Ten ways to fix APD now
Joe Polisar was APD chief from June 1994 to November 1997, during Marty Chavez's first mayoral term. He sent this email to ABQReport columnist Dan Klein, a retired APD sergeant. Polisar gave us permission to publish it.
Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department are in trouble, and they have been for years. But the chickens are coming home to roost, I'm afraid after decades of neglect by politicians, lack of support by the general public and a constant attack by the media led by the Albuquerque Urinal. If the silent majority actually does support APD then they bear the brunt of the criticism for the current status because they stayed silent way too long.
At this point I'm afraid Albuquerque is not in a good bargaining position. But if the Mayor had some cajones he'd take the lead and do one or more of the following:
1) End the search process for a chief. Let's face it, with PERA (public employee retirement plan) having a five-year vest it was a stretch doing a nationwide search. Most current chiefs would look at that and say “Why risk it when there's a chance I'll be out of job in less than a year if the mayor isn't re-elected?” It's no coincidence that out of 39 candidates we had only one current chief make the cut from a city of only 64,000 population. I'd like to see the whole list, actually. I think it would be telling.
2) Find an acting chief from the retired ranks who knows the department and isn't interested in a permanent job. There's several to approach, in my humble opinion. Allow he/her to surround themselves with their choices for deputy chiefs on the fifth floor (police chief's office). If they think some or all of the existing deputy chiefs are OK, fine. But if not, allow the interim chief the same latitude you'd give a permanent chief. The troop morale today is lower than anytime in APD's history.
3) Argue aggressively with U.S. Department of Justice and the new administration to renegotiate the conditions of the settlement agreement. Better yet, allow APD to be done with this (not very likely). How many officers are assigned to monitor/investigate internally? Hire retirees or firms run by retirees to do this. Put the badges and guns on the street, beef up Homicide. Not rocket science.
4) Beef up Motors and make traffic enforcement a critical crime-fighting tool again by all of Field Services. I've been back in ABQ since August 2018, and in that time I've seen one APD officer conducting a traffic stop. By contrast I live in the North Valley and I see Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department deputies stopping violators all the time. Albuquerque's freeways are akin to the Indy 500. Red lights, stop signs and school zones are mere suggestions to so many people here. Road rage is a common occurrence. More importantly, the crooks know they have a free pass on our roads. The fact is that bad guys drive bad cars badly. Cracked windshields, smoky tailpipes, expired plates, traffic code violations are all legitimate reasons for intervention. Make it so the crooks know that cruising for crime in ABQ isn't so easy anymore.
5) Reconstitute some version of ROP (Repeat Offender Program). Call it whatever you want, but targeting career criminal repeat offenders makes sense. Make sure you put the right people in charge (captain, Lt, and sergeants) who can keep the team focused on their mission. Also, make sure the District Attorney's Office is on board and prioritizes these cases. The adage that 20 percent of the crooks commit 80 percent of the crimes still holds. Target them, make cases, arrest and convict and warehouse them. No sense teaching these people how to do front-end alignments. They have shown a total disregard for our citizens and their property.
6) Utilize real-time data to address problem areas. We all know where the hot spots are, we know who the main trouble makers are. Make their lives miserable.
7) Broken windows works. Graffiti, abandoned homes and vehicles, etc need to be addressed through a coordinated effort by APD, Public Works, Code Enforcement. Panhandling in ABQ is atrocious. Every off ramp and major intersection has citizens being approached for handouts. I was in Southern California for 20 years and the homeless problem exploded to the point where tent cities sprung up all over downtown Los Angeles. In fact, numerous LAPD officers contracted Typhoid working in and around these encampments. Have you seen them popping up in Albuquerque? I sure have.
8) End our Sanctuary City status. We don't have to have APD enforcing immigration law or asking about immigration status. It's not their job. But once someone has committed a serious crime and is in custody, the jail should be allowed to share information with ICE. Allowing some career criminals to be let out of jail when they have an ICE detention hold, just because you're afraid it will be detrimental to community relations with the immigrant community is a BS excuse. Most of the immigrant community hates these criminals more because they are more often than not the victims of these assholes.
9) Get ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) involved so that every person arrested with a firearm can be charged federally if appropriate. We've known for years that firearms charges get serious jail time federally. Use this to our advantage.
10) Whoever takes the chief's job needs to lead from the front. Become the face of the department. Regain the trust of the community, but just as importantly the troops. If they don't respect and trust you, they won't follow you, period.
I could go on but you get the gist. Our beloved department is in shambles. Gonna take a Herculean effort to right the ship.
Damn, it's only 10:30 in the morning and I need a drink …