Albuquerque resident Margaret Smith submitted the following guest column in the form of an open letter to Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina for publication on this blog.
Margaret Smith is a recent transplant here to Albuquerque. She began a full-time real estate career in 2002. She has been devoted to helping hundreds of families achieve their goals. Growing up in a military family and moving multiple times during her childhood helped forge the awareness, understanding and compassion needed during a home sale process. Margaret is a certified Military Relocation Professional, educated in the challenges of military moves as well as the resources families will require once they arrive. Margaret discovered the remarkable ABQ charitable foundation Paws and Stripes. As a volunteer, she has been able to combine her commitment to re-homing shelter dogs with her deep gratitude to all of our service men and women.
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Margaret Smith and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Margaret Smith was not compensated for the guest column.
Dear Mayor Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina:
I am, like many in our community, deeply concerned about the level of sworn APD officers patrolling our streets. This letter is being sent to discuss the subject and make a specific recommendation on one solution. I have requested that it be published on www.PeteDinelli.com with the hopes that it generates fundamental, challenging questions that are directed to you and all council members.
According to recent news reports, as of September 18, 2021, the city has only 913 sworn officers, from chief to patrol officer’s 2nd class. Excluding supervisors, 404 patrol officers are working the streets in uniform. The 404 patrol officers consist of 369 patrol officers and 35 problem response team officers.
There are 7 area commands in the city. Based on the figures cited, there are approximately 60 uniformed officers per area command. There are three shifts daily, equaling about 20 officers per shift. Factor in sick time, vacation, special assignments – each shift may average 10-15 officers on a given day. Which leaves about 70 uniformed police officers on duty throughout the entire city each shift. The lack of manpower dictates that our police force cannot be proactive, only reactive.
The metrics are unacceptable for the taxpayers of ABQ and most certainly for the uniformed police officers that don’t feel supported by either the APD, the City Council nor their community.
EXCERPTS FROM MAYOR KELLER’S CITY WEB PAGE
When I look at Mayor Keller’s page, there are a number of statements that strike me in particular. Those comments include:
“Crime is the most pressing issue in Albuquerque and I have made public safety my top priority.
As to Community Policing, Mayor Keller says:
“The idea is simple. Build relationships and work with communities to address their concerns and problems.”
As to Community Partnerships, Mayor Keller says:
“Partnerships between law enforcement and the individuals and organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police.”
PROPOSED OFFICER RETENTION PROGRAM
It was early in 2020 that a meeting was called in the Mayor’s office to discuss a proposal for an Officer Retention Program that was submitted as a potential solution to the ongoing recruitment, retirement and critical understaffing issues within the APD. A retired APD Sargent submitted the proposal in 2020.
Mayor Keller was not in attendance. However, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, then Deputy Chief Harold Medina and Constituent Services Director Alan Armijo attended.
The following brief outline of an Officer Retention Program was presented:
● The City contracts with private security firms as liaisons for the Community Policing and Partnerships. The caveat for security firms under contract is that any private security officer must be retired APD.
● These hires would be paid by the security companies, not the City. The security officers would be uniformed and drive clearly identified vehicles that differentiate them from APD/BCSO.
● They would legally be private security officers with the ability to undertake any APD community- based policing programs in areas such as Nob Hill, Old Town, Downtown etc. The public would interact with seasoned, veteran officers. Who, in turn, could foster respect with a consistent presence and interaction within our communities. A continued presence would obviously be a deterrent to the criminal activity that is rampant in all of our neighborhoods.
● Working with APD, the 242-COPS and 911 calls could be “triaged” – dispatching the private security officers which could respond to the 3rd, 4th and 5th tier calls, allowing the APD to concentrate on the critical threats to human life and property.
The way the Officer Retention Program could be jumped started would be:
● Initially, open the program to all interested retired law enforcement officers from APD, BCSO and State Police.
● Offer lateral classes to all NM police departments which might encourage current LEO’s working in other departments to transfer to APD – upon which they would be required to work a minimum of 3 years to qualify for the Officer Retention Program.
● After the initial launch, it would only become available to current APD officers upon their retirement.
At the conclusion of the meeting with COO Lawrence Rael and then Deputy Chief Harold Medina, it was stated that this plan had “merit”. With all due respect, what happened to this proposal? Was another, better solution implemented?
Utilizing retired officers in community policing roles through private business opportunities allows for greater economic efficiency while maintaining a higher level of training standards and oversight.
FINAL MESSAGE TO FELLOW NEIGHBORS
Let me make this clear, I certainly do not hold myself to be an expert in law enforcement nor do I have the expertise to implement this or any other strategy. However, I choose to educate myself as much as possible on issues affecting my community and – I vote.
To all of my fellow neighbors – it’s time. We have the power to utilize a united voice to create change. I am as equally concerned about the continuum of crime in our city as you – we are entitled to a concrete, committed plan moving forward to address the critical shortfall of basic services. We deserve to live in, at the very least, a safer city. And in a city that works more diligently to inform us of hard facts so that we can make better informed decisions as citizens. We must work for this – step up as a community and hold our elected officials accountable. I feel it is a duty not only to myself, but to each other as a society.
I am posting it with the hopes that it generates fundamental, challenging questions that are directed to our City Council members.