City Councilor calls out Albuquerque police for focus on SWAT

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A city councilor is calling out Albuquerque police, concerned the department is too often calling on its SWAT officers.

“We’re supposed to be making people safer not trying to use our tools and toys more often,” said City Councilor Pat Davis.

He worries APD is putting too much emphasis on its specialized units, like SWAT and K-9s, as it plans for next year’s budget, asking for an increase of nearly $7 million.

“When we look at a budget that says, we’re expecting to use new money to double the number of activations by a tactical team, that should raise red flags,” Davis said.

In the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, APD estimates it will use officers from teams like SWAT or the Bomb Squad 800 times, a huge number compared with previous years. In 2015, that number was 178 and in 2014 it was at 394.

However, APD said that is because the department is tracking that number differently for the Department of Justice.

“We have to show them the statistics more clearly,” said Celina Espinoza, a spokesperson with APD.

Espinoza said APD is still working out some kinks to get an accurate number that will now account for, not just huge SWAT scenes, but also any time an individual SWAT officer might provide support on a call, or even do a routine service call himself or herself to help short-staffed field officers.

So, APD said they are using them more but in a variety of ways.

“It is looking at the abilities of these highly trained individuals and looking at how we can use them best in the city,” Espinoza said.

For instance, she said K-9s are being used more when serving arrest warrants for repeat criminals, hoping that the dog’s presence alone will keep the situation from getting out of control.

“Sometimes a dog is a perfect de-escalation technique and an offender sees that dog and goes, ‘Alright, I’m done,’ and comes right into compliance with the officer,” Espinoza said.

“We need to see metrics to show how that work lowers our crime rate and puts community policing, like these substations and reopens them,” Davis said.

Davis plans to open up the discussion as the Council now works toward approving the city budget.

The City Council has until end of June to approve it.

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