Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

BCSO “fully occupied”, but is still losing deputies

BCSO MPs will give instructions to viewers on May 31, 2020 at the scene of an active shooter situation on Locust NE. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Journal)

Copyright © 2021

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office feels full, but that hasn’t saved them from the high turnover of the past year or fears that they might not have enough of their deputies to patrol the streets.

The BCSO is budgeted at 325 MPs and now has 315. However, there are 19 cadets in the academy.

In an interview with the Journal, Detective Aaron Velarde, president of the Bernalillo County’s Deputy Sheriffs Association, said he believed the ministry did not have enough MPs on patrol at special forces and given the rise in crime in its jurisdiction and the large number of MPs the increasing response times to calls.

“If you have four deputies on a shift and you get a major call, all four deputies are tied up,” Velarde said. “In the meantime, you have all these other things that are still going on, but we either have to pull units from other area commands into cover, or they get there with a significant delay, or they just have to wait. It is not fair to the citizens to be brought into such a situation in which it could be prevented. “

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, who is running for mayor, declined repeated requests from the Journal to schedule an interview, eventually saying that neither he nor anyone else from the agency was available. Its spokesmen did not respond to questions about the union president’s allegations, but provided data and explanations.

“For us, staff and service quality are always in the foreground,” wrote the deputy BCSO spokesman Joseph Montiel. “That is why the Sheriff’s Office has remained full for many years while other departments have been struggling with staff shortages.”

Increase in departures

The agency’s workforce has remained relatively constant over the past few years. BCSO provided data showing that there were 309-315 MPs in the ranks as of 2018.

But like other law enforcement agencies around the country, the Sheriff’s Office had a higher number of departures in the past year than in previous years. Jayme Fuller, a spokeswoman for the BCSO, said 26 MPs have retired since June 2020 and nine have resigned – that’s 35 MPs, or 11% of the estimated departures. 21 deputies left in the 2020 financial year and 23 left in the 2019 financial year.

Quoting challenges in engaging with law enforcement agencies across the country, Fuller said, “The negativity and current rhetoric surrounding law enforcement are likely to have a negative impact on people willing to do the job and the quality of life of those who work.”

“Although BCSO sees more alternates retiring after many years (20+) of service rather than leaving our team for another agency or the profession altogether,” Fuller wrote in a statement. “Our high workforce is a positive reflection of the good morals in our agency, especially in view of the much-noticed rhetoric and negativity towards the police. BCSO is doing a great job keeping our proxies and creating a culture where they feel supported by leadership and encouraged by the many opportunities to advance here in their law enforcement careers. “

Professor Maria Haberfeld, chair of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, warned against comparing law enforcement agencies. For example, she said, more people might want to join a more rural sheriff’s office than a city police department just because they were attracted to a certain type of policing. Likewise, city authorities are more likely to have lost many civil servants in the past year than smaller departments.

“You are more in the spotlight when it comes to clashes with the public and demonstrations,” said Haberfeld. “The need to rethink our structure is primarily aimed at larger urban departments than a department with 10 police officers.”

Haberfeld said that given the rise in crime across the country, the public may be inclined to demand more law enforcement presence.

The unincorporated area of ​​Bernalillo County saw a sharp rise in crime in 2020. Data made available to the Journal by BCSO earlier this year showed it had increased in all crime categories except homicides – where there was one less. Some of the increases – such as grievous bodily harm and theft – were double-digit percentages.

Federal working groups

One thing Velarde said contributes to the patrol shortage is the number of alternates assigned to the federal workforce – 25 according to the BCSO. He said he would expect an agency the size of the BCSO to have one or two, but over the years the number has steadily increased. Operation Legend – a controversial federal initiative launched in the Albuquerque area by the administration of former President Donald Trump – relied on local and federal agencies working together in task forces.

“We had a few employee appraisals early on and voiced our concerns, and basically we were just told that this is how things should go for now,” said Velarde.

Fuller said there are 181 alternates in the field service department, but that about a third are assigned to special forces – including the Community Action Team (6), Student Support (12), Traffic (5), DWI (4), and the Task Forces.

This leaves 116 MPs on patrol over three area commands – 50 in the south, 39 in the north and 27 in the east. She said there were a total of 35 detectives and about 100 other sworn employees, including the sheriff, two undersheriffs, three deputy chiefs, and “many other captains, lieutenants and sergeants who are superiors in all of the various units.”

The BCSO MPs received 118,638 service calls in 2020 – almost 18,000 fewer than in the previous year. And the response times for calls with priority 1 exceeded 10 minutes – with the northern area from the time of the call to the arrival of a representative on the scene taking just under 11 and a half minutes, the east almost 15 and a half minutes and the south a little more than 11 minutes, 45 seconds.

Velarde said he was seeing some calls getting more and more outstanding.

“When I started 15 years ago, it was rare for a call to last longer than 20 minutes,” said Velarde. “And now, I mean, we see calls waiting for 45 minutes to an hour or sometimes over an hour.”

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