QWorks Launch Party April 22, 2018

QWorks stands for “how Albuquerque works” as in how our city government works and what is going on around the city and its neighborhoods.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, Qworks will have its official launch party at the Kosmos Restaurant , 1715 5th street, NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

I encourage readers to click on the link below and view the video published on FACEBOOK that explains what QWorks is all about, who is behind it and what it wants to do.

www.facebook.com/qworks.abq/videos/1851712481792464/

A few weeks ago, I attended a focus group meeting for QWorks.

The QWorks group was originally organized to elect Gus Pedrotty Mayor of Albuquerque, but after the election, the group met and wanted to continue to advocate and make a contribution to Albuquerque.

The organizers of QWorks are all in their twenties with each having a deep commitment to making Albuquerque a better place to live, work and raise a family.

The group includes Gus Pedrotty, A. J. Hedrich, Joshua Romero, Sara Collins, Alexa Ogunsanya, Timothy Carlton McQueen, Brendon Gray and Gabe Gallegos and at least twelve other highly motivated millennials.

In a real sense, each one of these young adults reflect Albuquerque’s future.

Each and every one of these “millennials” bring different talents and experiences to the group, including writing skills, video production skills, marketing skills and the understanding how social media works.

All of them bring to the table energy, sense of love and commitment to Albuquerque and ideas on the city’s real potential.

According to QWorks organizers “[QWorks] comes out of a reflection on how communities organize, what motivates engagement, and how to create more passive opportunities to inspire action, all while increasing the level of knowledge on civic engagement, how the city works across our city’s electorate”.

Gus Pedrotty says “Over the last four months, we’ve worked on building a team and structure that requires itself to be inclusive, distributed, and growing. It’s all too long for a post — the ideas behind this, the trial and error, the opportunity for growth, and what we’ll need along the way — so please come to [our launch party] on Sunday, 4/22, at The Kosmos Restaurant from 6-8PM to meet us, engage with us, and join us on this next adventure!”

The immediate goal of QWorks is to start by producing 30 to 60 second social network media messages to inform the public how city government programs work and what is going on in Albuquerque socially, culturally and politically.

Pod casts are also being contemplated by the group.

QWorks has already produced 60 second preliminary public information messages that are slick and impressive.

Many would call them “public service” announcements, but the videos are far from that and are entertaining and very informative.

All the work on QWorks so far has been strictly voluntary by the group members.

QWorks wants to eventually become a “nonprofit” corporation.

CONCLUSION

I have found that my generation (over 60) has a real bad habit of underestimating the talents, abilities and wisdom of millennials that QWorks represents, and we do so at our own peril and loss.

QWorks has the real potential of being a refreshing voice advocating solutions to our cities problems.

This is one group of millennials that need to be encourage and helped by all.

If you are interested in Albuquerque’s future generation who in no time be responsible for solving many of our problems, I encourage you to attend the April 22, 2018 Launch Party for Qworks to be held at the Kosmos Restaurant, 1715 5th street, NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

You can reach QWorks at their email: qworks.abq@gmail.com

And please remember, QWorks is how Albuquerque works!

“Burque” Traffic Madness

If you live in Albuquerque and drive the streets of Albuquerque for any length of time on any given day you will enjoy and experience of the unsafe and insane driving practices of Albuquerque drivers.

I have had visitors to Albuquerque ask me what is wrong with Albuquerque drivers?

I tell them it is a disease we call the “Burque Traffic Madness” and that some of us are just born with it, but you eventually catch it anyway.

It is common to be driving the streets of Albuquerque and see speeding, be cut off by another driver, see someone run a red light, watch drivers barrel through school zones, use corner businesses to drive into as a shortcut to avoid a red light, vehicles with cracked windshields or broken taillights, people using their cell phones while driving ignoring traffic in front or on the side of them, people driving without their seat belts on, drivers swerving in and out of lanes at high speeds and engaging in careless driving, driver’s looking in their rearview mirror checking out their teeth, hair or makeup, drivers yelling at each other in road rage or drivers being totally oblivious to pedestrians and people on bikes or motorcycles, drivers that are obviously in a haze or driving under the influence based on their weaving in and out of traffic, drivers that have been in a car accident patiently waiting lengthy periods of time for a police officer to show up to take an accident report, just to mention a few.

What you do not see very often at all are Albuquerque Police Officers (APD) making traffic stops, issuing citations and changing people’s driving habits by their sure presence on the road.

It seems that the only time you hear or see an APD mark unit on the streets of Albuquerque is when they are traveling far in excess of the speed limit with their red lights on and sirens blazing no doubt to get to the next violent crime scene.

If you think APD has no traffic patrols, you would be absolutely right when you look at the dramatic decline in traffic citations issued by APD.

TRAFFIC COURT ARRAIGNMENT PROGRAM

In 2006, the Metropolitan Traffic Court Arraignment Program was created by agreement of the City Attorney, the Bernalillo County District Attorney and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.

Despite the historical and designated role of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office as the chief law enforcement office for the prosecution of criminal cases, misdemeanor or felony cases, then Mayor Martin Chavez directed the City Attorney’s Office to organize, staff and participate in the traffic arraignment program.

A Metropolitan Judge is assigned on a rotating basis to approve the plea agreements negotiated.

The Metropolitan court provides a designated courtroom.

Assistant City Attorneys are cross deputized or appointed “special prosecutors” by the Bernalillo County District Attorney with the sole authority to negotiate plea agreements in traffic cases at the time of arraignments, thereby negating the needs for sworn APD personnel to appear at arraignments.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office employs 300 full time personnel which includes approximately 120 full time attorney positions, and has upwards of 20 Assistant District Attorneys assigned to the Metro Court, one for each judge.

