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The Albuquerque Police Department’s Open Space Unit – responsible for patrolling river, mountain and mesa areas – is being disbanded to put more officers on the street.
Rebecca Atkins, an APD spokeswoman, said the four officers and one sergeant assigned to the unit will work as patrol officers in the field.
The unit has done everything from body retrieval in the Rio Grande to search-and-rescue operations in the river, mountains and other remote areas around the city.
“The officers are moving to work in the field,” she said. “The decision was made to reallocate resources.”
Atkins said police service aides, or PSAs, will be taking over the unit’s duties when it comes to opening and closing gates in the city’s open space, and will have an increased presence in those areas.
“They will also be able to alert officers to any areas of concern,” she said.
Multiple city councilors raised questions about the change during their meeting Monday.
Councilor Louie Sanchez said he worried what would become of the expensive equipment purchased for the open space division – such as airboats – and questioned the wisdom of replacing specialized officers accustomed to patrolling more remote areas with PSAs.
“Using PSAs is going to be a dangerous situation,” he said.
Atkins said New Mexico State Police holds primary responsibility on search and rescue, and “will continue to take the lead on those efforts moving forward.”
For assistance in search-and-rescue missions and river operations, she said there will be a core group of APD field officers on call – trained to operate the airboat and other functions.
Atkins said the changes will not go into effect until February 2023.
Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.