ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden in a special order told officers not to arrest certain suspects in low-level misdemeanor crimes and instead issue them citations.
But Eden said police still have discretion when it comes to arresting or issuing a citation for the offenses.
“If the arrest is necessary, the officer will include the reason in the narrative of the corresponding incident report,” he said in the order, which was issued May 10.
The chief issued the order as part of a recent settlement agreement the city entered into in a decades-old lawsuit related to jail conditions and arrest procedures in Albuquerque.
The crimes affected by the order include drinking in public, marijuana possession, prostitution, some shoplifting crimes, littering, panhandling, criminal trespasses and others.
Police will still enforce those laws; they just won’t take people to jail unless there are other factors for doing so.
Whether the person has a permanent address cannot be the only factor, Eden said.
The chief also advised officers to take people to Metropolitan Court and allow them to take care of misdemeanor warrants instead of taking them to jail in some circumstances.
“This order in no way restricts officers’ discretion to make arrests when necessary to protect the public. Citations have always been an available option for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses,” Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman said in a prepared statement.
“This special order and video remind officers to issue citations ‘when appropriate’ and ‘when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest.’ We are still aggressively pursuing repeat offenders, and this order does not change an officer’s ability to arrest.”