However the District Attorney’s office does not designate any personnel to the traffic arraignment program.

Other than appointing Assistant City Attorney’s as special prosecutors, the Bernalillo County District Attorney provides virtually no funding, no personnel nor assistance to the traffic arraignment program.

The City Attorney has 59 full time personnel which includes 34 full time Assistant City Attorneys.

Two assistant City Attorneys and four paralegals are assigned to the traffic arraignment program to negotiate plea agreements and the City Attorney’s Office absorbs the personnel costs.

The rationale for the city attorney’s office to be involved traffic arraignments is twofold:

1. to provide a major accommodation to the Metropolitan Court
2. to eliminate the need of sworn APD officers to go to court for arraignments on traffic offenses.

Traffic cases are “officer prosecuted”, meaning sworn police officers on their own have to present the case to the court.

The traffic court arraignment program reduces police overtime where APD sworn personnel are entitled to a minimum of 2 hours of overtime charged at time and a half under the union contract.

HOW IT WORKS

When a person is stopped and issued traffic citation, the citing sworn officer determines if the driver will contest the citations and if the driver wants to contest the citations an arraignment date and time is immediately scheduled.

The Metropolitan Traffic arraignment program streamlines the process, saves time and money and negates the appearance of police officers at the arraignments.

There are upwards of 170 different traffic violation citations that can be issued by sworn law enforcement.

The most common traffic citations include speeding, reckless driving, careless driving, failing to stop, improper lane change, no registration, no insurance, suspended driver’s license, failing to yield, and open container.

Fines for traffic citations carry civil penalties as low as $5.00 to as much as $1,000 in fines.

Failure to have insurance for example is a $1,000 fine.

The average Metropolitan Traffic Court arraignment case results in court fees and fines anywhere from $65 to upwards of $250.

DECLINE IN TRAFFIC CITATIONS

City Attorney statistics show a significant decrease in the number traffic citations being handled by the city.

On any given day, between 250 and as many as 500 cases can be negotiated, resolved and approved by the Metro Court.

In 2009, there were 86,75 traffic arraignment cases in Metro Court and in 2015 traffic cases dropped to 31,163, or over 55,000 fewer traffic citations.

In 2016, the total number of traffic cases going to arraignment and handled by the City Attorney’s office was 34,077. (2018-2019 proposed City of Albuquerque budget, page 113).

In 2017, the total number of traffic cases going to arraignment and handled by the City Attorney office was 28,643. (2018-2019 proposed City of Albuquerque budget, page 113).

Mid-year for the 2017-2018, 13,053 traffic cases went to arraignment and were handled by the city attorney’s office.

30,000 cases are projected for the new fiscal year 2018-2019 to be handled by the city attorney’s office.

TRAFFIC STOPS CAN BE DANGEROUS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

When a police officer stops someone for traffic violations, such as speeding, running a red light, improper lane change, broken tail light, the police officer making the traffic stop takes the driver’s license of the driver, goes back to their patrol car and runs a criminal background check on the driver.

The police officer is able to determine within seconds whether or not there are any outstanding arrest warrants, bench warrants and felony convictions.

The police officer also looks up the driver’s vehicle registration and vehicle identification number (VIN) to determine if the vehicle stopped is a stolen vehicle.

Simple traffic stops can be extremely dangerous and result in law enforcement being killed as anyone who has lived in Albuquerque for any length of time knows full well with the killing of APD Police Officer Daniel Webster and the shooting of APD Police Officer Police Lou Golson.

APD SWORN PERSONNEL SHORTAGE

There is a direct correlation between the dramatic decline in the number of traffic citations and arraignments and the severe decline in APD personnel.

The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 850 over the past eight years.

In 2009, APD had 1,100 police officers with approximately 700 assigned to field services, patrolling our streets over three shifts.

In 2009, APD had a traffic unit that had upwards of 40 patrol officers and today it is at less than 10.

Fewer APD sworn officers patrolling our streets results in fewer traffic citations.

Compounding the decline in the number of traffic citations is the fact that the “red light” camera program was abolished seven years ago.

The “red light” camera program was highly effective in reducing the number of traffic accidents at major intersections, but it was highly controversial, angered too many voters which resulted in its demise and the New Mexico legislature got involved.

Fewer cases results in fewer fines and it has a direct fiscal impact on court programs such as DWI education programs.

At the beginning of 2018, APD has 878 sworn police officers with only 435 assigned to the field services patrolling and responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls a year.

It takes an average of 15 minutes to dispatch a police officer to 911 emergency calls, which endangers public safety.

CONCLUSION

Based on review of the statistics, traffic code enforcement is a very low priority of APD, not out of desire, but out of necessity.

With APD field officers responding to over 69,000 priority one calls a year, not to mention thousands of lower priority calls, it is surprising the statistics are not worse at Metropolitan Court.

APD can no longer be proactive traffic enforcement.

The net result is that Albuquerque streets are dangerous to drive and we all will be subject to becoming the victims of “Burque Traffic Madness” unless we get more cops patrolling our streets.

Until then, if you suffer from “Burque Traffic Madness” please get the hell off the roads until you are cured of it.

Proposed Changes to City’s Vehicle Seizure Program

Albuquerque and New Mexico have some of the highest DWI rates in the country.

The media regularly reports upon drunk drivers with 9, 10, 11 and 12 convictions who are still driving and then arrested again for DWI after killing someone and at times having killed entire families.

The statistics from the Bernalillo County Metro Court on DWI arrests and convictions are alarming.

The Metro Court statistics reveal just how bad things are with APD being unable to patrol our streets, get drunks off the road, make DWI arrests and impound and seize vehicles of DWI offenders.

