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Brian Colón

September 11, 2017 06:57 PM

Editor's note: KOB did not edit the responses from the candidate.

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Q: How would your administration select a qualified police chief for the Albuquerque Police Department?

A: We will have new leadership in the Colón Administration. We will select a highly-qualified police chief for the Albuquerque Police Department by immediately creating a core team to lead nation-wide search for Police Chief who will be hired within 60 days. In addition, all necessary changes will also take place within the leadership of APD in conjunction with the appointment of the new Chief.   It’s time for the mayor to roll up her/his sleeves and get involved in creating the world-class department we all need and deserve.

A primary emphasis on the national search will be to find a Chief of Police who can reinstate the trust between the police department and citizens while maintaining a climate of neutrality and fairness. The new Chief of Police will have knowledge of our community and experience in dealing with DOJ will have the experience and background to build a department appropriately staffed for a city the size of Albuquerque.  We will bring in a strong leader for APD who will report directly to the mayor. The new Chief of Police will be expected to understand the importance of responsiveness to the residents of the City of Albuquerque and to bring new and innovative approaches to the issues of crime prevention, police recruitment, and the mission to protect and serve the Albuquerque community.

Q: Using specific language, what do you believe is the appropriate staffing level for sworn officers at the Albuquerque Police Department and how do you plan on achieving that level?

A: The appropriate staffing level for sworn officers at the Albuquerque Police Department is a minimum of 1,200. Within 30 months of taking office, I will increase the number of APD officers to the necessary amount and schedule and implement more aggressive enrollment strategies for new academies and candidates that recruit both within our state as well as surrounding states. The city’s budget currently funds 1,000 APD officers, an anemic force considering Albuquerque’s crime problem.  Sadly, as most residents are unaware of, in efforts to balance the city’s budget, Mayor Berry has mandated a 10% vacancy rate in the the police department. Of the 1,000 officers budgeted, as of May 2017, 839 are sworn in and only 744 are patrolling our streets.

The city will also adopt an improved recruitment strategy for APD. Reaching the optimum number of qualified officers includes increasing the number of annual academies and candidates, recruiting both within our state as well as surrounding states, and providing compensation and benefits which make APD an attractive choice. Emphasis in the curriculum will be placed on bilingual communications skills. We must listen to former officers and academy applicants and discuss what is working and fix what is not.

Q: Do you believe that the Albuquerque Police Department is properly funded? Please explain your answer.

A: Safety is the first priority of the Colón Administration and APD must have the resources to protect our community. We must have our values represented through our budget. To fully understand if APD is properly funded, a comprehensive and exhaustive review must take place of the existing budget. A complete budget review of all existing policies and public safety expenditures will take place day one of the Colón Administration. A full assessment of the allocated public safety resources and the use of the resources will emphasize identifying waste and inefficiencies that will be addressed and stopped.

A primary responsibility of the Mayor’s office is to be fiscally accountable for public funds. All efforts possible should be undertaken to address issues of public safety through better budgeting and allocation of existing resources. Focused and financially effective policies and programs are the only way that we will be able to take back our streets and our community.

Q: From 2010-2016, auto thefts in Albuquerque increased by 177 percent. What specific ideas do you have to reverse that trend?

A: The APD’s Property Crime/Auto Theft Task Force will be rebuilt and expanded to include a designated attorney and police officers to immediately investigate and prosecute these crimes. As an immediate response, the task force will marshall all required law enforcement staffing and resources necessary to target the areas of the city most afflicted with the highest levels of crime. A visible and strategic presence of effective public safety must be created. We must stop criminals in their footsteps. As a critical step in establishing effective involvement, the task force will work on a mobile basis, visiting all areas of the City and consistently hold public meetings.  We need similar teams for residential and commercial investigations and must build up and reinstitute our diminished Narcotics & Gang Task Forces.

Q: In the same time frame, homicides in Albuquerque increased by 52 percent and robberies increased by 97 percent. What specific ideas do you have to reduce violent crime in Albuquerque?

A: Law enforcement leadership against violent crime will become the forefront of Albuquerque City Hall under the Colón Administration. The first step in deterring violent crime in our city is to create an effective and visible police presence with an emphasis on Constitutional and Community policing principles. Providing a direct, clear, and evident police force as an integral part of the community and neighborhoods will be a critical start in restoring public confidence in law enforcement. National studies have consistently demonstrated that the safest communities are communities where law enforcement is highly visible and respected.

