'Police officers feel disrespected by R.J. Berry' - APD union head
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI AND DAN KLEIN
In January 2010, Mayor Richard Berry announced a 15-point anticrime plan that he said would drive criminals, not just out of the city but out of the region.
“We’re going to make Albuquerque a bad place to be a criminal,” Berry said in a 10-minute YouTube video.
Something went wrong, though.
The crooks apparently didn’t watch the video.
Since Berry’s first full year in office in 2010, major crime in the city – murder, rape, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies and aggravated assaults – has increased by 22 percent. Last year, property crime, which was the focus of Berry’s 2010 anticrime effort, increased by 11.5 percent, and violent crime was up 9.2 percent over 2014.
Through August of this year, auto thefts were up 30 percent over the same period in 2015, which was a near-record year. The metro area now has the second highest per-capita auto theft rate in the nation.
Berry has blamed the crime increase on judges who let repeat multiple offenders out of jail after their arrest. His recent $60,000 study on why crime is nearly out of control concluded that the problem is that there aren’t enough people in jail. Fewer people in jail means more criminals on the streets committing crimes, the study said.
Berry’s critics said he’s responsible for the increase in crime and that his policies – breaking a police union contract and cutting police pay in his first year as mayor – caused cops to flee the department.
In 2010, there were 1,065 sworn officers on the APD force. In 2015, that had fallen to 832, a 21.9 percent drop. In 2010, city cops made 31,174 arrests. Last year, that fell to 22,820, a 26.8 percent decline.
“This is simple math: Fewer cops equal more crime,” said Shawn Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association. “We are doing 125 fewer arrests a week. Does anybody wonder why the Metropolitan Detention Center doesn’t have anybody in the jail? How can the judicial branch be held accountable for arrests we’re not making?”
A New Plan
The mayor now has another crime-fighting plan. On Oct. 12, he announced a 14-point proposal that has some critics wondering what happened to the 2010 plan that was supposed to make Albuquerque a bad place to be a criminal.
Willoughby said many street cops are furious that the city’s news media, in reporting on Berry’s latest plan and his $60,000 crime study, didn’t mention the mayor’s failed 2010 plan.
“Police officers feel disrespected by R.J. Berry, and they are frustrated because no one seems to fact-check this guy or hold him accountable for the things he says,” Willoughby said. “The rank and file are sick of his studies that fit right into his political agenda.”
City Hall refused to answer questions about the mayor’s failed 2010 crime plan. Berry spokeswoman Rhiannon Samuel did respond to an initial email from ABQ Free Press Weekly seeking to talk with someone about the plan, but she answered no questions and did not make Berry or anyone else available for an interview.
ABQ Free Press Weekly looked at the major points of Berry’s 2010 plan to see what happened to them. Here are the results:
The mayor promised to put more cops on the street. In 2009, there were 468 officers assigned to answer calls. Berry promised to raise that to 500 in 2010. That never happened. By 2012, large numbers of officers were leaving the department. The number of field officers taking calls fell steadily and is now a little above 400, less than when Berry took office.
He promised to engage in regional crime fighting and partner with area district attorneys to form a multijurisdictional property crime task force. That never happened, at least according to Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, who, presumably, would have been part of such a task force. Several months ago, Brandenburg confessed that she has had virtually no communication with Chief Gorden Eden.
The mayor promised a night detective squad to target what he called “offenders who prey on victims at night.” The detectives were to use night-vision goggles. “Thieves work around-the-clock, and now we will, too,” Berry said.
A night detective shift was established but lasted less than two years because of a lack of officers, Willoughby said.
By 2012, large numbers of officers were leaving the department. The number of field officers taking calls fell steadily and is now a little above 400, less than when Berry took office
Berry promised to create an email list so block crime-watch captains could communicate with one another and share information. “We can’t do this alone. The best deterrence against crime is watchful neighbors,” Berry said.
That apparently never happened. Retired APD officer Al Ludi, a block captain in the city’s Northwest Side, tried for seven months earlier this year to get a list of phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses for block captains in his part of the city. He said APD refused to give it to him until he requested it under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
The mayor promised to create an automated notification system that would tweet a list of stolen motor vehicles every morning. He also promised to create a “property crimes” link on APD’s website where residents could communicate directly with the department’s specialized units. If these two things ever were in place, they aren’t now. There is no “property crimes” link on APD’s website.
‘Thieves work around the clock, and now we will, too’ – Mayor Richard Berry in a 2010 YouTube video
Berry promised to have businesses donate “bait” vehicles that APD could use to catch auto thieves. This appears to be one of the few things of Berry’s plan that was implemented, but it hasn’t worked. Auto thefts are up 30 percent this year.
The mayor promised to send crime scene investigators to every burglary, no matter how small. That was nothing new. CSIs have always been sent to burglaries where there is workable evidence, Willoughby said.
The mayor promised a night detective squad to target what he called ‘offenders who prey on victims at night.’ The detectives were to use night-vision goggles
Berry’s other initiatives included asking the Legislature to strengthen the state’s “Three strikes” law, which hasn’t happened, and he promised to publish the mug shots of property crimes suspects, which did happen.
Willoughby said that many things in Berry’s 2010 plan would have worked if his policies had not caused APD to shrink.
“Berry inherited a good, well-managed, well-producing machine in the APD, and he has destroyed it,” Willoughby said. “He has to take personal responsibility for what he has done as commander in chief of this city.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at email@example.com Dan Klein is a retired APD sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.