Further, there is a significant decline in the number of DWI vehicle forfeiture actions by the city attorney’s office with the program now in question as a result of a recent federal court ruling.

Statistics also reveal an alarming and the steady decline in the successful criminal prosecutions in DWI cases by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.

SOBERING STATISTICS FOR DWI

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan court handles cases for virtually all law enforcement agencies that make arrests in Bernalillo County, including the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department (BCSO) and the New Mexico State Police.

The largest percentage of cases arraigned in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan court are APD cases.

In 2008, there were 633 felony DWI arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 104 in 2015.

In 2008, there were 6,538 DWI misdemeanor arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 2,942 in 2015.

In 2009, there were 746 people arraigned for felony DWI and that number dropped to a mere 104 in 2015.

In 2008, there were 6,538 people arraigned for misdemeanor DWI and in 2015 that number dropped by close to 60% to 2,942.

(Source: http://www.nmcourts.gov/reports-and-policies.aspx)

In 2016, there were 171 fatalities in this state due to crashes involving alcohol.

51 of those fatalities occurred in Bernalillo County, which is one short of a death a week attributed to DWI.

In 2017, there were 146 alcohol-related crash fatalities in New Mexico.

37 of those fatalities occurred in Bernalillo County.

APD ARRESTS FOR DWI

According to the proposed 2018-2019 city budget, the Albuquerque Police Department’s DWI arrests are declining by considerable numbers.

In fiscal year 2016, APD made 1,720 DWI arrests.

In fiscal year 2017, APD made 1,338 DWI arrests.

Mid fiscal year 2018, APD made 775 DWI arrests.

The 2018-2019 proposed fiscal budget is projecting 1,500 DWI arrests by APD.

A decade ago, APD was making more than 5,000 DWI arrests a year.

(Source: http://www.nmcourts.gov/reports-and-policies.aspx)

ODDS ARE 50-50 BEATING DWI CHARGES

The odds of beating DWI charges in Bernalillo County are about 50-50.

At one time the conviction rate was in the 85% to 95% range by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.

According to a January 29, 2018 news report, 42 percent of all DWI cases resolved in Metropolitan Court last year were dismissed either by judges or Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorneys while 58 percent ended with a guilty verdict or plea.

The same report published by the Albuquerque Journal reported that the odds of beating criminal DWI charges in Bernalillo County are about 50-50.

www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2018-01-29/odds-of-beating-dwi-charges-in-bernalillo-county-about-50-50

In 2016, the percentages favored DWI defendants with 55 percent of drunken driving cases being dismissed compared to 45 percent ending in pleas or convictions.

According to the Journal report, 42 percent of all DWI cases resolved in Metropolitan Court last year were dismissed either by judges or Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorneys while 58 percent ended with a guilty verdict or plea.

In 2016, the percentages favored DWI defendants with 55 percent of drunken driving cases being dismissed compared to 45 percent ending in pleas or convictions.

APD STAFFING

There is a direct correlation between the dramatic decline in the number of DWI arrests and arraignments and the severe decline in APD personnel.

Fewer APD sworn officers patrolling our streets results in fewer DWI arrests.

The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers in 2009 to 878 at the beginning of 2018.

In 2009, APD had 1,100 police officers with approximately 700 assigned to field services, patrolling our streets over three shifts.

In 2009, APD had a DWI and traffic unit that had upwards of 30 patrol officers.

In 2018, APD has less than 10 full time sworn officers assigned to the traffic unit and DWI unit.

CITY’S DWI VEHICLE FOREFEITURE PROGRAM

The DWI Vehicle Forfeiture program is a unit of the City Attorney’s office.

The city attorney’s office employs three attorneys and two paralegals.

Under the existing ordinance, the Albuquerque Police Department can only seize the vehicle if the person arrested has at least one prior DWI conviction.

After the seizing and impounding of the vehicle, the city initiates civil administrative and civil court actions to take title to the vehicles and then sell the vehicles at auction.

In order to avoid the city from taking title to a vehicle involved with a DWI, the car owner can request a hearing with the city before an administrative law judge and enter into civil agreements for “booting” the vehicle for a period of time and pay costs of impoundment and rental costs of the boot.

A defense of “innocent owner” is also provided under the ordinance when a vehicle is used or driven by another who is arrested for DWI allowing the vehicle to be released back to the owner.

The number of DWI Vehicle Forfeiture actions filed by the city for the past 3 years were 109 in 2016, 82 in 2017, and 32 mid-year 2018 with 100 projected in 2019.

The number of DWI Vehicles Booted for the past 3 years by the city were 230 in 2016, 208 in 2017, 114 mid-year 2018 and 200 projected for 2019.

The number of vehicles released by settlement agreement by the city to owners was 237 in 2016, 232 in 2017, 81 mid-year 2018 and 200 projected for 2019.

The breakdown of the amount of money generated by vehicle auctions was $760,00 in 2016, $242,000 in 2017, $100,000 mid-year 2018 and $300,000 projected for 2019.

The amount of projected proceeds from vehicle forfeiture auctions is projected to drop dramatically from $760,000 to $300,000 over three years.

Currently, the city has 354 vehicles in its seizure lot, and 72 vehicle owners have pending seizure cases.

CITY DWI FORFEITURE PROGRAM IN JEOPARDY

Last year, a federal lawsuit was brought by a woman whose car was seized by the city after her son was arrested for driving it while intoxicated.

On March 31, 2018, the federal judge in the case found that the city’s 26-year-old civil vehicle forfeiture ordinance violated the woman’s right to due process of law and the state’s property forfeiture law requiring a criminal conviction before government seizure.

The federal court found the state’s 2015 amended forfeiture law “was strong evidence of the New Mexico Legislature’s intent to preclude municipalities from creating a civil forfeiture scheme.”

