I get downright disgusted with elected officials who say and do absolutely nothing during their entire terms until they are up for election and then they seek solutions to problems for the sake of publicity.
Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris are two such elected officials.
Both have done absolutely nothing for the last eight (8) years when it comes to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
Both are seeking re-election in October and now five (5) months before the election they come up with a proposal to help with the APD personnel shortage.
Sanchez and Harris are calling for a public vote on a charter amendment to add 375 APD Officers costing the City $16 million.
(See April 28, 2107 Albuquerque Journal. “Proposal seeks to add 375 APD officers; Charter amendment would cost the city and additional $16 million”, Metro & NM , Section C-1.)
The proposed charter amendment, which they want to put on the October 2 municipal ballot, would require the city to have 25 sworn police officers for every 11,500 residents in effect mandating that APD have 1,215 sworn officers.
The Charter Amendment is ill advised, not needed, and both Sanchez and Harris know it.
Many law enforcement experts believe that police staffing levels should be tied to work load and case load demands and not tied to population levels.
Councilor Ken Sanchez said in support of the Charter amendment “People in Albuquerque today do not feel safe. … I am very concerned. … I go to community meetings and that’s the number one concern – safety. They do not feel safe in their own homes.”
Guess what Councilor Sanchez, for the last eight (8) years you have been in office, people have not been safe in their homes, but only now that you are running for re-election you want to do something about it.
Since 2010, Albuquerque’s violent crime rate increased by 14% and property crime rates have dramatically increased by 14% to 20% percent.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that in 2015 violent crime and property crime in Albuquerque increased in by 9.2% and 11.5%, respectively.
In 2015, murders in Albuquerque spiked by 53%.
The truth is, there is no need for such a charter amendment nor any need for a public vote and the City Council could act if it wanted to.
There is clearly an element of hypocrisy with Sanchez and Harris calling for a public vote on APD staffing levels when they both voted for the ART Bus project and refused to put ART to a public vote.
Further, Sanchez and Harris voted for over $63 million dollars over the past two years in revenue bonds to build pickle ball courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down Central not seeking public input and bypassing the capital improvements process (CIP) that mandates public votes.
The use of revenue bonds is discretionary with the City Council requiring seven (7) votes and revenue bonds do not require significant review and public hearings as is required with capital improvement bonds.
A city council resolution could be enacted calling for the increase in APD personnel and giving raises and calling for retention and incentive bonuses and sign on and education pay to help with recruitment.
The City Council has the ultimate and final authority to fund APD to whatever level it wants with a simple majority vote and historically has done so for many years.
In 2009, both Sanchez and Harris were on the Albuquerque City Council.
Eight (8) years ago, APD was fully staffed with 1,100 officers, and Sanchez and Harris voted for the APD staffing and funding for 1,100 sworn officers.
Eight years ago, APD was the best trained, best equipped, and best paid in its history and sworn officers were consistently given raises, retention and incentive bonuses and sign on and education pay.
Over the last seven years, Mayor Berry and his appointed Chief’s destroyed one of the finest police departments in the country that will take years to recover.
Over the last eight (8) years, Sanchez and Harris have said nothing about APD management, not even when the Department of Justice found a ”culture of aggression” that lead to a federal consent decree and mandated reforms.
The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling APD’s entire budget.
Sanchez and Harris have done nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and have never challenged the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.
Each time the Federal Monitor has presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, Sanchez and Harris have essentially remained silent and declined to demand accountability in any meaningful way from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms, let alone staffing levels.
Three years ago, the City Council reduced funding from 1,100 sworn officers to 1,000 sworn officers because of the Berry Administration’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements and Sanchez and Harris voted for the reduction in staffing.
APD is currently funded for 1,000, but employs only 856 sworn officers.
APD cannot recruit enough officers now to reach the 1,000 level, so what makes Sanchez and Harris think that a charter amendment approved by voters will do any good to add 375 more sworn officers to APD?
If Sanchez and Harris feel so strongly that we need 375 more officers, they should just introduce and city council resolution calling for it along with the $16 million funding, instead of calling for a charter amendment, but that would require a political backbone in a re-election year.
Both City Councilors have opponents for re-election.
City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris have both served multiple terms.
Sanchez and Harris should be thanked for their past service and move on and not be elected to another term in that they are part of the problem at city hall.