The Albuquerque Police Department's DWI unit will be out tonight and over the weekend. They'll man DWI checkpoints and undoubtedly will make many arrests.
And that will be good. We need drunk drivers off our streets. But the big question is what happen after the big New Year's Eve push to nab drunken drivers. Will those people be convicted and punished, or will their cases be dismissed because cops don't show up to court, or for other reasons?
If very few convictions come from those arrests, not much will have been accomplished to make our streets safer, and it will all have been a big waste of time.
Here's what has been going on:
APD is arresting far fewer people for DWI now [ 1,200] through November] as compared to just a couple years ago, and yet the conviction rate in Bernalillo County is less than 50 percent?
The biggest reason is officers not showing up for court. Does this surprise anyone when you have eight officers [the DWI unit] making 95 percent of all DWI arrests? They can’t split these DWI officers into enough bodies to be in every courtroom that they are needed in. It’s stupid and if we keep doing it, that is ever stupider.
So while Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier are in the process of restructuring and rebuilding the police department, they might want to consider some of our recommendations.
Here's the first one:
Get rid of the DWI unit and require all APD uniform patrol officers to participate in DWI roadblocks and DWI prevention. Instead of eight officers making 95 percent of all DWI arrests, how about 400 officers making 95 percent of the arrests? Our conviction rate will skyrocket. Of course, this means the current DWI officers won’t be getting all sorts of court overtime, but the community will be safer.
Chief Geier and Mayor Keller, you need to try this. What we have been doing isn’t working.
New Years Eve DWI enforcement won’t matter if in the months after we don’t get any convictions from those arrests.