Murderers, drug dealers, gang members, and violent criminals all drive, pure plain and simple.
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.
FALLEN AND INJURED OFFICERS REMEMBERED
When any police officer first approaches any vehicle on a traffic stop, no matter how simple it sounds, they have no idea who is driving the car and all too often it turns out to be a violent, hardened criminal.
A simple traffic stop can cost a police officer their life.
BCSO OFFICER JAMES MCGRANE
On March 22, 2006, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy James McGrane, age 39, was killed in the line of duty when shot during a traffic stop he was making in Tijeras Canyon.
BCSO Deputy McGrane was shot twice and died at the scene from his wounds.
BCSO Deputy Sheriff Mcgrane was killed by Michael Astorga.
At the time Mcgrane was killed, Astorga was wanted for another murder.
APD POLICE OFFICER LOU GOLSON
On January 3, 2015, APD police officer Lou Golson, a thirty one year veteran of APD, spotted a speeding silver SUV in the middle of the night and originally thought he had a drunk driver on his hands, but it turns out the SUV was stolen.
Golson walked up to the driver’s-side window.
When Golson opened the driver’s door, the driver spun sideways in his seat, he had a gun and he fired point blank on Golson.
The driver fired 5 shots with four bullets hitting Golson.
Golson was able to draw his gun and return fire.
Miraculously APD Officer Golson survived his shooting, but spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
APD POLICE OFFICER DANIEL WEBSTER
On Oct. 21 2015, APD Police Officer Daniel Webster, age 47, pulled over Davon Lymon riding a suspected stolen motorcycle.
Lymon was a convicted felon having served 10 years in prison for a killing tied to a car theft ring.
Webster was trying to arrest and handcuff Lymon when Webster was shot several times, with one of the bullets hitting Webster in the head.
After spending a week in the hospital in critical condition, Webster passed away.
TRAFFIC STOPS CAN APPREHEND VIOLENT FELONS
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is now focusing on increasing traffic patrols.
One major result of the traffic patrols is arresting more criminals who have outstanding arrest warrants and have committed other more serious crimes.
According to APD statistics, from January 1, 2018 until March 8, 2018, APD nearly double the number of traffic stops compared to the same time period four years ago in 2015.
Following are APD’s Preliminary Crime Data statistics on traffic citations:
• 2015 YTD: 4,990
• 2016 YTD: 5,506
• 2017 YTD: 5,522
• 2018 YTD: 9,560
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.
DRAMATIC DECLINE IN TRAFFIC CITATION CASES
Although the above numbers are encouraging, they are only preliminary comparing the first three-month periods in 2017 to 2018.
The near doubling of the number of traffic stops for the first three months in 2018 is encouraging but yet very insignificant in comparison to the over 86,000 citations issued in 2009.
The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Traffic Arraignment 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 Traffic court is for APD cases.
In 2008, there were 84,527 traffic court arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 31,163 in 2015.
In 2009, there was an all-time high of 86,175 traffic arraignment cases in Metro Court.
In 2015 traffic citation cases dropped to 31,163, or over 55,000 fewer traffic citations.
In the 2018-2019 proposed city budget, the City Attorney’s office reported on the number of actual traffic cases going to arraignment during the last three fiscal years:
2016: Actual traffic citation arraignments 34,077
2017: Actual traffic citation arraignments 28,643
2018: Actual Midterm traffic citation arraignment 13,053
APD STAFFING SHORTAGE
There is a direct correlation between the dramatic decline in the traffic citation stops and traffic arrangement cases and the severe decline in APD personnel.
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 20 patrol officers and today it is at less than 10.
The December 11, 2015 Albuquerque Police Department Comprehensive Staffing Assessment and Resource Study prepared by Alexander Weiss for the Department of Justice concluded that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn officers.
Over the past eight years, the number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 878.
In 2017, APD had at one time 841 sworn police officers with only 440 assigned to the field services responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls.
The above statistics reveal just how bad things are with APD being unable to patrol our streets and issue traffic citations and for that matter identify and apprehend violent and serious felons.
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 to increase APD personnel.
The 2018-2019 Keller proposed budget allocates $12.8 to carry out a four-year plan for recruiting new officers.
APD currently has 878 sworn police officers but is budgeted for 1,000 officers.
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 Keller submitted city budget for 2018-2019 is where “the rubber hits the road” when it comes to public safety and reducing our high crime rates.
Street patrols and simple traffic stops, although increasing a law enforcement officers exposure to danger, are classic and proven proactive law enforcement measures to apprehend violent felons, save life in the long run and reduce our high crime rates.
To all law enforcement, please, please, please keep safe during simple traffic stops and get back to your families safe and sound after your shifts.