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City Invites Public to Help Shape Role of New Albuquerque Community Safety Department

ACS will help officers focus on core police work, shift calls on homelessness, addiction and mental health into the hands of trained professionals

Aug. 13, 2020

The City of Albuquerque is inviting the public to give input as it builds the first-of-its-kind Albuquerque Community Safety (ACS) Department. A recently launched survey asks the community questions about the role ACS will play in emergency response efforts. 

ACS will give 9-1-1 dispatch an option to send trained professionals such as social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, violence prevention, and diversion program experts when a community safety response is more appropriate than a paramedic, firefighter, or armed police officer. ACS first responders may also be dispatched alongside other first responders from the police or fire departments. The new cabinet-level department is the culmination of two years of preliminary work to change the way Albuquerque handles public safety, and comes amid nationwide calls to move resources away from armed police response as a one-size-fits-all answer.

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“The Albuquerque Community Safety Department is a first-of-its kind, and we are inviting our community to help shape its future and the role it will play in emergency response calls,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Creating the ACS is a bold step to help Albuquerque elevate a public health approach in emergency response--and input from experts and our community is critical to getting it right.”

When it begins operation, ACS will help the City focus police resources on fighting violent crime, and firefighters and paramedics on fires and medical emergencies. That may lead to decreased response times, as 9-1-1 dispatchers will have another tool in their toolbox to send trained professionals to respond to calls on homelessness, addiction, mental health, and other issues that do not present an immediate threat to public safety.

The Albuquerque Community Safety department will also more efficiently connect those in need with service providers that address underlying issues including housing or treatment for addiction and behavioral health. Just as the Albuquerque Fire Rescue department currently does, responders from the new department will call for police assistance if there is a threat to their own safety or the safety of others.

To support this new approach to community safety, the City is seeking input from experts, City Council and the public and has initiated conversations with educational institutions to build a pipeline to hire the trained professionals who are needed in exchange for education funding or student loan repayment.