An Albuquerque Police officer got in trouble for having a pro-police sticker on his or her government-issued vehicle, something a lot of cops do around town.
This led KRQE News 13 to look into the policy for APD officers placing stickers, decals and special license plates on their vehicles.
They drive identical cars and wear identical uniforms, but APD officers are still individuals underneath those 27lbs of Kevlar and equipment — and some try to show it on their vehicles.
Turns out, it’s against APD policy for an officer to place a sticker, decal or front license plate on their car.
“They’re not allowed to personalize their cars in any way,” Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman said.
According to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) officers can only put decals and plates on their car with the permission of the chief.
However, Gallegos said it’s really a bogus clause.
“We want uniformity among police cars, just kind of neutral and we don’t want the chief to have to be deciding what kind of expression is appropriate or not,” Gallegos.
Earlier this year, Gallegos says an officer had to remove a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ license plate from their unit, a symbol that’s been associated with the Tea Party.
“That was an example of where it was inappropriate and definitely could be offensive and was offensive to some people,” he said.
Then, in August, a citizen complained to the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) about an officer’s pro-police decal. It was a ‘thin blue line” flag that the anonymous citizen said violates the U.S. flag code.
“First of all, I think this officer wasn’t intending to, you know, mean any disrespect toward anyone. Every officer I know deeply respects the flag. And they’re very proud of what it stands for,” Gallegos said.
Still, the CPOA investigated and the officer was ultimately told to remove it because it wasn’t approved.
Yet, many APD cops do this. On Thursday in just an hour’s time, KRQE News 13 saw a U.S. Army Airborne license plate, a Tulane University alumni license plate, several thin blue line license plates and tons of thin blue line flags and generic decals.
The catch is that Gallegos says the department is not actively looking for officers who aren’t following the rules on this. It’s not high enough of a priority to address, unless a citizen makes a specific complaint.