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Michelle Garcia Holmes

September 05, 2017 07:00 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: I will create a panel of former law enforcement Chiefs and experts in the field of public safety to assist me in selecting our next Police Chief and bring in an interim Chief while the selection is being made. I know from experience the type of Chief that Albuquerque needs and the skills he or she must possess to lead our department effectively. The next Chief should understand our unique culture and possess a proven history of results, leadership, honesty and integrity. Our next Police Chief will be available to the media, the public and other law enforcement agencies. The Chief will be the public spokesperson for the Police Department.  There will be no political hires in my administration. I want to remove politics out of our policing and focus on making Albuquerque safe.  I worked for five different mayors, seven different police chiefs, and for the top law enforcement officer of the state.  My experience will help me select a Police Chief that will serve the needs of our City.

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: I will work to bring APD up to the 1000 budgeted officers and then I will work with the city council next budget cycle to create a budget for 1300 officers.  I am looking to a future of a robust Community Policing Model for Albuquerque.  I will evaluate APD’s recruiting and training practices as well, and make changes as necessary to help get to our goal.  We also need to continue lateral recruitment. Aggressive recruiting efforts need to be made.   I will continue with an active recruiting and training process until we have achieved an optimum number of officers needed for a city our size to utilize the Community Policing Model.  As the next Mayor of Albuquerque, I will work closely with my Police Chief and make recommendations, drawn from my past law enforcement experience, to help guide well informed decisions and policy for public safety in our City.   People of Albuquerque like the Community Policing Model.   During my time as a police officer, I worked under the first community policing model in Albuquerque.  This model requires more officers and right now we are only budgeted for 1000 officers.  Under a public safety priority administration like mine, I will constantly work to achieve a goal of 1300 officers. I know it will be tough, however, considering the burgeoning crime problem we are facing, it will be necessary in order for our city streets to be safe and for officers to have the assistance they need.

To ensure a constant supply of police recruits, I will develop a proper cadet feeder program for new PSAs. I will focus recruiting efforts on graduating high school seniors, CNM and universities and local working adults. The new leadership of the Police Department will motivate our police officers to be the hard-working, dedicated, professionals that our community expects, deserves and desperately needs.

It is time for a safe city and to stop the revolving door.

Q: Do you feel the Albuquerque Police Department is properly funded? Please explain.

A: I do not believe the Albuquerque Police Department is properly funded.  In the current crime epidemic, we are facing we need to ensure that officers and detectives have the equipment and staffing in place that is needed to ensure crime is dealt with appropriately.  We have inadequate staffing levels which enhances our current crime issues.  Calls are not being answered, people are less inclined to call the police if they think they will take a long time to arrive, and less likely to report crime if they think there are no officers available.  If crime is not reported our crime data becomes skewed.  It is imperative we are always working with accurate data.  The data helps police departments fight crime. We must have adequate staffing levels, proper funding and we must make our city safe.

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

A: I have drafted a Crime Impact Program which has more details and can be reviewed at Michelle4mayor.org

Overcoming Albuquerque’s auto theft problem starts with creating working relationships and teamwork.  To solve this problem, you must have working knowledge of how and why crimes are committed and then how to address the problem in order to resolve it. 

My Auto Theft Action Plan centers around two investigatory teams: A Regional Auto Theft Unit and a Local Auto Theft Unit to work in a coordinated effort to address this crime.

 As the Chief of Staff for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, I worked with one of our United States Congressmen’s office to have the United States Border Patrol check all U.S. outbound vehicles into Mexico, especially those during the early morning hours, to determine if they are stolen. I recommended that USBP focus on determining if the driver was the same as the registered owner and through VIN inspection.  The reason is because many vehicles can be driven to the boarder in four hours. Often times, the vehicle is across the border before the victim reports the vehicle is missing.  I received feedback that this was a very successful approach and I will ensure we are working with our border patrol agents for successful recovery of stolen vehicles. 

