Editor’s note: The original version of this story contained quotes attributed to Mayor Tim Keller that were actually from Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, and it included some direct quotes that should have been paraphrased. The story has been corrected. The revised article also omits incorrect information on the number of homicides so far this year compared to last year.
Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque’s “immigrant-friendly” policies will not block the city’s application for $9.7 million in federal grant money to hire 40 new officers and pay their salaries for three years, according to city officials.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Tuesday there is not an issue in the city applying for the grant money, which has been in doubt since earlier this year.
“There is a hefty amount of messaging going on about these funds,” Keller said.
U.S. Attorney John Anderson said he was a little surprised, “given the mixed messaging from the city” on the acceptance of the grant funding.
“The funding is a critical component to the anti-violence strategy,” Anderson said.
Keller said the city has about 1,000 officers and plans to meet the goal of 1,100 officers this year.
Sarita Nair, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the grant would help offset the cost of the 100 additional officers.
She said the grant application will be sent to the City Council for approval because it requires the city to agree to continue to fund the officers hired under the grant after it expires.
The money from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services was offered to the city earlier this year after DOJ announced Operation Relentless Pursuit.
The grant pays for entry-level salaries for 40 police officers for three years.
The Relentless Pursuit initiative was replaced by Operation Legend after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. But the plan for that operation is essentially the same – 25 federal agents will be sent to Albuquerque to beef up existing task forces focused on violent crime.
The grant money allows the city to hire more officers to replace veteran officers who are assigned to the federal task forces.
One of the main goals of Operation Relentless Pursuit, now Operation Legend, is to increase the ability to prosecute cases in federal court by increasing the number of federal agents and local police assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force.
The sticking point appeared to be a few sections of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Department of Justice that deal with immigration.
For instance, the memorandum of understanding the city must sign allows for an audit of city employee forms to determine whether the workers are legally in the United States.
Another section requires the city to share immigration information it collects, but the city doesn’t collect such information, so it has nothing to share.
There was no requirement in the grant application that police officers inquire about a person’s immigration status during the normal course of their duties.
Nair said the city was able to confirm that its immigrant-friendly resolutions were consistent with federal requirements.
Normally, a COPS grants requires local governments to provide “matching funds” — a percentage of the overall grant — but the Department of Justice waived that requirement, according to Anderson.
“The city doesn’t have to put up a dime,” Anderson said. “The grant is considered a critical component to drive down violent crime.”