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‘Tired of being political pawns’: Police union chief tells RT after Albuquerque, New Mexico cops leave riot team in droves

Fed up with being second-guessed and used as political pawns, over a dozen officers from the Albuquerque, New Mexico PD have resigned from the riot control squad this month, head of the police union told RT in an interview.

“What is going on is all about trust. The Albuquerque police officers do not trust the administration they work for. There is no morale,” said Shaun Willoughby.

Seventeen officers, one lieutenant and two sergeants have resigned from the APD Emergency Response Team (ERT) earlier this month, after the city authorities suspended a sergeant over an incident at a public demonstration. The unit had arrested an armed man who taunted protesters, but the authorities declined to press charges and released him.

The rest of their team said: we are tired of being political pawns. We are no longer going to do that.

Officers have been resigning from the ERT even before the incident, and the unit is down to half of its strength, Willoughby added. Its members were feeling second-guessed and don’t believe they can do their job without getting in trouble, he told KOB-TV on April 14.

New Mexico is run by Democrats, as is Albuquerque. The city’s police department has been operating under a consent decree since 2015, giving the US Department of Justice oversight over its practices and policies. The Trump administration had given local police more leeway, but Democrats are back in the White House now.

The police are working “under overwhelming pressure right now,” Willoughby told RT, adding that the Albuquerque PD has had a “hard time” hiring new recruits. 

“I have more officers leaving the city of Albuquerque for better communities… I have an increase in officers that are retiring,” while crime rates in the city are rising, he said. “Who wants to be at the tip of the most volatile political spear in the nation right now?” 

Albuquerque is on track to “shatter” its homicide record, probably reaching a hundred homicides in a community of only 585,000, Willoughby said. Punishing, “defunding” or demonizing the police isn’t going to make that any better, he added.

Instead, he called for the authorities to invest more in quality training for the officers, as well as put more money into dealing with America’s “social woes … that should not be the bag for a police officer to hold.”

“Let’s put more money in things that we need to: substance abuse, mental illness, aftercare and rehabilitation to drug addicts,” Willoughby said. There are enough ways for the government to take “proactive” steps and make life in the US better.

The police union head also called on the “silent majority” of Americans to stand up and hold the politicians accountable, insisting that most people are opposed to the idea of defunding the police.

I would rather double down on investment: let’s train our police officers. You want a better cop? You need to invest in more training.

The Albuquerque PD denies any acute personnel problems, and has told local media that the ERT resignations would not affect crowd control operations in the future. Those who resigned from the ERT still work for the department in some other capacity, the department added.

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