APD chief's memo says officers can't ask anyone to leave a public place

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The legal battle involving the City of Albuquerque over its controversial new ordinance targeting panhandlers continues.

Now, KRQE News 13 has learned the chief sent out a memo to officers that's making them feel like they can't do their job.

The memo is in response to the lawsuit over the ordinance, filed by the ACLU, telling officers not to enforce the law as the litigation is pending.

The Albuquerque Police Officers Association President, however, thinks the language of the chief's directive is way too broad and completely "handcuffs" officers.

"We see complaints constantly with individuals that are drinking the in the park, kids can't play safely and there's needles all over the place," Shaun Willoughby with APOA said. "When it comes to a misdemeanor crime or these quality of life concerns we're repeatedly seeing from neighborhood associations, they need to understand that your officers really can't do much."

That's because of this recent memo, Willoughby says.

Obtained by KRQE News 13, it's dated as sent to all sworn personnel on June 25. The memo from Chief Michael Geier stops officers from even just asking people to leave public places.

Willoughby wants the public to know about this.

He says while he understands not enforcing the law while the lawsuit moves through federal court, he thinks the memo is way too broad.

"If maybe it was only towards medians, that would be one thing, but this tells officers that we're not supposed to talk to anybody, anytime or have any authority to ask them to leave any public place anywhere," he said.

He also believes it's putting fear in officers that they'll do something wrong.

"Any public place? Like if you're camping in a park. If you're underneath the interstate in a tent, if you're in an alley. This tells officers it's just not worth it," he said. "We want to do our job. If you're not paying attention to little crime, you're not paying attention to crime."

KRQE News 13 reached out to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos for more information on the memo, and was sent this statement in response, which did not answer our questions about the implications of the memo:

“The city previously agreed not to enforce the ordinance while a federal court determines whether it is constitutional. The agreement not to enforce the ordinance was adopted as an order of the court. Chief Geier updated officers about the Court order and reminded officers not to take any action to enforce the ordinance until there is a final judgment from the Court.”


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