of failed city leadership and bad public policy. Instead of employing Extreme Ownership and vowing to find solutions to these obvious serious problems in our city - Chief Medina and Mr. Gallegos have instead decided on the tactic of personal attacks against a private citizen - who is in fact a crime victim.
The statement from Chief Medina to KOAT and the following Twitter exchange with Mr. Gallegos was done in the public view and broadcast for everyone to see. Either these city leaders think that their behavior is clever and want to show-off their savvy social media skills or they are trying to discourage and bully others from speaking out and asking questions.
Given the public personal attacks levied by Chief Medina and Mr. Gallegos against Mr. Peterson - what other business owner in their right mind would dare to come forward with evidence of a crime and/or ask questions about the city’s plans to combat record levels of violence in the city?
The vast majority of large government organizations, including police departments, have an assigned PIO. This individual is typically professional to a fault. The public image of a law enforcement agency is usually carefully managed by the PIO as it is extremely important for gaining and maintaining public trust. Since the City of Albuquerque has DOJ oversight - one would imagine that the federal government or the court-appointed monitor would be interested in all levels of professionalism within the police department. Does the PIO have a CASA paragraph?
The idea that the hard work and long hours under dangerous conditions by APD officers - with the goal of making the city safer - could be diminished due to the carelessness or ego of the PIO (who takes no such personal risks) should be infuriating to anyone brave enough to put on badge and fight crime in this city.
Other law enforcement agencies in the metro and statewide have designated PIO’s who somehow manage to provide accurate and important information to citizens while also refraining from disparaging victims of crime.
This pattern of behavior would lead a reasonable person to believe that the leaders of the City of Albuquerque, as represented by their chosen PIO, are just simply not concerned with expressing empathy towards victims of crime. And instead are laser-focused on mocking and attacking those who have dared to ask questions about public policy and the safety of our community.
We hope that going forward that other victims and concerned citizens are not intimidated by a rogue bully playing PIO and instead continue to speak out, ask questions, and demand transparency and professionalism from our government leaders. This behavior on social media would be expected from a teenager with their first Twitter account. The fact that someone as experienced and politically connected as Mr. Gallegos engages in this behavior time after time - can only lead to the conclusion that he feels as though he has been granted the privilege and anointed with the authority to disparage private citizens while enjoying the comfort of a hefty government salary.
Perhaps public pressure could cause him to sit a little less comfortable while he engages in this type of behavior.
This editorial is posted as a public service. It was written and has been edited by members of our editorial staff. The opinion is unsigned as it represents the opinion of our entire social media spectrum rather than just the writers.