Albuquerque police on narcotic operation: ‘We’re not out there making drugs’

Albuquerque police unit sells drugs to tackle bigger problem

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Police Department asked a judge for permission to manufacture crack cocaine. However, the department explained to KRQE News 13 that is not what officers are doing at all, and addressed concerns spreading on social media.

“We’re not out there making drugs and we’re not putting drugs out onto the street,” explained Detective Brian Sallee of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Sallee has been with APD 32 years, and with the narcotics unit for more than 26 years.

He explained some of the investigative tactics detectives use to tackle drug problems in the city in APD’s “Reversal Operation.”

“This is an operation that’s done by other departments around the country, it’s not unique to just Albuquerque,” explained detective Sallee.

“Operation Reversal” refers to undercover detectives selling drugs to make arrests and curb crime. APD claims it’s nothing new.

“In the ’90s was when a lot of street-level drugs were being sold, where you had 10 or 15 people stand on street corners in some residential areas, that’s when we first started doing these back in ’92, ’93,” explained Sallee.

But recently, a local blogger sparked concern on social media with the headline, “Breaking: APD Gets Approval to Manufacture Crack Cocaine for Buy-Bust Operation.”

The department does have a judge’s permission to make crack cocaine to sell, but Sallee said APD has never had to.

“It’s one small section of it that we’ve never had to use, it got blown out of proportion,” Sallee told KRQE News 13.

In the decades they’ve done these busts, Sallee said APD has never manufactured crack.

A court order gives APD permission to take drugs from its evidence unit to “sell to individuals who are seeking to purchase drugs within the City of Albuquerque.”

Sallee pointed out drugs used in buy-bust operations are only from “cases which have already been adjudicated and the evidence was set to be destroyed.”

An affidavit outlining the operation tactics does state, “Powdered cocaine may be taken to APD’s Criminalistics Unit to be made into crack cocaine.”

However, Sallee told KRQE News 13 that APD has never had to take that step. “Unfortunately, there’s always been plenty of drugs set for destruction,” Sallee explained.

He also said when drugs are taken from evidence to use in the field, “These operations are very controlled.” Sallee said officers have never lost drugs used to sell in these operations.

The affidavit instructs officers not to solicit buyers during the busts. “They have to come to us, we’re not going to anybody and encouraging anybody to buy it, they have to come to us, they have to say they want drugs,” explained Sallee.

The veteran detective said the buy-bust operations have proven effective over the years, not only in taking drugs off the streets, but also tackling the violence and property crimes that go hand-in-hand.

Making these street level arrests, Sallee explained, has a bigger impact on cleaning up the city. Dealers take a hit and often move out when their clients are in jail, and addicts forced into the court system can often get help, Sallee explained.

He said ultimately meeting a police officer instead of a dealer, can do more good in the long run.

“A lot of times, people won’t get help until they hit rock bottom,” said Sallee. “Now they’ve got an opportunity to get help.”

The APD narcotics unit said police they have seen more street dealers surface recently, with heroin and meth often being a drug of choice.

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