'I want to bring new leadership to the police department. I want to bring in a new police chief' Mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes
‘Out of control’ crime holding ABQ back, she says
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Former police Officer Michelle Garcia Holmes believes that until Albuquerque solves its crime problem, it will languish and not reach its full potential. That potential involves becoming a premier vacation destination, a place where businesses want to move, and a place that people see as an ideal location to start a business, she said.
“I think crime is out of control in Albuquerque. We have to make Albuquerque safe again,” Holmes said in explaining her decision to run for mayor.
“I want to be the mayor that takes care of the crime issue and then bring Albuquerque back to the jewel it is. Once we start to reduce crime issues, I think Albuquerque is going to be one of those places where businesses want to come to.”
To start, Holmes would fire Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, get the department on track to meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s reform recommendations, ramp up APD’s recruiting efforts so the department has 1,100 cops and slowly return the department’s focus to community policing efforts.
“I want to bring new leadership to the police department. I want to bring in a new police chief,” she said. The new chief must be someone “who believes in communication and who believes in working with the DOJ.”
“I understand there are divisions of the department that have come into compliance [with the settlement agreement], so what is hindering us from doing that departmentwide?” she asked.
“I want a police chief who will understand the police department as a whole and understand the DOJ mandate and who is a good communicator and who can collaborate with other agencies,” she said. “That will be crucial in achieving my goal of reducing crime.”
To bring APD’s ranks up to 1,100 officers, Holmes, who after leaving APD worked as chief of staff to state Attorney General Gary King, said she’d run three training academy classes a year, each with 50 to 60 cadets. In her first year, she’d run an academy for 50 police service aides. Those aides would respond to calls that don’t require uniformed officers, and the aides often go on to become police officers, Holmes said.
Not only will it take more cops to reduce crime, but it will take collaboration and cooperation between the police department and other law enforcement agencies such as the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, the courts and probation officials, Holmes said.
She wants to see APD embark on what she called “Problem Oriented Policing” in which cops and neighborhood associations work together to identify certain crime problems and then attack them. “You can resolve issues if you communicate with neighborhoods,” Holmes said. “I would encourage whichever police I hire to endorse POP projects. We have to be innovative because of the smaller department.”
Holmes said she would also like to see APD restart a gang resistance program in middle schools and make more less-than-lethal force options available to cops in the field. “We need something that can create more distance between officers and offenders. We have a lot of less-lethal weapons out there, and training officers in less-lethal weapons is a good thing.”
To help boost the city’s struggling economy, Holmes said, she would focus on Albuquerque’s positives and work on increasing tourism.
“We have a beautiful city here. We are a premier vacation destination. The next mayor has to address the economic issue and hone in on tourism,” she said. “Why don’t we have two balloon fiestas? Why don’t we have a bike ride? We need to have more events throughout the city and have them throughout the year so we can have an influx of tourism.
“I would love to see people hike the La Luz Trail, jump on a bike and ride to Tingley Beach and have a big fiesta. We need things to do here.” She would work to build a new arena in the city during her first term in office, she said.
ART and public transit
Holmes said she isn’t sure that the city will get all of the federal money it needs to complete Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. But if it is completed, she’d try to have a “Free after Five” program in which the nine-mile-long bus route on Central Avenue would be free after 5 p.m. She added that the city needs to work on expanding other bus routes, keeping buses clean and making them safe.
Finally, Holmes said she’d work to make Albuquerque better overall.
“We can’t be 50th in everything,” she said. “I want to be 25th so we can say we’re not 50th anymore.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly.