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APD Names New Leadership to Command Positions

Appointments reflect both promoting from within and bringing outside experience.

April 9, 2019

APD Chief Mike Geier today announced two new deputy chiefs who are joining his leadership team. He also named an Acting Commander to the Southeast Area Command.

Michael Jay Smathers, a police major with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department in Charlotte, NC, will join APD as a deputy chief overseeing the Administrative Services Bureau.

APD Deputy Chief J.J. Griego, who has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, is being promoted from the rank of Commander to serve as a deputy chief overseeing the Support Services Bureau.

“We’re building bench strength in the leadership of our police department,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Both leaders are committed to making the public safer through constitutional, community policing into these positions. They bring different and important sets of knowledge to the job, one with deep understanding of APD and our city, and the other with outside experience and best practices from other large police departments.”

“We are bringing diverse experience into leadership roles at APD, which will enable the department to build on the successes of the past year, while fostering new approaches that help us keep communities safe,” Chief Geier said.

“Deputy Chief Smathers will bring a strong outside perspective to APD, as well as experience as a leader in a large department,” he said of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department that serves 809,000 people with 1,850 officers. “He knows how to lead officers, and he has a proven record of embracing criminal justice reform.”

“Deputy Chief Griego has vast experience from outside and inside APD, including the challenging role as Commander of the Southeast Area Command, which I also led as Commander,” Chief Geier said. “He knows what it takes to inspire officers to find solutions to the challenges we face as a community.”

Chief Geier also appointed Lt. Johnny Yara to serve as Acting-Commander of the Southeast Area Command. Yara will fill the role left open by Griego’s promotion to Deputy Chief.

The Support Services position was most recently filled by Deputy Chief Roger Bañez who retired.

Deputy Chief Michael Jay Smathers

Smathers worked for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department since 1994. After 12 years as an officer and achieving the rank of Sergeant, Smathers was promoted to Captain where he led the Criminal Investigations Bureau, commanding the Armed Robbery/Sexual Assault Units; worked in Field Services, commanding the Eastway Division; and commanded the Special Operations (SWAT) team. He was promoted to Major in 2012, where he led the Transportation Bureau and a newly created bureau encompassing the Airport Division. During his tenure as Major, he worked with The Innocence Project, promoting best practices in policing to prevent wrongful conviction; led the Special Events/Dignitary Protection team; led Traffic Safety-Crash reconstruction and DWI enforcement; Northeast Service Area Patrol; Support Services, including lab/evidence bureau; and the Criminal Investigations Bureau.

Deputy Chief J.J. Griego

Prior to his promotion to Deputy Chief, J.J. Griego was the Commander of the Southeast Area Command for APD. Griego started his career at APD working in the Field Services Bureau before later joining the Criminal Investigations Bureau and the APD Academy.

Prior to joining APD, Deputy Chief Griego served in the Army as a Military Police Officer. He was a police officer in San Antonio Texas for 11 years reaching the rank of Sergeant. During his 20 years in law enforcement, Deputy Chief Griego has received specialized training at the FBI National Academy, Texas A&M University Leadership Command College for Law Enforcement, IACP Leadership in Police Organizations, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development and International Crime Prevention Specialist.

Acting Commander Johnny Yara

Acting Commander Johnny Yara started his career with the Albuquerque Police Department in 2002. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corp and a graduate with a degree in Business Management from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Business. During his time with APD, Yara has served a majority of his career working in the Southeast Area Command Field Service Bureau as a Field Training Officer and a Crisis Intervention Officer. Yara also served as an investigative detective with the Southeast Area Command Impact Team and was also the Southeast Area Command’s first Problem Response Team Sergeant. Acting Commander Yara also served as a narcotics investigator with the Eastside Narcotics Team, Special Investigations Division. Prior to coming to the Southeast Area Command, Acting Commander Yara served as the police departments Operation Review Lieutenant and the police department’s Emergency Response Team Commander.