The way officers are dispatched to calls in Albuquerque has changed. The Albuquerque Police Department said part of the reason for that change is because for too long they’ve been sending officers to calls where an officer isn’t always needed.

In 2018, Albuquerque police officers were dispatched to 476,726 calls for service. 

“Since the fall our dispatch system has been under review,” APD Spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said. “We looked at best practices, and from the whole chain of command to officers in the field and dispatchers who have to deal with this.”

For decades the department has worked off a priority dispatch system ranging from priority one calls, which are considered the most life-threatening situations, to minor incidents like noise complaints, a priority three.

Friday, the department expanded its priority list to include five categories.

“What we want to do is get officers to the scene of a call as quickly as possible for the most urgent calls, and by that I mean calls where there is a life-threatening situation,” Gallegos said.

Police Union President Shaun Willoughby said this means that officers will only run lights and sirens to life-threatening situations like a shooting, stabbing, armed robbery, or a crime where a weapon is involved. All other calls will be a lower priority.

According to the new system, a priority one call is “any immediate life-threatening situation with great possibility of death or life-threatening injury or any confrontation between people which could threaten the life or safety of any person where weapons are involved.”

It lists a priority five as “crime that has already occurred, no suspect at or near the scene and no threat of personal injury, loss of life or property.”

At that point, “You’re going to be asked to go to the telephone reporting unit and they will not dispatch officers unless it meets some other criteria,” Gallegos said.

According to Willoughby, there are just some calls that don’t require an officer and the new system helps decipher that.

“A lot of the community may not know that there are other alternatives to get a police report than actually having a police officer there,” Willoughby said. 

However, it might surprise you that under priority two calls, the list includes some crashes with injuries, children left alone in cars, and even some domestic violence calls, where no weapon is involved.

“They’re still top priority, it’s just that they’re not the most urgent priority at the time,” Gallegos said. “There may just be a 30-second difference.”

“If you have a child unattended and it’s 100 degrees, that’s going to make a priority one,” Willoughby said. “Those are some of the kinks that may have to be worked out where you’re going to see changes down the road that are more common sense and better for the community and police department.”

APD said the whole idea behind this change in the dispatch system is to keep officers available for high priority calls.

“Basically we’re adapting to the situation where we’re trying to make the system much more efficient and much more effective,” Gallegos said. 

APD stresses every call is different and depending on the circumstances of that call the level of priority can always change.

For those lower priority calls where an officer isn’t needed, callers have three ways to file a report: online, over the phone, or at any substation.