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Editorial: BCSO’s sweep through Southeast ABQ was graceless but effective

It’s inter-departmental law enforcement politics 101: If you’re planning to send several dozen deputies into a neighboring jurisdiction for a special operation, you call first.

Maybe more than a few hours in advance.

And you probably invite them to join in.

Last week, when the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office planned and executed a surge-style patrol operation within city boundaries – without much more than a few hours’ notice to the Albuquerque Police Department – Sheriff Manny Gonzales pretty much skipped the Miss Manners niceties.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos was as circumspect as any diplomat in his comments to Journal reporter Elise Kaplan, but he noted BCSO only notified his department on the very eve of the Sept. 4 effort to saturate Southeast Albuquerque with uniforms – and didn’t ask for APD’s participation when it did.

“We do this work every day, and it’s great when other agencies want to pitch in every once in a while to help,” Gallegos added.

It may be close to 90 outside, but brr.

Gonzales, on the other hand, referred to the surge as “extreme collaboration.” If only the sheriff could produce lapel camera footage to back that claim up.

Snark aside, that’s actually part of the problem. Kaplan reported that Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier has been open to welcoming BCSO patrols in city limits if Gonzales would agree that his deputies should wear body cameras while patrolling in the city and submit to other APD policies set by the U.S. Department of Justice. Gonzales, whose stance against body-worn cameras has been as ardent as it is wrong-headed, has refused.

There are a lot of reasons that law enforcement agencies with overlapping or neighboring jurisdictions work best when they work collaboratively. Wise law enforcement leaders generally take their cue from the old song and try not to “rush in.” But Gonzales’ ham-handedness notwithstanding, we get it.

Because first, the sheriff’s office was actually approached by a group of business owners fed up with crime in their neighborhood. And that’s understandable. If you were a small business owner just doing your job – and contributing mightily to the local economy, by the way – and you had someone trying to camp on your roof? Or wield a knife in your vicinity? The people of Southeast Albuquerque have every right to feel not enough is being done, inter-departmental politics be damned.

And second, just consider the results. During the Sept. 4 operation, deputies arrested 17 people on felony charges and another dozen on misdemeanors. In two prior operations, sheriff’s deputies reportedly made 39 felony arrests along with 11 misdemeanor arrests and impounded 17 rifles, several pistols, 40 to 50 pounds of methamphetamine and more than three pounds of heroin.

That’s a lot of bad things off the streets of Albuquerque. At the end of the day, local residents don’t care about jurisdictional turf wars or agency-to-agency politics. They want to feel safe in their own homes and communities.

Gonzales would do better to actually work with other law enforcement agencies, especially those with which he shares jurisdictional territory. And he needs to understand cameras protect the public and his deputies. But considering his results, it’s hard to say he’s working against them.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.