The Albuquerque Police Chief will create a new Albuquerque Regional Auto Theft Team (ARATT). The Team will have members assigned from all the Metro Law enforcement agencies who wish to participate, including the District Attorney’s offices. This team will be tasked with investigating all auto thefts that have a cross jurisdiction connection. If a vehicle is stolen in Albuquerque, but is recovered outside of the city limit, the ARATT team will take investigatory responsibility for that investigation. That includes all comprehensive audits of auto salvage yards, used auto dealers, auto auctions and stolen vehicles recovered outside of the metro area. The team will regularly review and investigate suspicious internet sales of cars to stop a potential avenue to resell stolen cars and car parts. 

The ARATT team will be pro-active and use the bait cars which can be provided by our auto insurance companies.  This has been done in the past and is a very effect way to be pro-active in the community. 

The ARATT team will provide the criminal intelligence and information to all the metropolitan area law enforcement.  This team will reach into areas where currently auto thieves operate without worry of police investigation. 

A regional cooperative approach provides the extra layer of investigative ability that our current Albuquerque Auto Theft Unit doesn’t currently have available and that is a must for controlling this crime.  It is an added benefit for adjoining cities as well. 

The Albuquerque Auto Theft Unit (ATU) will be the 2nd team investigating auto theft in Albuquerque. The ATU will focus on all auto thefts within the city limits and will be responsible for all investigations and will link local auto thieves to additional local crimes such as home burglaries and armed robberies. The ATU will work closely with the Albuquerque Police Burglary and Robbery units when stolen cars are used in these crimes.   

The ATU will conduct in-depth interviews with all in-custody auto theft offenders on a 24 hour a day basis (on-call).   Auto theft offenders have a wealth of information on co-conspirators and associate offenders involved in other criminal activity.  Therefore, it is imperative that comprehensive interviews be completed before suspects are transported to jail and charged. Information gathered from these interviews will be shared with ARATT and appropriate agencies so all the law enforcement jurisdictions are kept up to date.  

Public participation plays a role as part of the solution to the auto theft problem. Posting of weekly crime prevention and education strategies for the public and instituting a hot-line so citizens who have information about an auto theft ring can help drive critical information quickly to the police. We need to leverage the Crime Stoppers Unit and let the citizens know that there is always tipster money available concerning information on auto theft thieves and organized criminal rings. I want to incorporate new Innovative Crime Prevention programs that will help identify stolen vehicles. One successful program is where citizens can put an anti-auto theft sticker in the window of their car which authorizes police to stop their vehicles between 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This will encourage police to stop participating vehicles without suspicious circumstances being required.  Several other states are doing this and have found it to be a great tool to add to the prevention toolbox. 

To drive auto theft down, I want to collaborate with all the stakeholders. We need our auto theft investigators to also work closely with MVD to ensure that vehicles being registered as “salvaged or “re-built” have in-depth Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) checks done by highly trained employees and every re-registered car is checked through the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) to ensure they are not a stolen vehicle. 

My Chief will be active in addressing the problem, not from his/her office but from the front line. I want the Chief to be available to the detectives and attend the multidisciplinary information sharing meetings so he/she can be available for addressing the city council for budgetary and staffing needs. 

In addition, the Automated Finger Print Identification System (AFIS) is not being fully utilized. I will seek a new state statute allowing finger prints and/or DNA found inside stolen cars to be acceptable probable cause to make an arrest. This change will give law enforcement another tool to fight auto theft. I also will ensure that evidence and stolen property found in these recovered vehicles is processed appropriately and completely to generate better criminal prosecutions, as well as new investigative leads.    Auto thefts are damaging our City’s reputation as a great location to visit or to live.  Too many times tourist’s vehicles are targeted by criminals. I will work with our Tourism Department and the Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association (GAIA) to create plans to keep every hotel/motel parking lot safe from criminal activity, thefts and auto thefts. We must protect the visitors to our City.  Lodger’s tax money is available to be utilized and I believe we can start a good discussion for coordination of efforts on how that money can also be effectively used to tackle this problem.  Coordinating our efforts to keep our tourists’ safe is also a priority for the next Mayor as tourism is directly related to promoting a strong economy.   Our auto insurance rates are going up because of our auto theft rate. Some companies are leaving New Mexico all together because of the high theft rates. We don’t have to accept this as the new normal. We must be aggressive with our enforcement and we must hold auto thieves accountable when they are caught.  

