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Editorial: ABQ transit board wrong to shut van doors on APD

A resolution approved by the Albuquerque Transit Advisory Board earlier this month says using transit vehicles for policing “negatively impacts” the transit department’s image and public trust.

It’s almost funny, considering we’re talking about the image and trust in the same department in charge of the ART. It’s truly disturbing, considering a new survey shows the vast majority of Albuquerque Police Department officers feel unsupported by city officials.

In a city plagued by crime and homelessness, one would think the departments are meant to partner to promote public safety. Apparently one would think wrong.

TAB chairman Israel Chávez introduced the resolution after speaking with a total of one, albeit a seemingly very influential, “community member” concerned about using transit vehicles to transport riot police to protests. Yet both departments are funded by taxpayers who expect cooperation, not bureaucratic turf wars. Would Chávez and the TAB prefer no police presence when rioters start smashing windows and setting fires? Should officers all Uber and bill the taxpayers?

ABQRide used its buses and drivers to ferry Albuquerque police officers to protests that began in late May. An ABQRide spokesman said it recently switched to lending APD decommissioned Sun Vans, which do not require a commercial driver’s license, and APD has used its own personnel to drive them. Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael says the vehicles help move police to critical situations and avoid the need for militarized vehicles. Would Chávez and the TAB prefer armored personnel carriers on scene to further ramp up emotions?

Chávez is calling on Mayor Tim Keller to end the APD/decommissioned Sun Van collaboration. Fortunately, the TAB has no authority to change city policy. Still, the TAB needs to rescind its resolution and get on board with ensuring our officers get to where they need to be in order to keep both protesters and the general public safe.

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.