ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police (APD) says it will revamp the department’s open space law enforcement services after a recent decision to disband the smaller, specialized unit within the department. The announcement from APD Chief Harold Medina was made Tuesday afternoon in a roughly three-minute YouTube video posted to the department’s social media channels.

Responding to “a lot of questions” in reference to APD’s Open Space Unit, Chief Medina reiterated in the video Tuesday that the five person unit is being eliminated. Responsible for patrolling parts of Albuquerque’s West Mesa, the Rio Grande Bosque and the Foothills, today, the Open Space Unit is comprised of just four officers and a sergeant.

While the entire police department is stressed for resources, the Chief says data shows a relatively low level of activity amongst Open Space Unit officers. According to the Chief, APD’s open space officers recently averaged less than one call for service per day in a 90 day period.

Story continues below

“The officers averaged seven citations over a 90 day period, three arrests total that we found for the team,” Medina said. “We know that the police department is stressed on resources, and we think they would have a better fit adding to a field squad to assist them, as the field is taking somewhere near 15 calls for service per day.”

The outdoor specific officers have been highlighted in the past for utilizing search and rescue tactics and special equipment like air boats and ATVs. However, in his video message, Medina alluded to the unit not always utilizing its specializations on a frequent basis.

“We can do this much more efficiently and have a core group of officers who could do [open space] when needed,” Medina said. “And not always just be, watching over a parking lot while other officers are taking call after call for service.”

Along those lines, Medina says he hopes to train more officers in open space specializations. The Chief says he is seeking to build a new Open Space specialization, comparing the idea to the construction of APD’s Horse Mounted Unit. That unit, which uses horses for patrol during special events, has two permanent riders but can field up to 12 riders when needed.

“[Officers] take [horse mounted patrol services] on as an additional duty,” Medina. “What we’re going to do is hopefully create a team of up to 10 to 12 officers who can respond [to open space specialized calls.]”

Medina didn’t offer a timeline for when he believes the plan will be in place. However, he did say if it “doesn’t work,” the department will reevaluate how it will provide future open space services.

According to the City of Albuquerque’s website, APD’s Open Space Unit has been part of the police department since 2000. Prior to that, starting in 1986, the law enforcement unit was started as a part of the City of Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department. In its prime, the unit had 15 positions, including one chief and three sergeants.