I know from my experience that the police are only one part of the solution. I will engage and open up meaningful relationships with the 2nd and 13th District Attorney’s Offices. It’s senseless to arrest auto thieves, only to have them released back out into our City and not prosecuted. I will work to ensure that the criminal cases sent to the DA’s are complete and comprehensive investigations and that the detectives are responsive and available for additional follow up and testimony. The APD Crime Lab will include auto thefts as a top priority so any forensic or lab work is completed on time and is available to the courts.  

My police management and police officers will work hand in glove with the DA’s office. We are on the same team and we must work together to get these auto thieves before a judge and jury.  I will have a new highly effective criminal case tracking system put in place that doesn’t let criminals “fall between the cracks”.  

APD and the State Probation and Parole Department have often times worked independently from each other. This disconnect has allowed auto thieves who have been placed on probation and/or mandated ankle monitors to continue to commit new crimes. I will empower our new Police Chief to develop new relationships and programs to create better coordinated efforts.       

In the past, I have seen our City use cutting edge technology to solve crime problems. For example, a few years ago Albuquerque had an epidemic bank robbery problem. The police worked with the banking industry to use new technology to apprehend these thieves. Bank robberies quickly dropped to all-time lows.

We can use new technology to help solve the auto theft problem too. I want to work with our national companies that provide vehicle recovery systems to make them affordable to our citizens. I will collaborate with our insurance companies to create incentives and a possible rebate program for users.  I want to work with our local technology companies and our universities to create the next generation of GPS vehicle recovery using smart phone applications. This technology has the possibilities of eliminating auto theft as we know it today.

My opponents have no experience in law enforcement and public safety. I spent 28 years working on public safety issues at the city level and then at the state level.  Working for five different mayors, seven different police chiefs and then the top law enforcement officer of the state, the Attorney General, equipped me with the experience needed to be a mayor that can resolve our tough crime issues.  We can’t risk our safety to amateurs at this crucial moment in time.

I was told the same 600-individuals are arrested every 6-months.  If we have that detailed data, we can get a handle on our crime problem. We already know who our repeat offenders are we just need to make sure we have follow through. 

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: I personally have worked in violent crime as a police detective. My experience can contribute to working on effective methods to address violent crime in our city.  In the last four-years, armed robbery has increased 84%.  We have had over 50 homicides this year to date. 

To solve the crime problems, you must take a multi-pronged approach because you are dealing with different types of criminals when it comes to criminals who commit violent crimes.  Some of these acts stem from drug addiction and desperation so you must have working knowledge of how and why crimes are committed and then how to address the problem in order to resolve it. As the next Mayor of Albuquerque, I will work closely with our criminal justice system and make recommendations, legislative changes and draw from my past law enforcement experience, to help guide well informed decisions and policy for public safety in our City.

My Chief will be active in addressing the problem, not from his/her office but from the front line. I want the Chief to be available to the detectives and attend the multidisciplinary information sharing meetings so he/she can be available for addressing the city council for budgetary and staffing needs. I will empower our new Police Chief to develop new relationships and programs to create better coordinated efforts.  

We must have our police management and detectives working hand in glove with the DA’s office. We are on the same team and we must work together to get these violent offenders and repeat offenders before a judge and jury.  Statistics show criminal behavior escalates with no intervention.  I will have a new highly effective criminal case tracking system put in place that doesn’t let criminals or their cases “fall between the cracks.”

