OPINION: From a Police Officers Wife
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
OPINION Tryna Verbeck - Contributor Posted: February 1, 2022 4:05 PM
My husband is APD Officer, Mario Verbeck, he’s patrolled the streets of Albuquerque for the last 17 years. He further served the Albuquerque community being ERT certified for 15 of those 17 years. (Emergency Response Team).
On August 19th, 2021, my family’s worst nightmare came true. Mario was shot and critically injured along with 3 other officers, when responding to a robbery call. 70 shots were fired at my husband and the 3 other officers. They were ambushed in what is now known as the Dutch Brother’s Shooting. By the grace of God were those officers not killed or any citizens who were merely trying to get a cup of coffee before work. I thank God for the Good Samaritan, Johnny Garcia and his bravery that day. Johnny had the courage to help my husband up and get him where he could be treated by first responders. Mario was dying. Responders knew Mario was down but couldn’t find him because he couldn’t use either arm to reach his radio. Why were there only 5 officers in that area command at that time a day, for an area that size? Even more frightening, less officers are on graveyard shift in some other area commands.
During the last 2 years, I have watched our Mayor and Governor, speak against and try to hold our officers accountable for something that happened in another police department in another state. Sadly, Police officers are the only profession held accountable as a whole, across our nation for the bad actions of individual officers in isolated instances of misconduct. There are bad people in all professions that kill and are held accountable for their own choices and actions, not their entire profession as a whole.
Following the "controversies" of 2020, APD officers and their families held their breath because we all knew what was coming to our community. The backlash our officers would suffer through, for the choice of another officer, in another state. Many nights, during the protests that turned into riots, (in Albuquerque) we all had to watch the media portray our officers in a bad light to the public. All the while rioters tore up our city and were given free reign and sympathy from our current leaders. The Mayor was told “they” wanted to tear down statues that offended “them”. He replied, “ let them” by his inaction to respond to this street violence, should our Mayor be held personally accountable for the outcome of that riot? Our Mayor condoned damage to city property. Some parts of downtown are still boarded up because of damage done during protests that tuned into riots. How much did it cost the city to fix the damage done to police vehicles during riot’s? How much has the city given for the damage done to local businesses during those riots? How much did it cost the city to pay in overtime to ERT and other officers during those protest/riots? The Mayor is our city's elected leader, why has he not been held accountable for the public safety failures that are plaguing our city?
I witnessed our Mayor and Governor speak out against our officers before an investigation was done and all the facts in, blaming officers for “antagonizing” peaceful protesters into rioting. There were never any retractions by either one of them on the actual truth of what happened during those riots after they misspoke. Our Governor GLADLY signed a law that took immunity away from our officers, putting more stress on them to “NOT” to do their jobs. That’s NOT supporting our officers. Our officers now have to make the decision, every time they go on a call, their job or their life? Most of the officers we have left, are on priority 1 calls for hours. Leaving citizens, reporting a lesser crime on their own because our officers are fleeing under this administration.
The DOJ is here because our previous mayor threw our officers under the bus with the help of local media, after he campaigned on promises of supporting our police. That same mayor broke contract with the union over officer’s raises. That injury took years before it was settled as a pittance compared to officers missed pay. Hardly a show of support for our police. That mayor's mouth said one thing and his actions showed something else.
Our current Mayor has campaigned on the same promises to support our officers as well. He even said he would get the DOJ out of here for our police, as part of his first campaign promises to them. If you can’t do it, don’t make campaign promises that you know you can’t or won’t keep. Accountability needs to be held to politicians for their lies and if it needs to be sugarcoated, their mistruths spoken to voters. Our current Mayor made us a sanctuary city, which is in violation of the contract the city holds with the DOJ. That action didn’t show support of our police. Because of that decision, funding is withheld from our police department. How much funding has APD missed out on because of politics? Does the city enjoy paying out what they do to the DOJ every year? We have been led to believe the DOJ and APD were supposed to be problem solving for a better community. We know our Mayor refused funding from the Trump administration to help our officers with fighting crime and further training for the “CRISIS” that was gaining momentum in our city. The wellbeing of our city was thrown aside because of politics. Its disturbing to see that politicians no longer have the voters welfare in mind because of the way it “might look” to a small percentage. Our current Mayor’s actions have shown anything but support of our officers during the last 2 years.