Initially, Keller Administration had a knee jerk reaction to the court ruling in the pending federal case and announced within a week after the order was filed it would no longer seize cars from suspected drunken drivers who have not been convicted of a pending DWI charge.

The city needs to ask the federal court to reconsider or appeal the ruling on the grounds that the court is denying the city of its authority given to it by the New Mexico legislature to define, abate, and impose penalties for nuisance abatement.

POLICY CHANGES TO CITY’S VEHICLE FOREFEITUR PROTOCOL

The city attorney’s office has temporarily suspended vehicle seizure proceedings while it crafts a new policy for dealing with people who have had their cars seized.

The Keller administration has announced policy changes to the City’s DWI vehicle forfeiture program that must be approved by the Albuquerque City Council.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1159270/cases-in-limbo-as-city-changes-auto-confiscation-policy.html

APD will continue to continue taking cars from repeat drunken drivers.

Under the new policy, more protections will be given those who were not driving when their vehicle was seized after their car is seized.

Under the current policy, owners of seized vehicles are required to prove they did not know someone was going to drive, or was driving, their cars illegally.

The new policy is proposing to shift the burden of proof to the city to prove an owner knew the driver was going to a break the law while driving the vehicle.

What the changes in the new policy means is that unless the actual owner is sitting in the front seat of a their car drunk, the city will probably not be initiating vehicle forfeiture proceeding nor seeking boot agreements from the car owner.

APD will continue seize and impound vehicles at the time of arrest as they do now with repeat drunken drivers arrested in their own cars.

A major change in policy is that the city will not seek to take ownership of the vehicle and sell it at auction unless the suspect is convicted.

The city has also enacted a nuisance abatement ordinance that allows civil actions to be filed for injunctive relief against owners of real property which is used to commit, conduct, promote, facilitate, or aide in the commission of crime. (City Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, Section 11-1-1-1 et seq.)

An option the city should consider is to amend the city’s existing nuisance abatement ordinance to add civil nuisance abatement actions against vehicles and owners who have a history of prior DWI convictions without relying on the conviction of a pending DWI charge.

NEW MEXICO NUISANCE ABATEMENT STATUTES

The New Mexico legislature has granted municipalities with broad powers including “the power to sue or be sued, protect generally the property of its municipality and it inhabitants and to preserve peace and order within the municipality.” (3-18-1, NMSA, 1978, General Powers of Municipality)

New Mexico statute defines a “public nuisance” as consisting “of knowingly creating, performing or maintaining anything affecting any number of citizens without lawful authority which is either:

A. Injurious to public health, safety and welfare; or

B. Interferes with the exercise and enjoyment of public rights, including the right to use public property. (30-8-1, NMSA 1978, Public Nuisance defined).”

A drunk driver behind the wheel of a car is clearly a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.

A drunk driver behind the wheel of a car interferes with the general public’s right to use public city streets free from any threat of great bodily harm or lethal bodily injury caused by a drunk driver.

CITY DEFINES DWI VEHICLES AS A NUISANCE

The New Mexico legislature has specifically empowered municipalities with broad authority when it comes to “nuisance abatement”.

Under New Mexico statutory law, a municipality may by ordinance “define a nuisance, abate a nuisance and impose penalties upon a person who creates or allows a nuisance to exist.” (3-18-17, NMSA, 1978, Nuisances and Offenses; Regulation or prohibition)

In 1993, the city council exercised its authority granted to it by the New Mexico legislature to define and abate a nuisance and impose penalties to abate a nuisance by declaring any motor vehicle to be a nuisance and subject to immediate seizure and forfeiture when an arrest is made for driving while intoxicated (DWI). (Article 6: Motor Vehicle Seizure; Forfeiture, section 7-6-1 City of Albuquerque Ordinances, 1992)

The forfeiture of an asset by court order is a penalty when dealing with the abatement of a nuisance that is affecting public health, safety and welfare.

The city specifically defines vehicles used by arrested drunk drivers with prior convictions a nuisance endangering public health, safety and welfare and interfering with the public’s right to public rights of way. (Article 6: Motor Vehicle Seizure; Forfeiture, section 7-6-1 City of Albuquerque Ordinances, 1992)

Penalties to abate a nuisance include the inherent authority to exercise civil forfeiture authority with court orders to eliminate a nuisance.

Under the city ordinance, a vehicle is subject to immediate seizure and forfeiture by the city if the vehicle is operated by a person in the commission of a DWI offense and has, on at least one prior occasion, been arrested or convicted of a previous DWI, or has a suspended or revoked driver’s license for DWI.

A vehicle owner can request a hearing before an administrative hearing officer for return of their vehicle or enter into civil settlement agreements for “booting” the vehicle for a period of time and pay costs associated with impoundment, storage and seizure.

Assistant City Attorneys are public officials and are assigned to initiate administrative actions and enter into settlements agreements and boot agreements or file civil court actions in state district court.

NEW MEXICO LAW ON NUISANCE ABATEMENT

New Mexico statutory law provides that any action for the abatement of a public nuisance shall be governed by the general rules of Civil Procedure. (30-8-8, NMSA 1978 Abatement of a public nuisance.)

Under New Mexico law, “a civil action to abate a public nuisance may be brought, by verified complaint by any public officer or private citizen, in state district court of the county where the public nuisance exists, against any person, corporation or association of persons who shall create, perform or maintain a public nuisance.” (30-8-8, B, NMSA 1978, Abatement of a public nuisance, emphasis added)

The Bernalillo County District Attorney is a public officer and can and should make the commitment to initiate civil vehicle forfeiture actions in State District Court to assist the city in seizing the vehicles of repeat DWI offenders based upon state nuisance laws.

BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY METROPOLITAN COURT DIVSION

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office employs 300 full time personnel which includes approximately 118 full time attorney positions.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has upwards of 20 Assistant District Attorneys assigned to its Metropolitan Court Division who prosecute DWI cases and misdemeanor cases that are “record cases” with the right of appeal.

During the 2018 legislative session, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez asked the state Legislature for a 30 percent increase to his budget of $18.2 million, or a $5.4 million increase.

Torrez wanted the 30% increase in his budget to hire an additional 34 attorneys.

Torrez to his credit was very successful in lobbying to increase his budget by $4.2 million.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office budget went from $18.2 million to $21.5 million-dollar budget to run his office.

On July 1, 2018, the 2018-2019 fiscal year will begin and the Bernalillo County District Attorney will have the necessary funding to aggressively make the prosecution of chronic, repeat DWI offenders a priority including initiating vehicle forfeiture actions based on nuisance law in DWI cases.

CONCLUSION

The Albuquerque city council should approve the proposed changes being made by the Keller Administration to the vehicle forfeiture ordinance.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1159353/theres-a-middle-ground-to-booting-dwi-seizures.html

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez should consider creating a “civil division” within the District Attorney’s office and dedicate prosecutorial resources to identify and prosecute repeat DWI offenders and to also initiate civil actions for DWI vehicle forfeitures in cooperation with the City Attorney’s Office.

The city needs to amend the city’s existing nuisance abatement ordinance to add civil nuisance abatement actions against vehicles and owners who have a history of prior DWI convictions without relying on the conviction of a pending DWI charge.

Too many drunk drivers are not being held criminally or civilly responsible for their actions.

The New Mexico legislature should grant statutory authority to District Courts, Metro Courts, magistrate courts and municipalities to take away from DWI defendants the very instrument they have used to violate the law and perhaps injure or even kill someone.

The message now is you drink, you drive, you walk away from being held accountable.

The message needs to be you drink, you drive, you lose your vehicle.

The Annual Police Union “Bitch and Moan” Survey

The Albuquerque Police Union released it’s annual “let’s all bitch and moan” survey it takes amongst sworn police officer’s holding the rank of lieutenant and under.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1158157/survey-most-apd-officers-have-considered-leaving-department.html

This year, 491 out of the 878 sworn officers took the survey.

SUPRISE! The survey found that morale is definitely low with 70% of the responding officers thinking about leaving APD in the last two years.

The union gave the officers a multiple-choice question to pick reasons why they were considering going elsewhere and 69% said work conditions, 67% said better pay and 67% said they want a better quality of life.

Specific comments that were revealing were written by officers as to why they had considered leaving APD and include:

• “Fear of media scrutiny and criminal charges.”
• “The (Department of Justice) has no business running a police department.”
• “This town sucks as a whole. Bad schools bad crime bad housing.”
• “Family would be safer outside of ABQ where police are allowed to do their job.”
• “The clowns that get promoted to supervisor.”

Patrol Officer’s First class make $27.50 an hour, no matter the number of years on the force.

When asked what could be done to increase the number of police officers, 77% of the officers said they could pay officers a more competitive salary.

Three-fourths of the officers who took the survey said a competitive salary would be between $32 and $36 an hour.

A whopping 98% of responding officers said APD’s staffing level has compromised officer safety, but that is not at all surprising given that APD has only 878 sworn police with only 458 assigned to field services hanlding 600,000 calls for service a year.

UNION SURVEY WAS TOOL FOR POLITICAL PROPAGANDA

What is noteworthy, nothing was said about how the rank and file feel about the future of the department.

There were no substantive questions if things are getting any better under the new management with a new Mayor, a new police chief and a new command staff.

There was no inquiry about the rank and file sense of loyalty to the department and the city nor question about their commitment to stay.

There are no specific inquiries as to what is wrong nor what has been done right with the Department of Justice reforms after three years.

There were no specific questions as to what policy or standard operating procedures need to change that will make things better for the rank and file.

No questions were asked about equipment and training deficiencies.

No questions were asked about the APD expansion plan put forth by the Keller Administration.

The union has never proposed any form of alternative pay arraignments other than making demands for increasing hourly wages.

The clear and unmistakable message from the survey and union was “give us more money so we will stay”.

APD POLICE OFFICER BASE PAY

Albuquerque Police Officers are some of the best paid law enforcement in the country when you take into account their pay, longevity pay incentives, benefits and retirement pay.

Based on the union survey, the police union and many APD police officers strongly dispute they are well paid, but in comparison to other city employees, they clearly are.

The Mayor of Albuquerque is paid $125,000 a year and the sixteen (16) city department directors are paid average of $110,000 and arguably these are 24/7 jobs.

Department directors must manage employees and more often than not work in far excess of a 40-hour week and they are never paid overtime, they are at will employees serving at the pleasure of the Mayor and their salaries stay the same for the fiscal year.

There are approximately 223 “ungraded,” full-time employees who are basically political appointees and who can be fired at will because they don’t have the rights and protections that the city’s 4,200 other “classified” employees do.

The average salary for classified city employees is $30,000 to $35,000 a year and they cannot be terminated without cause.

The average entry level Albuquerque patrolman first class makes $56,000 to $58,000 a year, depending on actual hours worked in a year, and are paid an additional 15% for benefits, such as insurance, paid sick leave and annual leave and the positions are classified and a police officer cannot be terminated without cause.

Even when terminated for cause or disciplined for cause, police officers are guaranteed and appeals process before the city personnel board.

All patrol officers first class are paid the exact same hourly rate of $27.50 no matter the number of years on the police force, therefore a four (4) year veteran of the force makes the same hourly wage as a ten (10) year veteran.