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

People of Albuquerque like the Community Policing Model.  I believe community policing is key to establishing good relationships between law enforcement and the community.  Police officers like community policing too.  If we are able to grow our department and enhance our community policing model, I believe we can create trust in our city and change the perception.

I served with the Albuquerque Police Department from 1984-2003, If you were investigated for untruthfulness and it was substantiated, you were most likely looking at being fired. People of Albuquerque, our criminal justice system, and fellow officers depend on the honesty & integrity of police personnel. The buck stops at your leadership.   We need new leadership in our city and especially in our police department.

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 and local media. What expectations would you set to ensure the public has a transparent view into the Albuquerque Police Department?

A: I will bring in a NEW CHIEF.  A chief that possesses the integrity, experience and leadership skills necessary to run and manage APD. We need leadership at all ranks that is truly competent, fair and is held accountable to the same level as every officer. Leadership and accountability starts at the top.

The chief must be the example to everyone in the department and must be honest and his or her integrity unquestionable. The police department must make rules that are administered equally regardless of rank or assignment. I need a chief that will keep me informed and that can make decisions for the men and women serving in our city. 

We must take politics out of policing; my Chief will have the autonomy to run APD and I expect he or she to keep me informed on the needs of the department.  I do not want to be running the police department from the mayor’s office.  I will encourage the chief and supervisors to make policies that make sense and are workable, that enable and encourage the officers to do their job.  Police work is about serving and protecting our city. 

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

A: I will be very active mayor when it comes to legislation.  I believe the mayor can be a voice for our city at the state legislature.  As Mayor, I will always continue to work on legislative issues concerning crime, funding and education. Two important items that need to be addressed in the next session in February are:

The Automated Finger Print Identification System (AFIS) is not being fully utilized. I will seek a new state statute allowing finger prints and/or DNA found inside stolen cars to be acceptable probable cause to make an arrest. This change will give law enforcement another tool to fight our auto theft crisis.

The Constitutional change that was made concerning bond for defendants should be evaluated. It is part of the problem that created the revolving door in our criminal justice system.

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: Crime is holding us back from economic development. If we are a dangerous place, businesses will not re-locate or remain here, and tourism will decrease.

Tourism is of great importance to a city economy.  I will promote national and international tourism for Albuquerque and work to increase visitor spending. When tourism thrives, retail businesses thrive. 

Tourism is one of our number one industries and one of our largest employers.  However, if we don’t get our crime issue under control it will become a non-existent industry.  Studies show people want to travel to safe cities.

Providing businesses with a safe environment enables them to thrive. Growing an educated workforce, increasing tourism and marketing Albuquerque as a place to retire will be areas I will constantly work on. I will work with our local small businesses, holding business summits to expand our local job base, increase business connections with Sandia labs, work on technology transfer and the existing technology industry.

We have over 50,000 small businesses in our city, if we help a percentage of them grow by one employee each, we can help our economy thrive.  I believe working with our new Global Chamber will help entice other businesses to come here as well.  Working on a national level with this Chamber opens the door to more manufacturing jobs in Albuquerque, collaboration is key.  

I believe we must be more supportive of our existing businesses and avoid imposing ordinances like the sick leave ordinance on our business community.   It is a job killer and it will prevent businesses from thriving and keep bigger businesses from coming here.  We must be business friendly and help small businesses grow and add jobs by making it easier and more profitable to expand here in Albuquerque.  We should always encourage business owners to offer their employees many benefits. However, it should be the business owner’s choice. I also believe this ordinance has constitutional issues and will be very difficult for the city to enforce. 

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?

A: The International Association of Chiefs of Police make recommendations for law enforcement across the country concerning best practices for law enforcement agencies.   They will come out to your agency and conduct an evaluation and prepare a report for your agency.  I plan on my Chief of Police utilizing Associations like IACP to incorporate new and innovative ideas for APD.  I also plan on keeping my finger on the pulse of our crime stats that are reported to the Uniformed Crime Report in order to examine the data and understand crime trends.

KOB

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

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