ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No Albuquerque Police Department officers have tested positive for novel coronavirus, but officials worry it’s just a matter of time before someone is infected.
In a briefing earlier this week, Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Michael Geier discussed the lessons they have learned from other departments across the country grappling with the pandemic. The city now has a three-tiered system in place to replace field officers with those in investigative units as officers have to be isolated after possible exposure or put in quarantine due to the virus.
“I think the unfortunate thing is at some point this is probably going to happen,” Keller said Monday. “Some of our officers and some of our first responders are going to come down with corona. The key is that we’re able to contain that spread. So that’s what we’re setting up now, and that’s what, unfortunately, a lot of these other departments did not have in place in advance.”
Geier said officers or civilian staffers who think they may have been exposed to coronavirus – either on or off the job – are told to report it to a lieutenant who has been designated to coordinate the department’s response. The officers or staffers are then isolated, sometimes in hotel rooms away from their families, until they can be tested.
However, taking officers out of the field periodically can greatly reduce the ranks.
Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said there are 340 active-duty field officers, with 12 to 26 staffing each shift, depending on the time of day and area command.
To prevent a significant impact on the department’s ability to respond to calls, Geier said, APD has implemented a three-tiered system to pull officers from specialized units and put them into the field.
He said that, in the first tier, the department has identified 135 officers and 35 supervisors who can be pulled without affecting any investigative units. The second tier taps further into investigative units and includes an additional 39 officers and six supervisors.
“The last tier, which we hope won’t happen, utilizes both Tier 1 and Tier 2, and an additional 215 officers 50 supervisors,” Geier said. “It’s going to significantly impact all but the most critical investigative units.”