On Sunday, November 7, the Albuquerque Journal published the following guest editorial column:
HEADLINE: “Criminal justice system in metro is not ‘broken’; Problem is stakeholders failing to do their jobs
BY PETE DINELLI
FORMER ALBUQURQUE CITY COUNCILOR AND CHIEF PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER
“On September 23, Mayor Keller concluded a conference dubbed the “Metro Crime Initiative”. Participants included APD, the DA’s Office, the Courts and many other stakeholders to address what all participants labelled the “broken criminal justice” system and calling it a “revolving door”.
The entire “Metro Crime Initiative” started with the phony premise that our criminal justice system is broken. It’s not. The criminal justice is only as good as the stakeholder who are responsible to make it work and succeed. The 3 main components of the criminal justice system are law enforcement, prosecution and the courts. Examination of all 3 reflects failure to do their jobs.
APD statistics for the budget years of 2019 and 2020 reflect that APD is not doing its job of investigating and arresting people. APD felony arrests went down from 2019 to 2020 by 39.51%, going down from 10,945 to 6,621. Misdemeanor arrests went down by 15% going down from 19,440 to 16,520. DWI arrests went down from 1,788 in 2019 to 1,230 in 2020, down 26%. The total number of all arrests went down from 32,173 in 2019 to 24,371 in 2020 or by 25%. Bookings at the jail have plummeted from 38,349 in 2010 to 17,734 in 2020. To have booking, there must be arrests. APD’s homicide unit has an anemic clearance rate of 36%.
When Raul Torrez ran for DA the first time, he said our criminal justice system was broken. Torrez accused the District Courts of being responsible for the rise in crime and releasing violent offenders pending trial. Torrez accused defense attorneys of “gaming the system” to get cases dismissed against their clients. A report to the Supreme Court prepared by the District Court revealed it is the DA’s office dismissing more felony cases for various reasons than the courts. The DA’s office currently has the highest voluntary dismissal rate in its history, and plea agreements with low penalties are the norm. Data given to the Supreme Court revealed overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the DA’s Office contributes to a combined 65% mistrial, acquittal and dismissal rate.
A negative perception of the courts is created when judges release violent felons and not holding them for trial without bond. It’s common knowledge that Judges are concerned about their disqualification rates, appeals and reversals and how they are perceived by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. Judges are reluctant to make decisions and hold off on making the hard decisions to avoid controversy to protect their jobs.
The criminal justice system in this country and this state has never been perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is not broken. The criminal justice system does have its flaws and a number of inequities, but to say that it is a broken system is just plain ignorance or political opportunism at its worst.
The participants in the city sponsored “Metro Crime Initiative” know what is wrong with the state’s criminal justice system. It is not a “broken system” but a “systems failure” caused by their own failures to act and to do their jobs effectively. The problems and shortcomings within our criminal justice system will not ever go away unless and until the stakeholders do their own jobs in an effective and competent manner.”
The link to the Albuquerque Journal guest column is here:
The Albuquerque Journal publishes letters or columns expressing opinions on news and commentary The Journal editors have the exclusive right to review and decide what will be published. Guest opinion are limited to 550 words. The paper limits the number of submissions it will publish from one any one person a year. The paper also mandates the passage of 90 days before another column from one person will be considered for publication.
This postscript elaborates further on the Metro Crime Initiative.
THE METRO CRIME INITIATIVE
On September 23, the Metro Crime Initiative concluded after a series of 5 meetings with law enforcement and community partners to address what all participants called the “broken criminal justice” system.
The topics of discussion were broken down into 6 major categories with 5 meetings conducted over 2 months. The participants included the Governor office, the Attorney General office, the District Attorney, the Chief Public Defender, Senate and House members, the Mayor, City Council members, Bernalillo County Commissioners, APD, NM State Police, Metro and District Courts.
The Metro Crime Initiative concluded with a September 23 news conference at the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Real Time Crime Center to announce the results of the meetings.
ACTION ITEMS ANNOUNCED
During the September 23 concluding press conference, local leaders admitted they have not been providing enough protection and resources to keep people safe. A list of 40 action items were revealed with the hope that once implemented they will lower Albuquerque’s crime efficiently and quickly. More than 20 departments statewide developed the checklist.
Following are the action items announced in 7 categories:
1. Fully fund public safety agencies
2. Hire more officers
3. Create retention programs for officers
4. Expand crime-fighting technology
5. Crack down on chop shops by enacting a law that makes owning, operating or doing business with a “chop shop” a crime.
6. Extend anti-auto theft & felony warrant partnerships
7. Fund dashboard to track criminal cases
8. Support security infrastructure for businesses
9. Coordinate to identify violent criminals
10. Invest in mobile speed enforcement
REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE
11. Strengthen gun storage laws
12. Detain gun offenders until trial
13. Strengthen gun crime penalties
14. Close loopholes in Red Flag law
15. Urge gun owners to self- record serial numbers
16. Study gun violence as public health issue
CLOSE THE REVOLVING DOOR
17. Fix 24/7 ankle monitoring
18. Increase staffing in courts
19. Use grand juries to protect victims & clear backlogs
20. Limit case management orders to detainees
21. Expand court ordered treatment
22. Increase pre-arrest diversion offers
23. Lower cost barriers to diversion programs
24. Increase number of diversion agreements
25. Increase funding and capacity for specialty courts
REBUILD BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SYSTEM
26. Incentivize new provider services
27. Build peer support programs
28. Create 24/7 sobering center
29. Expand Turquoise Lodge
30. Increase addiction treatment services
31. Develop behavioral health career paths
32. Career training for underserved youth
EXPAND VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAMS
33. Fund CABQ Violence Intervention Program
34. Expand Violence Intervention Program statewide
35. Bring restorative justice to schools
Identified items added to the to-do list were the following:
36. Bail bond reform with a pre-trial presumption of dangerousness when an offender uses, brandishes, or is in possession of a firearm during a violent, drug or property crime.
37. Invest in “mobile speed enforcement” to free up officers while combating the scourge of dangerous driving”
38. Create a task force to examine officer retention and lateral recruitment programs for all police agencies in New Mexico”
39. Create restorative justice programs in schools”
40. City funding for indigent copays for drug testing for pre-prosecution diversion programs”
A very detail “check list” pamphlet was produces containing details of each action plan and can be found here:
NOTHING NEW NOR INOVATIVE
When you examine the “check list” of the 40 different proposals that were the result of the Metro Crime Initiative, the proposals are essentially what all the participants have been working on over the past 2 years and include many programs already announced. The list contains nothing new. The items listed are ones that the participants should have been doing in the first place.
The 40 proposals are essentially an admission by many of the participants that they have not been doing their jobs effectively from the get go. There really is nothing new other than a public relations flyer and the checklist Mayor Tim Keller could hold up during his press conference.
Imbedded in our state and federal constitutions is how justice is served, to ensure and to protect all of our constitutional rights of presumption of innocence, due process of law and requiring convictions based on evidence. The corner stone of our criminal justice system is requiring prosecutors to prove that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury and in a court of law.
The participants in the city sponsored “Metro Crime Initiative” know what is wrong with the state’s criminal justice system. When you examine these 3 major stakeholders in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, one conclusion that can be arrived at is that they are not doing their jobs.
Many thanks to the Albuquerque Journal for publishing the guest column.