* Editor’s Note: Ahead of local elections, The Paper. commissioned the first public poll (793 likely voters, margin of error 3.5% +/-) to determine what voters think about candidates for mayor and school board positions, as well as public opinion on the proposed stadium bonds, vaccine mandates for APS and who voters think is most responsible for lagging APD reform. The results, like all of our articles, will be free to the public this week. Supporters of The Paper. get results early. Become a supporter today.
Who should police the police? As part of a national conversation on police reform, which includes the Black Lives Matter movement, reforming the police department in Albuquerque is no exception. The Dept. of Justice says the Albuquerque Police still haven’t met the court-mandated reforms, but after six years of DOJ reforms, voters don’t seem to be sure whose job it is to police the police.
Albuquerque is in the throes of a record-breaking year of violent crime, lots of bad publicity and a lot of finger-pointing. The Albuquerque Officers’ Association says the DOJ reforms are preventing them from arresting more criminals. The union launched a public campaign using billboards and television, radio and social media ads urging the public to tell city leaders that the focus should be on crime rather than wasting money on continued oversight by the DOJ. The only problem is the oversight is mandated by the courts, and city leaders have to follow the mandates.
Once the candidate who championed DOJ reforms, Mayor Tim Keller seems to be changing his tune. Both the mayor and the APD Chief of Police Harold Medina jumped for joy after U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced in Sept. that monitoring teams hired by cities to oversee consent decrees will have their monitorship redesigned. Keller and Medina Again, Albuquerque has been under a court-mandated agreement and it isn’t as simple as asking the DOJ to change the agreement. The police department actually needs to follow the Constitutional reforms set forth.
Our poll, conducted by The Paper. and Public Policy Polling, surveyed 793 likely Albuquerque voters on September 23 through 24. It should come as no surprise that 78 percent of Republicans believe that the court-mandated Dept. of Justice reforms prevent Albuquerque police officers from doing their jobs. That percentage jumps even higher among Trump voters, 83 percent of whom feel that the DOJ impedes the local police department by enforcing those court-ordered reforms. Meanwhile, 49 percent of independent voters want the DOJ out of the way. Only 28 percent of Democrats feel that the DOJ is standing in the way.
At a pretty even split, 46 percent of women and 47 percent of men felt that DOJ reforms were holding officers back, and 49 percent of Hispanic voters in Albuquerque also felt the DOJ was the problem.
Resisting reform? One reason for the growing resistance to the DOJ may be that, at six years and counting, citizens could be growing weary of the court-imposed monitorship. Are Albuquerque residents expecting too many results too soon? And are Albuquerque police dragging out the monitorship by resisting reforms? We asked about foot-dragging on the part of local law enforcement. Republican voters are in the small minority here. A total of 46 percent of Democrats, 35 percent of Independents and only 7 percent of Republicans think the police union and police officers are resisting needed reforms.
Among voters, 21 percent are still unsure whether the DOJ is preventing officers from doing their jobs or if the police union is stopping reform.
Although it has become a political football, the issue of police reform isn’t really up to voters at this point, nor is it up to the politicians who use it as a political platform. Nonetheless, this is how voters in Albuquerque feel at this point, and it could influence their preference for a “law and order” candidate.