Thursday, July 21, 2005


The banner headline of the Albuquerque Journal Monday the 18th reads “THINK YOU SEE A POLICE CAR? CHECK AGAIN.” There on the front page are pictures of a “Police” car, and a “Patrol” car. They definitely look alike, so Chief Ray Schultz is justified in ordering the private security company to change the looks of its cars.

Chief Schultz is quoted as saying that the vehicles “. . . can easily confuse the public.” He said that “The public needs to be assured that they are actually dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department when they see one of our officers. There shouldn’t be any confusion if they are dealing with a security guard or a police officer.”

This story raises the question of whether the Albuquerque Police Department officers should be allowed to hire out to private citizens, or neighborhood associations, to provide security service in Albuquerque, in the officers’ regular uniforms, with the regular badges, guns, equipment, and in APD cars. That is the time and a half program called “Chief’s Overtime.” See post in archives for March 7 2005.

No doubt it is a different matter. It is one thing to confuse a private security guard with the police. It is another to deal with a policeman off duty, appearing to be a policeman on duty. However, the latter situation leaves one feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

Assume that a neighborhood has been troubled by criminals driving around, stealing, writing graffiti, selling marijuana and cocaine, and the like. Community policing just does not seem to be getting the job done. The neighborhood association, or a few neighbors (all private citizens) then hire police officers, through Chief’s Overtime, to spend off-duty time patroling the area; and now the neighborhood is safe because officers who are dressed as usual, carry the guns as usual, and drive the police vehicles as usual, are patrolling the streets. Does that make you uncomfortable, as a resident or taxpayer?

Are the police underpaid? Probably so, although one has to consider all of the benefits, including the type of retirement and health care plan, in order to make that determination. In any event, the police should be paid very well, as they are essential to our safety. Most are honest, hard-working, fair-minded, compassionate people, proud to serve. Pay them a decent salary. However, the Chief should reconsider this matter of Chief’s Overtime (which was here long before he became Chief). Maybe this should be taken up with the candidates for City office.

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