Paralegals at APD HQ leading to more indictments
July 20, 2018 12:02 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A new Albuquerque Police Department program that puts paralegals at police headquarters is seeing positive results, including more indictments for cases sent to the district attorney’s office, according to a new report from the state’s Legislative Finance Committee.
APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina says the program was implemented to make sure overtasked officers’ cases were sent to the district attorney with accuracy, and on deadline.
“In December of 2017, when the new administration took over, one of the things we quickly realized was that our field officers were being overtasked,” Deputy Chief Medina said. “We were asking officers to take more calls, we were asking officers to take reports on the increased crime rates, we were asking officers now to put together cases for prosecution where in the past, specialized units had put these cases together in a manner that was consistent with getting a prosecution through the district attorney's office and the courts.”
Deputy Chief Medina says they wanted officers to be able to spend more time on the streets.
“We had to help our field officers and get them back into the field so that they could do community policing,” Deputy Chief Medina said. “We're never going to have community policing if we don't find time for our officers actually to go out and make contact in a positive way with the community.”
In February 2018, APD hired six paralegals, while budgeting and planning to hire nine. Now, officers conduct arrests, put paperwork together, and send it to a paralegal. The paralegals work with the district attorney’s office to make sure it has what it needs, in the proper time frame.
“We also have a system of where, one person oversees these paralegals and they know what time frames are coming up and which cases need to get there,” Deputy Chief Medina said. “So what we're seeing is, we're seeing an increase in our cases that are being accepted by the district attorney's office. The latest documentation we got, was that of 600 cases that they had processed in the first six months of the year, approximately 80 percent of them had been indicted, which is a huge increase and a benefit to the Albuquerque Police Department.”
Deputy Chief Medina says no system is fool-proof, but APD is optimistic about how this program is going and plans to expand it where possible.
“No system is perfect,” Deputy Chief Medina said. “There are going to be times that, for a variety of reasons, that a case is going to get dismissed. What we're trying to do is avoid and reduce that number, but it’s unfortunate, there's always going to be some kind of human error that leads to a case being dismissed. But what we're trying to do is, we're trying to reduce the frequency of those cases happening and we're looking to see how we can expand that.”
That includes working with the DA’s office to implement a similar system with DWI arrests.
“We're thinking outside the box,” Deputy Chief Medina said. “We're trying to look and realize where we can find places where we can get civilian resources to support our sworn resources. Sworn resources have always been a commodity that's hard to come by. Every police department is struggling to keep numbers where they need to be across the nation, recruiting is tough right now across the nation, and the funding that's needed for a sworn officer is much higher than it’s needed for a civilian. So if we can find support positions that get our officers back into the street, get them into the community, get them doing community policing principles, it's a win-win for us.”
Updated: July 20, 2018 12:02 AM
Created: July 19, 2018 08:51 PM
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