Albuquerque, NM - Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, Jr. directed his police officers on Tuesday, to no longer arrest suspects for non-violent misdemeanor offenses.
Chief Eden's directive also says that officers are to issue citations instead, according to KOAT.
The following misdemeanor offenses may be affected: criminal trespass, criminal damage to property under $1,000 (vandalism), shoplifting under $500, shoplifting under $250, prostitution, and receiving or possessing stolen property under $100.
Presumably, if police catch somebody who smashed out the window to your car to steal your new sunglasses, they will not be arrested.
DWI offenses will not be affected.
Albuquerque police officers may make an arrest if necessary but have to document the reason why in an incident report.
They also now have the option to take offenders who commit non-violent misdemeanor offenses to Metropolitan Court to take care of warrants or fines without having to take them to jail. In those cases, the defendant must have the full amount of the bond or fine in cash, and cannot go through a bonding agency.
Officers were also directed not to allow defendants to wait for the money from family or friends.
Albuquerque PD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said that the directive was merely a 'formality', and that most officers were already following the just-issued directive.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association, said that "The word 'shall' scares me a lot. In the past we could use our discretion when dealing with misdemeanor offenses."
He said "Now, if someone breaks a business owner's window and we have the suspect in custody--I have to go ask the business owner how much the window is instead of taking that suspect to jail. Jail is a deterrent for crime...what about now?"
The Bernadillo County Sheriff's Office is also impacted by the McClendon settlement. A spokesman said that deputies still have the discretion on misdemeanor crimes that occur in their presence, and can either issue a citation or a summons, or make an arrest, in no particular order.
The BCSO also said that nothing changes with DWI arrests.
The directive occurred after a federal judge issued a decision in the over 20-year McClendon lawsuit. That lawsuit dealt with overcrowding at the Metropolitan Detention Center, and allegations that Bernalillo County was violating the rights of inmates. The case against the county may be dismissed if conditions are found to have improved, but conditions will be monitored, according to the Metropolitan Detention Center website.
The reason that officers are given discretion to handle situations is so that they can make the best decision based on their particular set of circumstances. A policy is not going to be able to properly cover every possible situation that an officer may encounter.