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Plan uses retired police to fight property crime

Call 911 in the future and – if it’s a non-emergency call – a retired police officer working for a private company might show up at your door.

A bipartisan pair of city councilors has introduced legislation that would allow the city to hire a private security firm that employs retired officers to respond to non-emergency property crime calls, like thefts, where there is no suspect or threat.

The pilot project will bring about 25 former officers to several of the busiest police area commands in the city for the next year at a cost of about $1.3 million. They would not be commissioned and would not carry firearms, but they would have backgrounds in law enforcement and scene investigation.

Mayor Richard Berry announced the plan last week as part of a 14-point agenda he has to fight increasing crime rates, especially property crimes, citywide.

City Councilors Pat Davis, a Democrat, and Brad Winter, a Republican, are sponsoring the bill.

Berry said he’s unaware of another city trying a similar proposal. He has unsuccessfully been pushing for return-to-work legislation that would allow the city to rehire retired police officers who could continue to work while collecting a pension in an effort to grow the size of the city’s police force. There are currently about 830 Albuquerque police officers even though the city is budgeted for 1,000 officers.

The mayor said he expects the contractors to do a variety of things to help build cases, including collect fingerprints, write reports and help answer the public’s questions. That will allow APD’s commissioned police officers to be more proactive.

Police Chief Gorden Eden said the contractors wouldn’t try to make arrests. He said they will take reports and do basic crime scene investigations, then turn the investigative files and evidence over to Albuquerque police officers who would continue the case.

“It’s thinking outside of the box, but it makes a lot of sense,” Winter said. “It’s a great program.”

Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, questioned many of logistics of the idea.

He said there are unanswered questions about what type of training the contractors would need, what they would wear and how they would interact with police officers. And he said a better alternative would be to just hire additional Police Service Aides.

“It’s privatizing policing in the city of Albuquerque,” Willoughby said. “There are so many questions and not any answers.”

Winter said the original plan was to sole-source the contract to a local firm, which would have been allowable because it’s a “pilot project.” But he said because of concerns about sole sourcing the contract, the legislation will be modified so that there is a competitive bid for the proposal.

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