ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A lot of people were surprised four years ago when Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry took office succeeding Martin Chavez and kept Ray Schultz as police chief.
Some were equally surprised Berry kept Schultz through all the controversy of the past few years.
Still Berry repeatedly said Schultz's departure when he retires on Aug. 3 comes under positive circumstances.
The Albuquerque Police Department definitely has its fair share of issues.
Perhaps the highest-profile of those began in November at an Albuquerque news conference when the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was launching a full civil rights investigation into APD .
"I could very easily turn and run away," Schultz said during that news conference. "I've got 30 years. I've got my time in. No. This to me is a challenge."
Now, in a matter of weeks, that federal investigation will be someone else's problem.
Schultz's departure comes while the DOJ is asking questions about the culture inside APD and how the department polices itself in an investigation triggered by a wave of police shootings.
On Friday at the formal announcement of Schultz's retirement date he said he was wanted to stay until the DOJ was done.
"When you look at the time, many of these investigations take place on average two to three years," Schultz said. "The timing just didn't work out."
The problems have been costly.
The city was recently ordered to pay more than $7 million to the family of Iraq war vet Kenneth Ellis Jr. for a deadly shooting a judge deemed unnecessary.
Misconduct has been an issue, too, with officers caught on tape using excessive force.
And of course former APD Officer Levi Chavez's murder trial just highlighted a lot of questions about officer behavior.
But there's a bigger problem, too, as the challenge of recruiting looms large. APD is short-staffed right now with more officers leaving than coming in.
Schultz said this retirement date is his decision alone and that he was not forced out for political reasons.
The mayoral election is less than three months off, and Berry said Friday the process of selecting a new chief will not begin until after the election.
In the meantime Deputy Chief Allen Banks will be taking over as interim chief. He was born and raised in Albuquerque, joined APD 1992 and will become the first African-American to lead the department.
Schultz also has had a bumpy relationship with APD's rank and file.
A survey late last year showed 99 percent of police union members believed department morale was low, and 95 percent said Berry was not doing enough to fix problems.
On Friday Officer Stephanie Lopez, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association , thanked Schultz for his service but added the union hopes his permanent replacement is more independent.
"And is willing to do what is most beneficial to their officers no matter," she said. "I guess the safest way to say it is not to be such a politician."
While Schultz will cease to be a lightning rod, APD remains a significant issue in the mayor's race where Berry faces challenges from Pete Dinelli, formerly the city's Chief Public Safety Officer, and Paul Hey, a retired APD sergeant.
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