APD’s Open Space Unit has been Eliminated


November 22, 2022, 2:39 pm

By: ABQRAW staff

Posted: 11/22/2022 @ 8:00AM

APD Open Space Officers assist BCSO in a homicide investigation earlier this year

Albuquerque, NM – On Friday November 18th, 2022 Deputy Chief of Police Michael Smathers announced on an internal APD informational video that APD’s decades long unit called “Open Space Unit” would be no more. effective February 1st, 2023.

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the patch worn by members of open space will soon be nothing but memory

Deputy Chief Smathers said that the current Open Space Officers and their supervisor would be “absorbed” back into APD and he wanted to thank them for their hard work over the years.

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Deputy Chief of Police Michael Smathers

According to the middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Open Space works to acquire and protect the natural character of land designated as major public Open Space in the 1988 revised City of Albuquerque Comprehensive Plan. These lands, which are comprised of over 28,000 acres in and around Albuquerque, are managed to conserve natural and archeological resources, provide opportunities for outdoor education, provide a place for high and low impact recreation, and define the edges of the urban environment.

Officers from the Albuquerque Police Department patrol Open Space areas by foot, vehicle, all terrain vehicles, horseback, and mountain bicycle.

These fully commissioned law enforcement officers make contact with the public to educate and oversee compliance with rules and regulations. Their dual mission is to protect the Open Space lands and resources while ensuring a safe and enjoyable visit. In addition to these officers, Open Space lands are regularly monitored by volunteers, who are trained to observe and protect the natural characteristics of the environment.

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These officers will be sent back to the streets instead of doing their highly specialized duties

APD Open Space Officers have assisted in numerous mountain and river rescues over the years saving countless lives. Sadly, Open Space Officers are also called in to recover deceased victims from treacherous mountainous conditions in often inclement weather.

Since APD will no longer patrol the ABQ open space areas it is unknown who will takeover the duties of patrolling the bosque, west side trails, and mountain trails in the foothills. We reached out to BCSO and they did not know anything about APD’s decision to end the open space unit and they haven’t been asked to assist.

We also reached out to the AMRC(Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council). They work with APD Open Space frequently and enjoy an excellent relationship with the APD open space officers. They also work with BCFD, BCSO, and NM state police, depending on jurisdiction. When these agencies get a 911 call, open space officers then decide if they need AMRC resources. AMRC personnel are specially trained in high-angle rope work, mountain travel, and winter operations.

An AMRC public relations official gave us the following statement about the news that open space officers would soon be gone:

“Albuquerque Mountain Rescue has worked closely in support of APD Open Space over the year in searches, rescues and recoveries throughout the Sandia Mountains. We’ll miss working with this professional, dedicated team but are ready and constantly training to complete any search and rescue missions throughout New Mexico, as are Cibola Search and Rescue and New Mexico’s other dedicated SAR teams.”

– Steve Larese, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council Public Relations Officer

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A small sample of APD’s open space fleet

It is unclear why APD made this decision but some within said that it was to boost the patrol ranks. This move will add at least 3 or 4 officers to the streets which could be considered an entire squad in some area commands. It is debatable whether this will actually do anything to help the declining numbers taking calls for service.

It is also unclear what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of open space equipment including brand new 4X4 trucks specially equipped for off road rescues, a hover craft, several ATV’s, diving equipment, and countless other accessories needed to do those critical job functions.

The disbanding of the unit is said to be effective February 1st, 2023.


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