Community engagement is the cornerstone of an effective public safety strategy, thus, reducing violent crime, as well as, all crime. Valued businesses and community and social leaders of our city will be asked to directly engage with the Colón Administration on the issue of public safety. A comprehensive operational public safety plan will immediately be developed and executed throughout the entire city. We will include all businesses, large and small and all neighborhoods housing all of our residents.

The Colón Administration will create and strongly support programs which focus on the prevention of crime and violence at an early age through preschool education, recreation, neighborhood, and employment programs targeted for youth. Additional programs will include substance abuse treatment, victim’s assistance programs, economic development, and job training and creation. Gang prevention strategies will be further developed and enhanced to promote school literacy, workforce skills, and agency cooperation. Social media will be utilized to market and promote public safety projects involving city residents.

Q: There is much distrust in local law enforcement right now. According to the 2017 Garrity Perception Survey, only 55 percent of respondents stated police officers are trustworthy people. How would you change that perception?

A: As Mayor, I will address the current distrust issue between the Albuquerque Police Department and city residents by immediately replacing Chief Eden and all necessary APD leadership which will begin the process of rebuilding the trust and morale between the rank and file, the leadership of APD and the community. An operating climate of neutrality, fairness and consistency will will created between APD and the City of Albuquerque. Showing both the men and women of law enforcement and the community the respect deserved and due will be a critical step in restoring the positive and productive climate necessary for our city.

Reinvigorating and expanding effective constitutional community policing is another critical element in restoring confidence in law enforcement. It is time for Albuquerque to utilize the previous commitment made through the substations built throughout our city. Effective Community Policing Programs center on the idea that neighborhood-based policing and community partnerships focus on the causes of crime, social disorder, and fear of crime. Under a Colón Administration, engaged neighborhood residents who live and work in a community will become valuable assets in the war against crime. Bilingual officers will be integrated throughout the city to address the needs of Spanish speaking residents.

Q: In recent months, APD’s public information staff has been accused of lying, destroying and tampering with evidence to help APD’s image and intentionally misleading the public and local media. What expectations would you set to ensure the public has a transparent view into the Albuquerque Police Department?

A: The Colón Administration will provide the necessary leadership required to make our city safe again. Transparency and accountability will be the cornerstones of the relationship between City Hall, APD and the residents of the City of Albuquerque. Dishonesty will not be tolerated.  A citywide public safety action plan will be developed and implemented immediately. A public safety plan for the southeast area command and greater downtown area will include an increased number of police on the ground and harsher penalties for all infractions. We must send a message to criminals that even minor crimes will no longer be tolerated.

The DOJ mandate must be used to guide our police department to create permanent, effective, and sustainable solutions. A critical step in restoring public confidence is the swift compliance with the DOJ mandate which not only means a safer city, but also allows a newly-appointed Chief of Police the autonomy and leadership that has been lacking. The failure on the part of the City of Albuquerque to comply completely and immediately with the proposed DOJ reforms has set back improvements with the APD. Immediate compliance with the DOJ mandates must take place immediately. Without the effective and complete resolution of the troubled past of APD, permanent, effective, and sustainable solutions are not possible. We must commit to getting 100% in compliance with the DOJ and send them packing. Complying with the DOJ mandates must be based upon constitutional policing principles and respecting and protecting the civil liberties of the community.

Q: What kind of legislative bills would you instruct City of Albuquerque lobbyists to advocate and advance in the New Mexico State Legislature? Please be specific.

A: The legislation that City of Albuquerque lobbyists will advocate and advance in the New Mexico State Legislature under the Colón Administration will focus strongly on the issue of public safety. We must address systemic issues of crime and violence through legislative initiatives that begin the necessary work to change the culture of criminality that has overtaken our community. Comprehensive legislative reforms will be a critical element in effectively addressing the issue of crime and public safety.

Legislation addressing the root causes of arrest and incarceration due to a lack of appropriate reintegration programs, mental health and substance abuse treatment is of critical need and will be strongly supported by the Colón Administration. Legislation will be advocated that mandates “...the Behavioral Health Services Department to “create a framework of targeted, individualized interventions” for non-violent adult and juvenile offenders with behavioral health diagnoses.” The benefits of such a program will include a reduction in “recidivism, detention and incarceration through strategies such as supportive housing, public assistance, behavioral health therapy, medical assistance and employment training.” People with mental health needs include “...56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of jail inmates.”

