City Councilor's Husband Rescued by APD's Open Space Unit Days after Chief Orders them DISSOLVED
By: ABQRAW staff
Posted: 11/30/2022 @ 3:33PM
UPDATED: 11/30/2022 @ 4:18PM (Corrects that Uri Bassan was not injured and needed help off mountain)
Some of the equipment that is in APD's Open Space Unit. Not pictured is a hovercraft that can go on land and water along the Bosque.
On November 23rd, 2022,The Albuquerque Police Open Space unit, Albuquerque Fire Rescue, and volunteer search/rescue workers helped two people off the cold and wintry conditions in the Sandia Mountains. One of the people rescued has been identified as District 4 City Councilor Brook Bassan's husband, Uri Bassan.
Rescue crews helping Uri Bassan down the Sandia Mountains. (Courtesy AFR)
Bassan confirmed the story to ABQRAW about her husband being rescued off the Sandia Mountains after being stuck in a position that prevented him from safely getting down the trailheads by himself.
"I actually highly value the open space unit more than I ever did before. He (referring to her husband) and I, really have got to a point in our life where we don't believe if there are any such thing as coincidences anymore," said City Councilor Bassan.
Distric 4 City Councilor Brook Bassan
On November 18th, 2022, in an internal APD video posted on their "Daily 49" newscast, Deputy Chief Mike Smathers informed all APD employees in the video that the Open Space Unit was being disbanded in 2023 and went on to thank them for their service. Once the public found out the news it made the community question this decision of APD higher ups disbanding a critical outdoor unit.
The following Monday there was a scheduled Albuquerque City Council meeting and District 9 Councilor Renée Grout asked why the unit was being disbanded and where the $1.4 million dollars allocated to the Open Space unit would be redirected to.
APD Deputy Chief Josh Brown was the APD representative to answer questions from council members on that night.
APD Deputy Chief Josh Brown
"One of the things I look at on that is we were paying sworn personnel to open and close gates for open space areas. So, we're going to re-allocate PSAs (Public Service Aides) to do that job," said Deputy Chief Brown.
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A recently retired APD Open Space officer was disgusted by the Deputy Chief's comments when he heard that unit he spent many years apart of just opened and closed gates.
"I sure wish I only had to open gates instead of leaving dinner with my family to run out and find someone else’s loved one who was swept away in the river, or crashed their ATV in the middle of nowhere, or spend the night next to a remote crime scene in the dead of winter or adjust my schedule to spend your days in the heat of the summer looking for an arsonist," said retired APD Open Space officer Anthony Martinez.
newly retired Officer Anthony Martinez pictured can be seen showing off some equipment during a recruiting event
Deputy Chief Brown did not have clear answers on where the $1.4 million dollars would be going but hinted that it would go toward the maintenance costs of the equipment. It is unclear why equipment which will not be used will need $1.4 million worth of maintenance. Brown went on to say that New Mexico State Police is the primary search and rescue for the state of New Mexico not APD.
We reached out to New Mexico State Police about the APD Open Space Unit disbanding and they were notified of the disbanding.
"The New Mexico State Police and the Department of Public Safety assists all agencies who request our assistance. APD Open Space resource will be a missed by NMSP and NMDPS SAR," said Lt. Mark Soriano.
According to Lt. Soriano, in 2022 of the 18 SAR mission in the Albuquerque area that we were notified of, APD open Space participated in 5 of them.
On November 23rd, 2022, APD Open Space, Albuquerque Fire Rescue, and volunteer search and rescue groups helped two victims off the Sandia Mountains. We learned that one victim severely injured their leg and the other was rescued off a cliff which also called a "high angle rescue".
The Albuquerque Police Department's official Twitter posted a video recently, it was of APD Chief Harold Medina confirming the disbanding of the unit. He cited the volume of calls and citing only 7 citations were issued by the unit in 90 days as a reason for disbanding them. The Chief went on to say the Open Space unit takes only 1 call for service versus 15 calls for service per day from normal patrol officers.
"But, we also know we can do this much more efficiently and have a core group of officers to do it when needed and not just be watching over a parking lot while other officers are taking call after call for service," said Chief Medina in the recorded video.
City Councilor Bassan plans on having a sit down meeting with Chief Medina this week to ask more questions about the Open Space Unit before the next City Council meeting the following monday.
"We need to make sure that we're not disbanding a unit without having another protocol in place to help people in need in the open space areas," said Councilor Bassan.
The next City Council meeting will be held virtually on December 5th, 2022. It is expected Councilors and the public will have comments/questions regarding the Open Space Unit.