ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –  The city council meeting became heated Monday evening on the Albuquerque Police Department’s recent decision to eliminate their 5-person Open Space Unit. Since 2000, it has been a team of officers who patrol and conduct rescues in Albuquerque’s 30,000 acres of open space.

City Councilor Louie Sanchez is not on board with the decision and believes this was a choice the public should have been involved in. “This is not just a police issue, this is an issue that affects the whole entire city, and it affects the property that each and every individual that the city participates in.”

But APD Chief Harold Medina says it was a necessary decision when the department is strapped for resources. These former Open Space officers will go through training and eventually patrol the streets. Medina says this will get more boots on the ground in areas of the city that see high crime compared to the low activity level in the Open Space. “Councilors request time and time again, what are we going to do about the calls holding? What are we going to do about this? This is the first step, getting more resources out there.”

Medina says there will be permanent personnel assigned to open spaces, but they will be civilian Police Service Aides instead of sworn officers. If an emergency arises, they would then call in those sworn officers. Meanwhile, the department would maintain three collateral officers who are assigned to patrol the streets but are also trained to tackle open space issues as needed. “We think it’s best for the police department and we want to give this a try. If something doesn’t work out and we have to revisit it in the future, we’re more than happy to revisit it, but we feel this will help us clear up resources.”

APD says they will try this out for six months and then reevaluate.

The existing funding for the open space will still go toward overtime for open space calls. APD will determine later whether to renew that funding or reallocate it.