By Talullah Begaye / NM News Port
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller enters his second term with strong support for expanding his new Community Safety Department, which began responding to non-emergency calls in September.
In the wake of George Floyd and the nationwide 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Keller pushed for the creation of the department as an alternative to sending police or fire department paramedics to calls involving mental health, homelessness, substance use and other nonviolent situations.
A poll conducted a week and a half before the election showed that 65% of likely voters supported expanding funding for the Community Safety Department. According to the poll, paid by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, only 42% of those supporters were “strongly in favor.”
Keller won with more than half the votes in the latest election.
“The poll results clearly show that Albuquerque voters want a mayor who will prioritize police accountability and funding for civilian-led alternatives to policing that will better address homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues,” ACLU of New Mexico director of public policy Nayomi Valdez said in a press release.
The important thing is having alternative providers and traditional police work together to keep the public safe, said J.H. Scott, a 28-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department and UNM Police.
He said that he hopes these choice alternatives are actively a part of the community.
The numbers from the poll reflect frustration with what the U.S. Department of Justice said was a pattern of excessive force by APD. In the past year and a half, APD used an outside investigator they created called the Force Review Board to look at what was working and what was not.
The results showed APD leaders avoided disciplining officers who used excessive force. The Force Review Board made recommendations to how APD could make improvements that would prevent future internal investigations. The monitoring team will continue to watch APD until there is a significant change and the D.O.J sees a sizable decrease in excessive force.
In the APD’s 2021 Third Quarter Report, 32% of the disciplinary action was a written reprimand, making it the solution with the highest numbers. This is an improvement when compared to the Force Review Board’s report that showed most officers were only being reprimanded verbally.
“Police violence and lack of accountability remain significant problems in Albuquerque and our communities are ready for change,” Valdez said in the release.
One solution to the needed decrease of excessive force would be diverting certain situations to trained psychologists and other professionals during non-violent crimes.
Scott said he didn’t mind looking at reform and defunding, however there needed to be some middle ground and a compelling proposal that takes into account the police’s point of view.
There were plans to put more money into the public safety departments included in the bond up for a vote on Nov. 2. Nearly $24.8 million would be put into public safety departments. The bond passed with a nearly 74% approval rating.
Valdez said it would be ideal for APD to see the data and keep the public’s opinion in mind when making future decisions.
“The public widely supports police but also supports police accountability and this is a form of police accountability,” Valdez said.
Valdez said the reforms proposed on the survey would help the public feel safe in their communities.
Talullah Begaye is a reporter for NM News Port and can be reach @thbegaye on twitter.