ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The new interim president and vice president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association announced Thursday they will immediately change the policy of giving $500 to officers involved in shooting civilians.
Sgt. Greg Weber and Sgt. Tom Henderson made the announcement at an afternoon news conference in Mayor Richard J. Berry's office flanked by the mayor and Police Chief Ray Schultz.
Now officers will request a reimbursement that must be approved on a case-by-case basis.
On Thursday morning the APOA board of directors chose Weber to be the union's interim president and Henderson to be the interim vice president to replace the leaders who resigned earlier in the week.
Weber said the payments were intended to allow officers to take time off and go somewhere to decompress after a traumatic event.
However, critics of Albuquerque Police Department and the number of officer-involved shootings pounced on the payments as bounties for killings.
"It was never about bounty, anything like that," Weber said. "It was about supporting the officer in their time of need.
"We made the decision that altering the practice just slightly to where we were reimbursing officers for expenses would be a better way to go and less subject to misunderstanding."
There will be no cap on reimbursements, but each request will be reviewed.
Earlier this week APOA President Joey Sigala and Vice President Felipe Garcia resigned after reports surfaced about the $500 stipends. In addition union members have called for an audit of how Sigala and Garcia handled union funds.
There are some questions about payments taken by Sigala and Garcia for extra work for the union and also payments to Sigala's wife for some temp work. Weber would not comment on the status of the audit.
Schultz says Sigala and Garcia both requested vacation time and new assignments.
Schultz told KRQE News 13 Sigala wants to return to the DWI Unit; Garcia is on three weeks vacation and will have a temporary assignment.
The union has scheduled another meeting for April 5 to discuss other issues with the membership, but the agenda has not been set.
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