ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The police chief said Monday that his decision to step down wasn’t connected to a U.S. Justice Department investigation on use of force or the result of pressure from the mayor.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I decided that the timing was right,” Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz told The Associated Press. “I’ve got a daughter who is about to get married and a son who is about to be deployed to Japan” as a U.S. Navy pilot.
He noted that he has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement.
Schultz said his decision to retire also wasn’t influenced by a jury decision last week to award more than $10 million to the family of an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was killed by an Albuquerque police officer during a 2010 standoff at a convenience store.
The city attorney’s office said city officials are deciding whether they will appeal the decision.
Since 2010, the city has seen a string of officer-involved shootings — 18 of them fatal. But since the department installed a number of policy reforms, the number of annual officer-involved shootings has declined.
The department also has been plagued by a number of high-profile cases alleging excessive force, including some cases caught on video. And several officers have been reprimanded for social media postings, including one by an officer involved in a fatal shooting who described his occupation as “human waste disposal.”
Schultz’s announcement comes five months after the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation that was spurred by protests, lawsuits and demands for a wide-scale change. But Schultz said he was happy with his seven years as head of a police department that faced heat then over a poorly managed evidence room.
“The evidence room is now a model for the nation,” Schultz said.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry also pointed to violent crime in the city falling to 30-year lows. “This chief was innovative and creative,” Berry said.
Berry said he didn’t know about Schultz’s decision until he received his letter on Friday. He added that Schultz will likely stay on as chief until July.
The mayor said he will conduct a national search for the next police chief and plans to make a hire after the mayoral election later this year.
Jewel Hall, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center Board and a vocal critic of the department, said she hopes that Berry considers including community input in hiring the next city’s police chief.
“He needs to listen to some of the things that the citizens are saying,” Hall said. “Community input is important to build trust.”
Berry said he wasn’t against taking community input and hasn’t developed the process for selecting the next police chief. “But at the end of the day it’s the mayor’s job to pick the chief,” Berry said.