County Matters

Local Legislative Bodies Moving Forward And The Sound’s So Soothing

Carolyn Carlson
6 min read
City/County Lawmakers in The House
City Councilors Pat Davis and Ken Sanchez (Eric Williams Photography)
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Zoom Zoom

ouncilors gave the green light to electric scooters and other kinds of shared transportation vehicles such as bicycles and small, wheeled vehicles to operate in the public rights of way. This means they will have the same rights on city streets, highways and sidewalks. The ordinance includes requiring vendors to go through a permitting process and get city approval for each of the scooter station locations. The city will also collect a small fee daily for each scooter rented.

Councilor Isaac Benton opposed the measure, saying he had concerns about the city’s legal liability and whether the Albuquerque Police Department could handle enforcement of these wheeled contraptions. APD Chief of Staff John Ross assured the Council table that officers are ready to enforce any laws required to keep the two-wheeled racers in line. We already have shared peddle bicycle stations so this should be a fun addition to the ways Burqueños zoom around town.

Join Us!

In an effort to boost the number of police officers on the city’s streets, Councilors
approved $3 million in funding to help entice cops away from other law enforcement departments. The bill will pick up the tab to run a shorter, 9-week training program for 30 to 40 officers from other law enforcement agencies who are already sworn and certified. The money will also pay for fence jumping officer’s uniforms and equipment. It is an abridged training program to get them up to speed with city ordinances and police department policies. Police folks would like to see 950 officers by the end of 2018; there are currently about 865 sworn APD police officers.

Environmental History

Councilors joined with Bernalillo County to preserve 34 acres of
Crestview Bluffs as a historic urban green area. Most of the land is in the county with a small chunk crossing the imaginary line into the city. The location is about 3/4 of a mile west of the Rio Grande, immediately south of Central Avenue and a short distance east of Old Coors Drive. It is accessible off Central Avenue, Churchill Road and Gonzales Road.

In the preserve, there are 152 wildlife species with 17 of those being recognized as sensitive. And to boot, there has been evidence that New Mexicans have been living at that site, and all along the banks of our mighty grand river, for 12,000 years. It is within the boundaries of the 1692 Atrisco Land Grant. Plans for the site include hiking and walking trails, picnic areas, outdoor classrooms, cultural and biological conservation programs, and wild life viewing spots.

Quick City Hits

• The Council approved easing the crackdown on city home and business owners using barb wire to protect their property. The reprieve will last until Oct. 2020 but does not allow any new permits for such ersatz security systems to be issued while city zoning folks figure out what to do about this sharp problem.

• The Council voted unanimously to support an effort to
develop a Medicaid buy-in plan for city residents.

• Councilors also gave the thumbs up for the administration to negotiate with Honeywell International to lease space at the Double Eagle airport and authorized several grant applications for law enforcement, litter and beautification projects as well as for projects supporting our families and aging citizens.

• Importantly, the Council accepted a report on the 2018 third quarter expenditures for the Court Ordered Settlement Agreement with the US Department of Justice. Dr. James Ginger, the monitor overseeing the federal consent decree, was paid $399,744 during this three month period with a total of $3.65 million paid to him since the beginning of the CASA. In total, during this three months alone, the city paid more than $1.6 million to implement, enforce and monitor police department reforms.

County Matters The County Side

A Critical Eye

critical eye was turned to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department with the release of an independent study zeroing in on excessive use-of-force and pursuit policies. The 18-page report was presented at the Sept. 25 Bernalillo County Commission meeting.

County Commissioners requested the study via resolution in March after a rash of questionable pursuits and excessive use-of-force cases racked up lawsuits and costly settlements. An independent company was charged with evaluating whether policies and procedures line up with the national standards of best practices, to identify potential legal liabilities and to recommend changes.

Daigle Law Group out of Southington, Conn., charged roughly $225 an hour with a total end cost of about $20,000 for the study. Members of the study group met with Sheriff Manny Gonzales along with his command staff and key employees involved in policy, training and investigation of use-of-force and pursuits. “They were there when we wanted them there, and they were there when we did not want them there too,” Sheriff Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he appreciated the time and commitment the company took to review the department’s policies. He thanked the commission for funding the study because now they know how they rack up nationally. He said the Sheriff’s Department will take the study seriously and do a thorough review of the recommendations to see how they can be used to improve the department. He said he will report back to the commission with the outcome of his review.

Did They See?

Some of the 22 recommendations by the Daigle Study include some wordsmithing, definitions and clarification changes. But there are some that are a little more practical, such as #4, which notes that there is no mention anywhere in Sheriff’s Department policies that deputies using excessive force will be subject to any discipline, criminal prosecution or civil liability. The current policy provides no procedures to investigate excessive use-of-force incidents to assure compliance with all legal requirements.

One of the wording changes recommended is to make it crystal clear to officers and the community the fact that deputies are not to shoot at a moving vehicle unless there is imminent life threatening danger to deputies or bystanders. It also recommends that any such discharges will be rigorously scrutinized. Recommendation 8 says that the department should investigate officers for just pulling their guns out and pointing at a suspect as a potential misuse force.

As far as police pursuits go, the report has a handful of recommendations including: not pursuing off road vehicles, deputies not discharging their weapons while under pursuit, prohibiting overtaking of the pursuit vehicle, no wrong-way pursuing and that providing that every pursuit will be reviewed by a supervisor not involved in the pursuit. The report concludes that, overall, the department’s policies are informative, provide guidance and show a commitment to maintain proper standards. It also says that there is a consistent effort by deputies to document their use-of-force beyond what is required by the policy.
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