Additional legislation supported by the Colón Administration will remove incarceration as a option for minor Traffic Code violations and subsequently subject the offender only to a monetary fine. This legislation will prioritize judicial resources since currently, any charge carrying potential jail time qualifies individuals for Public Defender representation. Additionally, the resources of the Judiciary, District Attorneys, and Public Defender in enforcing serious crime will be maximized. Already strained judicial resources will be saved “...because many traffic misdemeanors are “officer-prosecuted,” giving citizens the option of paying a fine without ever going to court frees up countless law enforcement man-hours to keep our communities safer.”

Further legislation supported by the Colón Administration will include the elimination of the “check the box”/private employer conviction inquiries. Such legislation would place the State of New Mexico in line judicially by recognizing that “...nearly two-thirds of the entire U.S. population, over 206 million people—now live in a jurisdiction with a ban-the-box policy that requires public and sometimes private employers to delay record-related inquiries. As of year’s end, 24 states and over 150 cities and counties across the nation have adopted some form of ban-the-box or fair-chance policy”. This legislation will not prevent an employer from inquiring into a job applicant’s prior behavior, it simply delays the inquiry to as later point in the process. Such a policy will help reduce recidivism and provides increased access to jobs for parents of many New Mexico families.

Q: Conversations about reducing crime must go hand-in-hand with addressing the city’s economy and job opportunities. What will you do to improve Albuquerque’s economic health?

A: The relationship between crime and public safety issues and the health of the economy has been historically documented. Deeply rooted issues such as poverty and mental illness have reached unique and unprecedented levels. Any effective public safety program must address these broad public policy issues. The policies of the Safe City/Smart City Albuquerque advocated by Colón Administration includes three main issues Public Safety, Job Creation & Economic Growth, and Education. The crime epidemic has more than one root, as we improve our schools and create employment, many of the issues involving public safety and security will improve.

My administration will be a solid supporter of the business community by advocating for public private partnerships, spearheading improvements in our city which will provide jobs, promote growth, and provide for the health, comfort, and happiness for Albuquerque residents. We need to consider all possible means to enhance economic growth and job creation. Assistance and incentives will be provided for all types and sizes of Albuquerque businesses. Every business owner in Albuquerque has skin in the game and a commitment to our city’s success. We must give them the resources, programs and partnerships they need to grow their business. They are the best targets for creating jobs in Albuquerque. Our local businesses don’t come and go when the winds blow or the tides change. Instead, they stand tall and continue to do business, employ Albuquerque’s residents and tell our story that includes a rich history of resilience.

Q: Are there best practices from other cities that have a proven record of success in reducing crime that you would like to try in Albuquerque? What are those ideas and how would you implement them?

A: We must take steps to reinvigorate and expand effective community policing. It is time for Albuquerque to utilize the previous commitment made through the underutilized substations built throughout our city. Effective Community Policing Programs center on the idea that neighborhood-based policing and community partnerships focus on the causes of crime, social disorder, and fear of crime. Under a Colón Administration, engaged neighborhood residents who live and work in a community will become valuable assets in the war against crime. It is of great importance that we work to ensure that the men and women of our police force reflect the diversity of our community. We need to integrate bilingual officers throughout the city to address the needs of Spanish-speaking residents. To further enhance the community understanding of law enforcement, the existing Albuquerque Citizen’s Police Academy will provide bilingual programs to members of the community to teach APD policies and guiding principles.

A coordinated and effective information sharing system involving federal, state and local law enforcement consistent with Safe City/Smart City Albuquerque principles will be modeled after systems successfully utilized by other major U.S. cities. Development of an effective crime prevention and control data system will include expanding the use of existing programs such as the ACT Now criminal justice system data sharing program.

We can also benefit from Bernalillo County’s efforts with the Behavioral Health Initiative. It's time to not just fund programs but to use bricks and mortar to create a facility to triage the needs of folks in our community who are struggling with the issues of behavioral health, mental health and addiction.  This not allow supports those in need, but also is a component of addressing our public safety issues and resources in our current health facilities like the UNM Emergency Room.  We are spending excessive resources in responding to repeated calls for folks who are publicly intoxicated and often passed out in our streets and sidewalks.  There is a better way to deal with these situations than having law enforcement and first responders on each and every one of these calls.

Under the new Colón Administration, work will take place directly to encourage collaboration between, public and private entities to address the issue of mental health and substance abuse. The next mayor must encourage substance abuse experts to work with Drug and DWI Courts to effectively combat addiction in our community.  It is important to utilize the financial resources available through the city, county, and state to create and expand effective mental health treatment programs. Law enforcement must integrate mental health training to help identify mental illness and effective ways to interact with those individuals.

KOB

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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