New team helps Albuquerque police speed up traffic investigations
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new team from the Albuquerque Police Department is cutting down on the time it takes for the department to finish traffic investigations. It’s called the Fatal Crash Team and as KOB found out, civilians in the group are playing a big role in police work.
“The question is, what do we do today? And what have we been doing the last few years in that constrained environment,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller during Monday’s press conference. Mayor Keller was joined by several key members of APD, including Police Chief Harold Medina.
The Fatal Crash Team became operational in June. Since then, APD says it’s issued 17,376 citations. This time last year, APD issued 9,357 citations from June to October 2023.
“This investment is about shifting work that does not have to be done by sworn law enforcement, to civilians who are trained, but also so that sworn law enforcement can go fight crime,” said Mayor Keller.
APD has hired civilian investigators to help out officers first on the scene.
“They are paid employees by us, we throw them through extensive training,” said Albuquerque Police Sergeant James Burton. “To put it in perspective, kind of like your investigators that go for an insurance company, they go through very similar stuff: how to map out scenes, how to document it, how to look at scene data.”
Burton says each team has one civilian investigator and one sworn officer or detective who respond to a fatal crash or a crash with major injuries. Once they arrive on scene, they split up their duties.
“So, my [crash] reconstructionists, they’re using technologies such as drones, cameras, all these different things where they can actually plot the mathematical data on a scene to be able to figure out speeds vectors, all these things that we need to be able to prove exactly what happened. Meanwhile, my detective is out there doing his interviews, talking to the witnesses on scene, talking to victims, talking to the victim’s family, to ensure that the proper information that they have is gathered,” said Sergeant Burton.
Mayor Keller says with the creation of the team, fatal crash investigations that used to take three to four hours, now take one or two hours.
Albuquerque police also say the new team allows traffic officers to be more proactive, doing the work to try and prevent crashes.