Mayoral candidates Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson both agree that crime is out of control in Albuquerque, but they offered markedly different plans on Monday for how to address the crisis.
The two Republicans unveiled their competing crime fighting plans within 30 minutes of each other, Lewis releasing his at a news conference at 4 p.m. and Johnson emailing his plan to reporters at 4:30 p.m.
Lewis, a city councilor and one of eight candidates on the mayoral ballot, said he would significantly boost police officer pay, demand strict punishment for all traffic violations and all crimes that injure people and their property, and give the public the information they need to hold judges accountable.
“We have a war being waged against us in this city, and we’re not winning right now. We’ve got to stop this insanity,” Lewis said during his news conference.
Johnson, a Bernalillo County commissioner, also wants to increase the number of law enforcement officers on the streets, but in addition to working to fully staff the Albuquerque Police Department, he said he would work with law enforcement partners on the county, state and federal levels to prosecute repeat offenders.
“The goal will be to identify the 20 percent of criminals who commit 80 percent of the crime and send them to prison where they belong,” Johnson said.
Johnson also wants to narrow the scope of the Department of Justice settlement agreement, arguing that the current agreement is “overly broad and burdensome.” The city entered into that agreement after a DOJ investigation found Albuquerque police had a pattern and practice of excessive force, which included numerous shootings by police.
Johnson wants to renegotiate that agreement so that it focuses only on excessive force and so that it contains clear and objective performance measures and no longer encompasses matters like recruitment and public engagement.
He said he would also bring in a police chief who shares his view that officers be empowered to make decisions in the field. Johnson’s plan also includes creating a robust behavioral health system. The city and county are already working together in this area, and Johnson said he would like to see a regional behavioral health authority with Rio Rancho, Sandoval County, Valencia County, Los Lunas, Edgewood and others. He said one priority should be a crisis triage center to prevent those with serious behavioral health problems from spiraling out of control and becoming a danger to the community.
“My crime reduction strategy addresses the current crime crisis, builds a foundation for sustainable security and prioritizes taking back the Albuquerque Police Department from Obama’s disastrous Department of Justice process,” Johnson told the Journal. “Creating a safe and prosperous Albuquerque will be my top priority.”
Lewis, meanwhile, said fully staffing APD begins with aggressively increasing base pay for first-year officers, officers with five years or more of experience, and sergeants and lieutenants. Lewis said that if he is elected, he would immediately propose a $15 million increase in officer pay.
The city’s police force currently has about 850 officers, and Lewis said his goal is to staff the department with 1,200 officers. APD, he said, has one of the best-funded and most generous pensions in the nation in PERA, and Albuquerque should use that to recruit the many good officers nationwide who are losing their pensions due to those pension systems failing.
As for holding judges accountable, Lewis noted that judges are elected. He said his administration would develop a scorecard by which voters can “judge the judges” on their decisions to release or keep “dangerous and repeat criminals” in jail.
Other highlights of his plan include:
• A national search for a new police chief.
• Working with the county to create a joint city-county police and fire emergency dispatch center.
• Complying with and completing the court-approved settlement agreement and “sending DOJ back to Washington.”