Under the union contract, sworn police officers are paid a mandatory two hours of overtime and paid “time and a half” for court appearances such as arraignments of DWI offenders and police prosecution of misdemeanor cases.

The Albuquerque Police Department is the only city hall department that pays longevity bonuses to city hall employees.

RETIRING FROM APD

APD police officers have one of the better retirement plans in the country and some would even say the best.

APD officers can retire after 25 years of service and be paid a pension of 90% of their top three (3) wage earning years with the city every year for the rest of their lives when they retire from the city.

APD officers are also allowed to accumulate all of their yearly vacation time and earned sick leave time and cash it out when they retire or they can be carried on the city payroll until it is paid out.

It is not uncommon for police officers to retire and be handed a check for thousands of dollars to compensate them for their accumulated unused sick and annual leave.

Further, APD officers are paid longevity pay bonuses of as little of $5,000 and as much as $15,000 to stay with the department and not leave or retire early.

APD retirement pay under the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) is considered one of the most lucrative in the country.

APD PATROL OFFICERS FIRST CLASS SOME OF HIGHEST PAID CITY EMPLOYEES

According to city payroll records, a patrolman first class was the city’s seventh top earner, taking home nearly $147,000 in salary and overtime.

Seven patrol officers first class were paid at least $124,000 in 2016.

A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2017 reveals that 66 patrol officers first class were among the highest paid city employees earning a total of around $7.1 million in salary and overtime.

A total of 124 of the 250 top wage earners at city hall are employed by the Albuquerque Police Department and include patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders and deputy chiefs, assistant chief and the chief with annual pay ranging from $95,000 a year up to $166,699 a year.

(See City of Albuquerque web site for full list of 250 top city wage earners).

Five (5) APD Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage workers as being paid $146,971, $145,180, $140,243, $137,817 and $125,061 respectfully making them the 6th, the 7th, the 10th, the 12th and the 20th highest paid employees at city hall.

There are listed 66 Patrol Officers First Class in the list of the top 250 wage earners at city hall earning in excess of $95,000 a year and as much as $146,000 a year.

Combined, there are a total of 91 APD sworn police officers and sergeants who are named in the top 250 wage earners and city hall.

The fact that any APD Patrolman First Class are paid as much as between $95,000 to $146,000, or two to three times their normal salary in any given year should be very concerning to the Mayor and City Council.

Consecutive shifts or excessive overtime for any police officer can lead to extreme fatigue, emotional burnout and reduce an officer’s alertness and response times and reflexes that can endanger lives and public safety.

KELLER ADMINISTRATION EXPANSION PLAN

Midway through the current fiscal year, APD had 836 sworn officers despite being fully funded for 1,000 sworn police officers for the past three fiscal years.

The number of sworn police is currently 878 at the beginning of 2018.

Albuquerque needs at least 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community-based policing that will reduce overtime costs and reduce crime statistics.

The Keller Administration is calling for an $88 million dollar of additional funding and increased costs for APD over the next four fiscal years from 2018 to 2022.

The $88 million dollars for expanding APD will include expanded academy training and the vehicles and other equipment that additional officers will require.

At a minimum, the expansion plan calls for $32 million dollars in recurring costs.

In the 2018-2019 proposed budget, $12.8 million is being proposed to carry out a four-year plan for recruiting new officers.

The Keller Administration APD expansion will be over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 officers and expand APD from the current 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers.

An aggressive hiring and recruitment program is in the planning stages to increase the ranks of patrol officers.

Sign on bonuses, tuition debt payoff, mortgage down payment bonuses and moving and relocation bonuses need to be offered to new recruits before any progress in recruiting can be made.

The 2018-2019 proposed budget calls for APD to increase its ranks to 1,040 officers in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2018.

The recruitment and hiring plan proposes to add 100 new police officers per year until a 1,200-staffing level is reached.

The ultimate goal is to return to community-based policing to reduce spiking crime rates.

REVAMP APD PAY STRUCTURE

A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries with step increases should be implemented.

A mandatory “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police officer can be paid needs to be established that is fair and equitable for all sworn personnel to make available overtime to more sworn police officers in the department.

APD should do away with hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service.

A system of overtime bonuses to be paid at the end of the year for accumulated increments of overtime could be implement.

Shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete work load, the employee works it for the same salary with no overtime and a modification of shift times for court appearances.

Salaries and step increase take away inflating overtime and motivates employees to get more done within the allotted shift or modification of shift times.

CONCLUSION

80% of the city council in increase in gross receipts tax, which will generate $40 million this year and the $55 million a year thereafter, will be going to public safety including APD.

The police union lobbied for the tax increase and pressured the city council to make sure at least 60% of the tax revenues would go to public safety, despite the fact the city was facing a $40 million dollar deficit.

Mayor Tim Keller was endorsed by the Police Union and no doubt the Union will want its pound of cash and make its demands relying on its deficient survey and demanding the Mayor to support whatever it wants when it comes to increasing pay.

Getting to the 1,200 level of sworn officers where APD is fully staffed is going to take years and it will have to be done in increments that is realistic and can be accomplished.

Until then, APD’s slogan will be “To serve and protect” while the police union’s slogan will be “What’s in your wallet?”

ABQ Reports: Keller Signs Pot Decriminalization Bill

Keller Signs Pot Decriminalization Bill

April 12, 2018
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By Dennis Domrzalski

Mayor Tim Keller on Thursday signed a bill that makes it a $25 fine to possess an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

Here’s the mayor’s news release on the signing:

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller today signed a bill passed by City Council to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana under municipal law.

The bill, sponsored by City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton, was passed by City Council on Monday, April 2, 2018. The legislation replaces the City’s current criminal penalty of fines and jail time for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a $25 civil fine. Marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.