Until recent events, not many cared about our officers and how much more dangerous their jobs had become over the last 2 years. Dealing with the rising crime statistics and their hands tied to protect us because our politicians and voters favor criminals. Most citizens avoid high crime areas to be safe. Now criminals are overrunning what once was considered safe neighborhoods. Innocent people dying because criminals think they have a right to own something that doesn’t belong to them. Babies getting killed over drugs. It can no longer be denied by the public. At this point we can all agree our city has had enough of rising crime statistics as we watch our officers leave in high numbers. At least 140 homicides in Albuquerque for 2021. (final OMI report not in) For some reason APD doesn’t include the homicides investigated by other police agencies within our city limits to our local media. Why is the truth twisted to the media? 200 officers left APD in 2021. (still more are fleeing) Last bid there were 292 officers bidding with 90 p/2c’s bidding separately. 382 officers patrolling our streets. That amount of personnel is way below the recommendation for our city to comply with DOJ requirements.
We have inexperienced officers policing other officers on “use of force” and some don’t know the difference between a “use of force” violation and a SOP violation. Leading the media to believe that our officers are continuing “use of force” when a good portion weren’t “use of force” and or some were officers being investigated a second time for the same incident. Mario was recently investigated for a “use of force” because the suspect, who was drunk and homeless, had beat his girlfriend black and blue. Officers couldn’t leave him at hotel. Suspect was a threat to his homeless, girlfriend’s life. Every time Mario tried to close the car door, suspect would put his foot in the way so Mario couldn’t close it. This happened over and over until his foot was finally caught in door because of his game playing. This was all caught on Mario’s lapel cam as an accident and he wasn’t cleared until months later but “it” will remain on his record as a “use of force”. Now suspect has to be taken to hospital to be checked out on the tax payers dime. Now up the chain of command and wasted resources for the “use of force” to be investigated. After hospital said there wasn’t anything wrong with suspect, he was taken to jail. The next day, Mario sees him and the girlfriend he beat up, walking the streets hand in hand!!!
This is repetitively done to our officers and their jobs no longer serve a purpose in trying to protect our community. The sacrifice is no longer worth it to officers and their families. I was one of those spouses who begged their officer to walk away. Leave with your life, your retirement isn’t worth it anymore. Mario wouldn’t leave and he almost died for this city.
The revolving door judicial system and judges who support it, should be investigated and held accountable when they are up for election. Criminals are let loose to commit crimes over and over, their crimes escalating against our city. The DA should be held accountable when his office is unprepared to effectively argue to the court why suspects should remain in jail. This means bringing witnesses and officers to the hearings to testify as opposed to making legal excuses. We are told we voted for bail reform and these are ”OUR” consequences. More crime for our streets and no consequences for criminals anymore. Frustrating all these smart people won’t see the connection between drug abuse statistics and “use of force”. Sometimes when people use drugs, they become combative and a danger to themselves and others and they don’t have the mental capacity to comply with police. What do we expect our officers to do? No matter what, our officers have been put in a position to fail by our politicians and the system they support. This is a “no win” for officers and they are leaving because of continued lack of leadership. Where our city now stands statistically is because of the direction our Mayor and Governor have taken us the last 2 years, publicly turning their backs on our officers, knowing full well it would destroy our community. Good officers being forced out for trying to speak up about the truth and others keeping mum because they need their jobs.
The 382 officers left to patrol our streets, will now be working three 12 hour shifts. These officers are already overwhelmed and exhausted at this time, trying to work this schedule will put themselves and citizens in more danger. How much will it cost the city in overtime for officers before they hit a cap and have to start fighting for their overtime pay? When Mario was working ERT during riots, they hit their limit in OT and we had to wait on certain channels to figure it out before he was paid his overtime.
I’ve seen with my own eyes, the struggles Mario and other officers have faced the last 2 years. It has been painful and frustrating because I was never believed from my standpoint (as the spouse of an officer) when I tried to share the true struggles of our officers and where our politicians were failing them. It took Mario and 3 other officers, close to dying before our city FINALY acknowledged immediate change was needed.
Now that it’s campaign time for our Governor and with the Mayor’s support, they are promoting positive changes for our city and state police officers. We will all be waiting to see if they can be trusted and follow through with what they are promising as a fix to the current crisis they fueled in the first place.
Sincerely, Tryna Verbeck