By Dan Mckay and Jeff Proctor
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
ALBUQUERQUE — Police Chief Ray Schultz faced harsh criticism on Wednesday for saying in a television interview that extramarital affairs among his officers were "nature at play."
In an interview broadcast Tuesday, KOB-TV's Tom Joles asked Schultz about the mistresses and "officers carrying on with officers" revealed in the high-profile murder trial of ex-APD officer Levi Chavez during the past month.
Joles paraphrased Schultz as saying all of that was a concern, but that he didn't appear to be losing any sleep over it.
"In law enforcement," Schultz told Joles on camera, "you've got young, good-looking folks that do this job. That's our target group of employees — 20-, 30-, 40-year-old men and women. We ask them to stay in good shape. There's nature at play."
In a statement released to the Journal on Wednesday, Schultz said his comments came in an hourlong interview.
"We were talking about relationships that sometimes occur within the department," Schultz said. "I spoke of how it is a problem that many police departments face" and that some of the challenges include "young people, good shape, etc."
Schultz also said his record as chief shows "that inappropriate behavior will be dealt with and is not condoned."
City Council President Dan Lewis, a Republican, said Wednesday that Schultz had provided the "wrong answer" in the television interview.
"Absolutely, it's not OK for our Albuquerque Police Department officers, public servants, to commit adultery with one another," Lewis said. "... I would expect a new chief would say that's not OK and that we're going to hold our officers to a higher standard than that."
Mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli, a Democrat, issued a statement calling on Mayor Richard Berry to "sever all ties" with the chief when Schultz steps down next week, rather than allowing him to stay on temporarily as a consultant.
Lewis also said Schultz should leave when an interim chief takes over, not remain as a consultant.
"I think there's better use of that money," Lewis said.
Berry announced last week that Deputy Chief Allen Banks would take over as interim chief on Aug. 3, but that Schultz would stay on as a consultant for another month after that to help with the transition. Schultz would continue making his $137,000 annual salary.
"These comments are frankly disgusting and offensive," Dinelli said of the chief. "There is no place for someone with these beliefs to give advice to our city, and we must immediately change the moral tone of APD leadership. The mayor's complete failure to hold Schultz accountable is a total disgrace."
Berry, in a written statement, said: "As the Mayor and as a citizen, I expect the highest level of conduct from our police officers and other public servants. Fortunately, we see that high level of conduct almost all the time. In those rare instances that we don't, it's disappointing and should not be condoned."
For years, APD operated without a policy on personal or sexual relationships between officers.
In October, Schultz instituted a "nepotism and fraternization policy" that requires APD employees to remove themselves from the selection, hiring and promotions process of fellow employees with whom they have family or romantic relationships.
APD employees who are related or romantically involved also can't be assigned to the same shift or unit, according to the policy, unless such an arrangement is approved by department brass including the chief.
The policy "recognizes the rights of employees to become involved in personal relationships with their co-workers," the policy states. "However, it is the policy of the Albuquerque Police Department to ensure that its employees carry out their duties with impartiality and fairness so that public and organizational confidence in the actions of our employees is maintained."
Violation of the policy, on a first offense, is punishable by anything from a verbal reprimand to a four-day suspension.
The policy makes no mention of extramarital affairs among officers.
The Dinelli campaign offered a prepared statement when asked how Dinelli, as mayor, would address fraternization and extra-marital affairs of the kind that surfaced in the Chavez trial.
Dinelli "would have a zerotolerance policy and those types of activities would be grounds for termination under that zero-tolerance policy. He believes public servants should be held to a higher standard," the campaign statement said.
The recent trial of Chavez, a former APD officer acquitted of killing his wife, put a spotlight on the number of affairs among officers and their spouses.
Four of Chavez's mistresses testified during the trial, two of whom had been fellow APD officers at the time of the relationships.
Tera Chavez, whom Levi had been accused of killing, was having an affair with another APD officer.
In a 2010 civil lawsuit, attorneys for the estate of Tera Chavez accused the city of allowing "unchecked fraternization" that contributed to her death. The city of Albuquerque later settled its part of the case.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Albuquerque Journal