“Removing the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement, who have plenty on their plate already,” stated Mayor Keller. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city.”

Chief of Police Michael Geier added, “This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving. It’s important for the public to be aware that this does not change state or federal law and officers will still have a choice to pursue criminal charges when appropriate.”

COMMENTARY

APD Police Officers have a wide discretion in making arrests and they normally do not make arrests for small amounts of marijuana preferring to dodge the bullets from guns being shot at them during the commission of one of the many violent felonies that go on in Albuquerque every day.

During the last legislative session State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) once again attempted to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in New Mexico by introducing legislation to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for voter approval, and the legislation went nowhere.

In any representative form of government, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents, presuming those decisions and votes are really within their authority.

The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana needs to be addressed by the New Mexico legislature or the US Congress and not the Albuquerque City Council.

The truth is, our war on drugs has been a miserable failure in this country, especially when it comes to pot, and that is coming from someone who started his legal career prosecuting narcotics cases.

Legalize, regulate, control sales and tax recreational marijuana by comprehensive legislation is what needs to be done.

The candidates for Governor, Congress and those running for the legislature should be asked where they stand on legalization of marijuana.

Healthy debate on comprehensive legislation during this election year could be a precursor to drafting viable legislation and adopted by the 2019 New Mexico legislature.

The city council’s ordinance is mostly symbolic, and it will be business as usual by APD.

City’s DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Program Disarms Drunks Of Weapons

The Albuquerque s DWI vehicle forfeiture program has been around for 25 years.

The program has always been controversial, effective and does take vehicles out of the hands of drunk drivers and makes driving the streets of Albuquerque safer.

The city ordinance allows the city to seize and impound vehicles of individuals who are stopped and arrested for DWI.

The city also relies on the city’s nuisance abatement laws as part of the authority to seize the vehicles.

Under the existing ordinance, the Albuquerque Police Department can only seize the vehicle if the person arrested has at least one prior DWI conviction.

After the seizing and impounding of the vehicle, the city initiates civil administrative and civil court actions to take title to the vehicles and then sell the vehicles at auction.

In order to avoid the city from taking title to a vehicle involved with a DWI, the car owner can request a hearing with the city before an administrative law judge and enter into civil agreements for “booting” the vehicle for a period of time and pay costs of impoundment and rental costs of the boot.

A defense of “innocent owner” is also provided under the ordinance when a vehicle is used or driven by another who is arrested for DWI allowing the vehicle to be released back to the owner.

The proceeds from the sale of the cars at auction goes to pay to administer the program and other city anti DWI programs.

The biggest complaint made against the program is that it deprives people of their property without due process of law.

The biggest benefit of the program is that it takes the very object used to commit a crime out of the hands of people who intentionally violate the law and who at times seriously injure or even kill people and it reduces DWIs.

FEDERAL COURT RULING

Last year, a federal lawsuit was brought by a woman whose car was seized by the city after her son was arrested for driving it while intoxicated.

The vehicle owner had no prior conviction but the city seized her car.

On March 31, 2018, Federal Judge James Browning filed a ruling against the city’s vehicle forfeiture program saying the city could not seize vehicles without a conviction for the DWI offense the arrest was made for at the time of seizure.

Judge Browning found that the City of Albuquerque’s DWI vehicle seizure ordinance violates people’s rights to due process of law and that it also violates the state’s civil asset forfeiture law.

The state law requires a conviction before police can seize a person’s property.

The city has been arguing its vehicle seizure program does not violate a 2015 state law that bars property seizures by the government before a criminal conviction in that it requires a prior or history of DWI.

Judge Browning found otherwise, rejected the city position and refused to totally grant the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Judge Browning’s decision reads in part:

“The 2015 Amendment [to the state forfeiture law requires a criminal conviction before governments can seize property.] This purpose limiting forfeitures to criminal actions is expressly at odds with the City of Albuquerque’s civil forfeiture ordinance. … The Court concludes that the 2015 Amendments new purpose is strong evidence of the New Mexico Legislature’s intent to preclude municipalities from creating a civil forfeiture scheme.

“Although the Court concludes that the NMFA [New Mexico Forfeiture Act] preempts the City of Albuquerque’s forfeiture ordinance, the Court also concludes that this issue is novel as it is both new and notable.”

Media outlets have reported Judge Browning’s decision merely allows the lawsuit to move forward.

The decision does much more and made specific findings that the city’s vehicle forfeiture violated the plaintiff’s due process rights in two ways:

A. By placing the burden of innocence on a vehicle’s owner, and
B. By the fact that the forfeiture program is funded by the revenues it generates and that the city has used seized vehicles for its own purposes.

In response to the federal court ruling, the Keller Administration announced it will no longer seize cars from suspected drunken drivers and others who have not been convicted.

It appears the Keller Administration announcement was not very well thought out and was a “knee jerk” reaction to the federal court order in a still pending case.

ALBUQUERQUE’S VEHICLE FORFEITURE PROGRAM

The city’s DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Program is administered and managed by the City Attorney’s Office.

I was the Deputy City Attorney who oversaw the vehicle forfeiture program for seven years and it was part of the Safe City Strike Force.

Assistant City Attorneys and para-legals are assigned to initiate administrative actions, court action and enter into settlements agreements and boot agreements.

