Creating a Community of Trust: An Interview with the Southwest Area Community Policing Council

Gunfire, Domestic Violence, and Homelessness are Priorities

The next meeting of the Southwest Community Policing Council will be held on Wednesday, August 5, at 6 PM.  Because of Covid-19, it will be a virtual meeting.  If you wish to attend, send your name and contact email information to Wanda Harrison, de facto Council Chair, at zeldaszebb@gmail.com and instructions will be emailed to you.  Further information can be found on the Southwest Area Command Policing Community Council Facebook page.

Interested in becoming a council member?  Contact Wanda Harrison at zeldaszebb@gmail.com for more information.

Police-citizen interaction on Albuquerque policing issues is the job of six Community Policing Councils established as part of the 2014 court-ordered agreement between the city of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice (DOJ).  DOJ found the Albuquerque police used excessive force in several incidents and sued the city; the result was negotiation and the agreement. The Southwest Community Policing Council is one of the six, tasked with working with the ABQ Police’s Southwest Area Command.

In this interview, four members of the current council, Wanda Harrison, Chris Sedillo, Stephanie Griego and Teresa Garcia addressed several issues.  All the respondents agreed their relationship with the Southwest Area commander and his subordinates was good.  The commander has been very responsive to their concerns and questions. They also believe the Albuquerque Police are making real progress in implementing their agreement with the DOJ. One concern is that COVID-19 has forced them to hold their meetings online, and council members feel it has slowed down the process of real communication at a crucial time.  Zoom meetings simply do not allow the participants to get to know each other.

The council understands that their most important job is building trust between the community and police, and they know trust must be built slowly through being open and honest with each other.  It’s one of the reasons the council is eager to hold open, in-person meetings again.  It will facilitate building a community of trust, in which the police, the council and the neighborhood can address local issues and develop solutions.  The council members are committed to achieving this goal.

Thee are several issues to be addressed.  The problem of shots fired is a continuing concern in the Southwest.  Technology which quickly pinpoints the source of a shot exists and the council wants to help the Southwest Area Command obtain it.  In addition, the members of the council agree there are not enough police assigned to the Southwest and they want to work on that problem with the area command.

Domestic violence in all its manifestations is a deep concern for the council.  The members realize that domestic violence can be the first step to other crimes, therefore dealing with the problem at its inception is crucial in preventing future crimes.  They also understand that domestic violence calls are one of the most difficult and dangerous for the police and they want to work with the police to help them develop ways and means to defuse these situations, including the involvement of organizations which can provide trained assistance. Finally, the council knows they must involve the entire Southwest community in this issue.

Members are actively working with the Southwest Area Command on the homeless issue by providing the Proactive Response Team with “blessing bags.”  Members raise funds to fill bags with useful items for the homeless and when the Response Team finds homeless persons, they hand out the bags thus giving the officers a good start for a conversation with them.

The members of the Southwest Community Policing Council are committed to their job and want the help and input of their community.  They are worried that too many people seem to believe nothing can be done, so the council is aggressively trying to reach more people through social media with a message that they are there and together with their community they can build a relationship with the police that will change lives in Southwest Albuquerque.

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