Alibi V.29 No.1 • Jan 2-8, 2020 

Commentary

News Lab 2020

The crime, the police, the solutions

Albuquerque
Albuquerque
Courtesy Nasa.gov

The year 2020 has come to pass. As happy Alibi readers peruse our first issue of 2020, they are also staring down the third decade of the 21st century, looking straight into its democracy-altering, planet-warming eyes. And they’re such big eyes.

Back in the before time, we decided to—to paraphrase a favorite literary character of ours—take up arms against that sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. That doesn’t mean we propose to end it all, in fact we’re prepared to proceed. For as long as it takes. And we will do that with palpable joy in the knowledge that providing this town with a great newspaper—wherein a decent news section can grow and thrive in that untended garden—is the first step in finding solutions to the issues that have long plagued Duke City, N.M.

That’s a sort of brevity-guided goal. But it has resulted in a readable and informative news section. Such a previously uncommon situation in alternative weeklies has led to a growth in both readership and reporting scope.

It’s also lent itself to vociferous—albeit anonymous—protestations from the conservative press, from right-wing authorities who used to have their own auspiciously angry old man outlets wherein to practice a certain 1970s-flavored gotcha journalism. The fact that such sources have been reduced to commenter status on social media speaks broadly and eloquently to the truth underlying the matter.

No one wants to read an obviously irate member of the press wax on about how horrible things are, how our leaders are a sham, how the system is designed to fail—and how ultimately Donald Trump remains a ready remedy to such horribly unnavigable problems.

To be clear, we aren’t taking it easy and have never taken it easy on the Democrats who currently lord it over the rest of us. We do, however, recognize that these donkeys represent the future of our city, state and nation. To feel otherwise means to embrace the futility and so surrender ourselves and our opinions to the Trumpists. They’re already using all of their superpowers to charm unwitting Americans with their dismal vision; they don’t need folks like us on their bandwagon.

Crime

Crime in this city is bad but it’s been worse and it is getting better. The city police in this city were on the wrong track, thanks to former Mayor Berry and insider culture police chief Gorden Eden. No doubt about it though: The previous chief, a Marty Chavez appointee named Ray Schultz, contributed massively to the problem as well. When Schultz unceremoniously left the force in 2005—just as attention from the DOJ grew to workable proportions—Mayor Berry told the press that the chief wasn’t really “running away.”

That situation has been somewhat ameliorated—not only by a Department of Justice investigation and settlement agreement but by the election of a progressive municipal government intent on raising officer numbers and reinstituting community policing—while recognizing the importance of a respected police force and working on the underlying problems that cause crime.

Blaming the mayor for a problem that he inherited—and making his reelection in two years contingent on solving that deeply rooted issue—is a position that can only be adhered to while the important historical facts are withheld.

The New DOJ

Though we are in agreement that lowering the crime rate in Burque is a priority that must continue to be addressed—possibly for the next decade—we are duly concerned about US Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent entrada into the foray.

Barr recently spoke at a press conference here and sent one of his agents here a couple weeks ago for yet another press conference. Barr characterized our city’s crime problem as “stubbornly high.” He also said the local police force was “very weak,” borrowing liberally from Trump’s palette to paint this town in near-apocalyptic tones.

Neither representatives from the Keller administration or the city police were available for what was essentially a photo op advertising what amounts to a heavier federal, state and county law enforcement presence in the city and county. At the time and even now, it’s not clear if the City of Albuquerque has or will coordinate community policing efforts with the aforementioned agencies. It’s also important to note that such draconian responses to crime have had, at best, mixed results (see data on the past summer’s deployment of state cops here in Burque).

Okay. During the State Police surge of May 2019, many citizens complained that traffic stops and police conduct were not being handled properly. Citizens with medical marijuana cards were arrested for possession, racial profiling accusations arose in the International District and so on and so forth. Afterward, data showed that 52 percent of the criminal cases generated by the increased patrols have now been dismissed.

Most importantly, we must reiterate that all this is coming down from an attorney general who many see as a puppet of Trump. Playing to the base fears of his base in a city already fully fearful of crime is boilerplate Trump. It is possible that this political theater is well-timed agitprop.

Finding Solutions

And now for the criticism. First, the Keller administration should continue to promote community policing as it quickly builds the ranks of new and highly trained patrol officers. These two efforts, in tandem, may signal to the feds that our city is serious about crime.

The city should work with federal, state and county law enforcement to guarantee that non-local agencies are following the reforms instituted by—wait for it—the US Department of Justice itself. You know, simple stuff like not engaging in high-speed chases on city streets crowded with innocent citizens. Of course that also includes making certain that all local and county officers are outfitted with lapel cameras.

Law enforcement should be a community-positive, readily recognizable, mutually coordinated series of events. It should be fair and not seem like a form of punishment to be meted out to a community desperate to be absolved of the damage done by the cumulative effects of poor governance. It should not be an opportunity for political grandstanding, especially for those who are beholden to Trump or are potential political opponents of the current municipal administration.

Believe us when we say that us citizens would appreciate that, Mr. Mayor. Oh, and, rock on while you’re at it.