Following are the actual number of DWI Seizure Reports reviewed for the past 3 years:

2016: 880
2017: 778
2018: 366 (Mid-year)
2019: 700 (Projected)

Following are the actual number of DWI Vehicle Forfeiture actions filed for the past 3 years:

2016: 109
2017: 82
2018: 32 (Mid-year)
2019: 100 (Projected)

Following are the actual number of DWI Vehicles Booted for the past 3 years:

2016: 230
2017: 208
2018: 114 (Mid-year)
2019: 200 (Projected)

Following are the actual number of vehicles released on agreement by the city to owners:

2016: 237
2017: 232
2018: 81 (Mid-year)
2019: 200 (Projected)

Following are the actual number of vehicle seizure hearings conducted for the last 3 years:

2016: 576
2017: 522
2018: 243 (Mid-year)
2019: 500 (Projected)

Following are the actual number of vehicles auctioned by the city for the last 3 years:

2016: 441
2017: 338
2018: 130 (Mid-year)
2019: 300 (Projected)

Following is a breakdown of the amount of money generated by the auctions:

2016: $760,000
2017: $242,000
2018: $100,000 (Mid-year)
2019: $300,000 (Projected)

The amount of projected proceeds from vehicle forfeiture auctions is projected to drop dramatically from $760,000 to $300,000 over three years.

The Keller Administration’s proposed 2018-2019 fiscal budget projects the city’s legal department will hold 500 vehicle seizure hearings in the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1, 2018.

The 500-projected vehicle seizure hearings for the 2019 year is on par with the 522 number of hearings the city held in 2018 fiscal year.

Of those 500, the city is projecting to release 200 vehicles to owners with an agreement to boot the vehicle for a period of time and for the city to take ownership of 300 vehicles and sell them at auction.

FORFEITURE PROGRAM JUSTFIED BECAUSE OF DWI PROBLEM

It is no secret and very common knowledge that the city and the state have very serious DWI problems.

On December 1, 2016, it was reported that New Mexico has a high percentage of fatal drunken driving crashes and that New Mexico was ranked Number 1 in pedestrian and bicycling deaths involving drunk drivers.

https://www.abqjournal.com/900324/high-rates-of-drunken-driving-factor-in-poor-rating-for-states-drivers.html

In 2016, New Mexicans ranked among the top 10 worst drivers in the nation for the second year in a row.

There are repeated news stories about how defendants are being arrested 9, 10, 11, 12 times, and they serve very little time unless they wind up killing entire families in a car crash.

On November 21, 2017, a DWI court monitoring program by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the six counties with the highest DWI-related fatalities was released.

(See November 21, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Metro & NM Section, page A6, “New report shows high DWI dismissal rates.”)

https://www.abqjournal.com/1095710/gov-announces-results-of-dwi-monitoring.html

1,106 DWI cases were monitored in six counties and it was found that 36% of the DWI cases were dismissed, 35% resulted in guilty outcomes, 23% resulted in prosecutions; 4% of the charges were reduced or amended, and 1% were found not guilty.

The statistics from the MADD report in the six counties is nothing compared to what has been going on in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County for the last eight (8) years.

ALARMING DWI STATISTICS

The statistics from the Bernalillo County Metro Court are alarming and reveal just how bad things are with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) being unable to patrol our streets, get drunks off the road, make DWI arrests, prosecute DWI cases and impound and seize vehicles.

In 2008, there were 633 felony DWI arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 104 in 2015.

In 2008, there were 6,538 DWI/DUI misdemeanor arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 2,942 in 2015.

(Source: http://www.nmcourts.gov/reports-and-policies.aspx)

According to the proposed 2018-2019 city budget, the Albuquerque Police Departments DWI arrests are declining by considerable numbers.

In fiscal year 2016, APD made 1,720 actual DWI arrests.

In fiscal year 2017, APD made 1,338 actual DWI arrests.

Mid fiscal year 2018, APD made 775 actual DWI arrests.

The 2018-2019 proposed fiscal budget is projecting and hoping for 1,500 DWI arrests.

A decade ago, APD was making more than 5,000 DWI arrests a year.

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan court handles cases for virtually all law enforcement agencies that make arrests in Bernalillo County, including the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department (BCSO) and the New Mexico State Police.

The largest percentage of cases arraigned in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan court is for APD cases.

In 2009, there were 746 people arraigned for felony DWI and that number dropped to a mere 104 in 2015.

In 2008, there were 6,538 people arraigned for misdemeanor DWI and in 2015 that number dropped by close to 60% to 2,942.

ODDS ARE 50-50 BEATING DWI CHARGES

Sadly, the odds of beating DWI charges in Bernalillo County are about 50-50 when at one time the conviction rate was in the 85% to 90% range by the Bernalillo County District Attorney.

According to a January 29, 2018 news report, 42 percent of all DWI cases resolved in Metropolitan Court last year were dismissed either by judges or prosecutors while 58 percent ended with a guilty verdict or plea.

www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2018-01-29/odds-of-beating-dwi-charges-in-bernalillo-county-about-50-50

In 2016, the percentages favored defendants with 55 percent of drunken driving cases being dismissed compared to 45 percent ending in pleas or convictions.

CONCLUSION

The Keller Administration claims it will submit to the city council proposed changes to the vehicle forfeiture ordinance.

Ending the city’s DWI vehicle forfeiture program is ill advised given the city’s high DWI rates and the failure of our criminal justice system to deal with the city’s out of control DWI rates.

The changes proposed should be to the extent that the city’s existing forfeiture ordinance guarantees due process of law.

Repealing the ordinance will add to the number of people injured or killed on our roads from DWI crashes cause by drunks getting behind the wheel of their cars.

Another option would be to amend the city’s existing nuisance abatement ordinance to allow civil nuisance abatement actions against vehicles whose owners have a history of DWI convctions.

The current nuisance abatement ordinance allows civil actions to be filed against real property.

If drunks are not being held accountable for their actions criminally, then the city should be able to hold them accountable civilly and financially by taking away the very object, some would argue weapon, they used to violate the law and perhaps injure or kill someone.