Community Policing News

CASA Updates

Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is working under a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). That settlement specifies changes that reach deeply into the culture and practices of law enforcement.

As part of the CASA, APD has established community-based citizen groups that inform the police regarding community needs and concerns and also provide neighbors with feedback concerning police actions and plans. There are six such groups in Albuquerque–one for each police command area. The Foothills Community Policing Council (FH-CPC), covering the area from the mountains west to Eubank and from 4-Hills to the Bernalillo County line, conducts a webinar each month at 6:00 on the second Monday, and publishes a monthly newsletter including a report from the area commander. For information and to be included on their mailing list, contact Bob Carleton @ bob.foothillscpc@gmail.com.

Community Safety Department in the Works

By Lance Chilton

Is there a middle ground between turning a blind eye to police brutality and totally defunding the police? Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, Albuquerque Community Safety Department Coordinator Mariela Ruiz-Angel, and the Rio Grande Sierra Club’s Miya King-Flaherty think there is. And that middle ground includes the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, or ACS.

Racial inequity has made lots of news since May of this year, though it’s hardly a new problem. Part of the challenge is that fighting crime and providing compassionate help to those facing homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse require different skills. All of these problems affect vulnerable communities and people facing poverty.

I asked Ms. Ruiz-Angel if the approach taken over the past 31 years in Eugene, Oregon (called Cahoots!) has served as a model for ACS. She replied, “Yes, but there are such differences between Eugene and Albuquerque!” She mentioned several other cities that have somewhat similar programs: Portland, OR, Sacramento, and Houston, indicating that the programs in those very different cities had all contributed ideas to ACS.  “Every city,” she said, “is very different when it comes to the problems and issues they have, even down to their own types of racism.”

Ms. Ruiz-Angel said that Mayor Keller had conceived of a program to send trained mental health providers and resource providers to non-violent 911 encounters well before the problem came to general attention in May. Part of the impetus was the accelerating concern over structural racism throughout the country. Part was the huge need for decriminalization of those in our community who live with mental and behavioral issues. Part also was to free up Police and Fire resources to attend to life-saving and crime-related calls for help. 

The City Council has appropriated $2.5 million to ACS for the fiscal year that began July 1. Although that appropriation is not sufficient to fund a complete program, it will help ACS to start tackling three priority areas: outreach to community organizations, intervention in such diverse problems as abandoned cars, needles left on the sidewalks, and public intoxication, and follow-up, something the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire and Rescue have not been able to do. The start date should be sometime in January 2021.

Ms. King-Flaherty notes that some communities, often lacking in resources and primarily people of color, have been unfairly targeted by the current law enforcement system. “All too often these communities,“ she continues, “do not have access to the resources they need.” Ms. Ruiz-Angel agrees, saying that the City will prioritize hiring ACS staff from just those communities, who understand the problems they face

Both Ms. King-Flaherty and Ms. Ruiz-Angel agreed to talk with me again, when services from this very important new city service are to begin.

For more information, including what ACS does and does not anticipate doing, go to https://www.cabq.gov/acs.