On Thursday, Kassetas lost it when confronted with the fact that his department is 100 percent staffed and that it's just not true that police departments across the state are in crisis because they can't hire or retain cops
BY DAN KLEIN
It’s not just in the movies where some people can’t handle the truth.
It looks like New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas can’t deal with it, either. On Thursday, Kassetas lost it when confronted with the fact that his department is 100 percent staffed and that it’s just not true that police departments across the state are in crisis because they can’t hire or retain cops.
The Legislature’s House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee was hearing testimony Thursday on the double-dipping, return-to-work bill HB 171 that Mayor Richard Berry and others are pushing as a way to rescue the Albuquerque Police Department from Berry’s incompetence. Retired Albuquerque Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli testified that the state police don’t have a staffing issue because they were 100 percent staffed as of December 2015.
Kassetas couldn’t take it. He shouted at Dinelli, “How dare you say my agency is 100 percent filled!” Legislators then dressed Kassestas down publicly for not showing respect to witnesses appearing before them. It was an embarrassing day for New Mexico law enforcement, but it gets worse.
Dinelli was right. In November, the state police responded to ABQ Free Press questions regarding its staffing levels. At the time, the department said it was budgeted for 678 officers and that it had 642 on staff. The department also said that it had 36 cadets in the state’s Law Enforcement Training Academy and that they would graduate in December. Those cadets did indeed graduate in December. Add 642 and 36 and what do you get … 678!
Here’s the department’s response to our questions
Either Kassetas doesn’t know what his own department is doing or he’s purposely misleading the public, the media and legislators. Which one is it?
Kassetas should publicly apologize to Dinelli, but he won’t because that would mean he’d have to admit that his department is 100 percent staffed. And that would make it a lot harder to get the return-to-work bill passed.
Dan Klein, a retired Albuquerque police sergeant, is a frequent ABQ Free Press contributor.