For many years, police officers with the Albuquerque Police Department have been allowed take home vehicles. The “Take Home” policy is a benefit to the officer(s) and to the citizen(s) of our great City. The moment a police officer gets in his/her squad car; they are considered on duty. Here is the benefit; the officer gets to use the vehicle and the citizen gets the service of an officer without the officer being paid on the clock, while they are utilizing the vehicle. Officers are bound to stop for in progress crimes, traffic hazards, etc… Many times, police officers have been flagged down to take various actions simply because they were driving a police car. Officers understand and accept this, as it is part of the policy. Obviously, if they are already on duty, this is not anything above or beyond the call of duty. The presence of a police car provides a certain sense of security. In law enforcement it is referred to as an “Omni Presence.” The Mayor and his administration (in their infantile stage of an administration) believe that days of take home vehicles are over. Well, over for many, but not for all. Any police officer residing outside of city limits (within 11 miles of the Big I) can no longer use their take home vehicle. The exception to this movement is; if you’re a crony of his “Majesty” or part of the administration you are exempt and are bestowed this privilege.
What does this mean for those affected? They are forced to drive to work in their personal vehicles. Which may not seem like a big deal but it is more complex than it appears. Driving personal vehicles is a huge officer safety issue. There are people that have a disdain and hatred for police officers, and will do anything to get an officer in a position of disadvantage. Just ask those who have dealt with COPWATCH. Out of the six area commands, there is only one that provides a secure place for officers to park their personal vehicles. In the spirit of officer safety, the best action for the officer is to drive to his/her police substation and change into his or her uniform. None of the area commands have enough secured lockers or facilities for these officers to achieve this goal. In some of the substations, the plumbing barely works.
What about the civilians who are allowed to keep their take home cars and provide absolutely no benefit to the citizens? If the take home car policy was changed, solely for budget issues, why are civilians (none sworn employees) allowed to have take home vehicles? For instance, the police fleet manager has a take home car. He is not on call and does not respond during off duty hours. He has a desk job and keeps track of all city owned vehicles. TJ Wilham (who prided himself in bashing the City and the police while working for the local news paper) has a take home car. Now he is triumphant of the actions of the City and the police. The question is; for what reason, no one would give us a clear justification. The Mayor has two take home cars. Why? Many of Berry’s administrators have take home cars. Why? The Prisoner Transport Center supervisors have FULLY marked (lights, sirens, radio equipped) take home cars. Why? Darren White and TJ Wilham have been observed responding to incidents running code (full lights and sirens initiated and going through all intersections) in their take home cars. Why? Neither one is a fully sworn member of the Police Department. Only police officer may run full police equipment while responding to an emergency. If we are truly in a budget crunch, the Mayor needs to clean his closest before he starts cleaning someone else’s. This hypocrisy must stop and produce the product that was promised to the citizens by Mayor Berry.
Just this week, Chief Schultz was seen driving his City car with family, like personnel aboard. Although the citizens are appreciative that he followed traffic laws (turn signals and seat belts), why is he allowed to bend the rules? For those inquisitive minds, our Chief was eastbound on I-40 and exited at San Mateo, at approximately 11:00 A.M. One of our eyes sent us this information and a few photos. TJ Wilham was seen shopping at Walgreens and going for a bite in his take home vehicle, even though it is doubtful that this was part of his official duties. The photos we have does not show any crime tape or the mobile crime van. Maybe he was grabbing a quick snack for Mr. White or for the Mayor.
If the City Council is truly worried about the budget, they need to start at the top, and work their way down. Why is the City Council allowing the targeting of the police officers? Mayor Berry, Darren White, TJ Wilham, and others are certainly taking advantage of their positions and by proxy taking advantage of the City. The City Council definitely needs to do their homework. Our citizens elected them to be their voice; it’s time for the Council to voice the will of their constituents.
Although,the Eye is not a financial wizard and does not claim to be, here is one thought; pull the City vehicles from the administrators and City employees who do not need them. If by some “fluke” they are forced out to a scene, pay their per diem following the federal guideline. We all know that each entity within the City already has a chain of command on-call roaster that should be used. This alone could save a great deal.
The Eye has attached a few photos for your amusement only. Although the Eye is not the jester for his Majesty Like others appear to be; nevertheless this is entertaining.