An APD job fair last weekend attempted to remedy Albuquerque's officer shortage. The department currently has around 840 active officers—short of the budgeted one thousand. The shortage is having measurable negative effects. Response times to “priority 1” calls went up to around 11 and a half minutes in 2016, a considerable increase over the 10 and a half minute response time of 2014. Earlier this month, the police officers' union released the results of a poll that found 98 percent of 330 officers believed the city is understaffed. Ninety-seven percent felt the low numbers compromise their safety. Finding qualified candidates seems to be one of the largest hurdles in the continuing effort to increase numbers. The department interviewed over a thousand applicants last year but only chose 31 of them to go on to training. Applicants were turned away if they had a poor credit score, if it was found that they had ingested marijuana in the past three years, if they had poor reading and writing skills, if they had a poor driving record or for various other reasons. The officers' union blames a low pay rate for the lack of quality interest, citing higher wages in comparable cities.
UNM Students Call For Ban on on Official Seal
Students at UNM are circulating a petition to remove the official university seal, which depicts a Spanish conquistador and a frontiersman. Native American advocacy groups like The Kiva Club and The Red Nation say the seal is offensive to descendants of those who were victimized by the US colonial and European invasion. The petition also calls for the university administration to ban racist art from campus, construct a Native cultural center and institutionalize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into UNM policy. A forum was held last Sunday to discuss the seal, where numerous students and residents voiced a belief that the seal glorifies the violent Spanish conquest of the Pueblo people—a sentiment that is especially distasteful at a university with one of the largest Native populations in the country. Some students disagree with the movement, though, saying that removal of the seal will make it too easy to forget the state's bloody past. According to UNM policy, the seal can only be changed if it is voted on and approved by the board of regents, but students have yet to file an official complaint.
Inmate Health Provider Under Scrutiny
The Santa Fe New Mexican is calling attention to the negligent practices of Corizon Health, the private, for-profit company providing health care for most of the state's prison population. Last year, Corizon and Alameda County paid out the largest wrongful death civil rights settlement in California's history to the family of a man who died in jail. 2015 also saw New York end their relationship with the company after years of complaints by prisoners at Riker's Island and at least two inmate deaths related to malpractice. The company is leaving Florida this month after numerous patient deaths were covered up or never reviewed. Here in New Mexico, over 200 inmates have filed lawsuits against the company since it became the leading care provider in 2007, but a term of the state's contract with Corizon stipulates that the company is responsible for defending itself against lawsuits, even when the state is named as co-defendant. None of these cases have gone to a jury, and as such, are allowed to be kept confidential, effectively making public review of the records impossible. Prison Legal News, a non-profit publication that reports on prisoner civil issues, has filed a lawsuit against Corizon and the state of New Mexico asking for a list of settlements that were denied it by the Corrections Department and Corizon under the state Inspection of Public Records Act. Corizon's contract with the state expires in May.