By Greg MacAleese
How I came to be in Albuquerque
I didn’t always live in New Mexico. In fact, I was born in Canada.
My dad was the senior armaments officer for the Royal Canadian Air Force. We moved throughout Canada according to his postings and the projects he was working on at the time. He was a brilliant guy with only a high school education but was as sharp as a razor.
I was very lucky to have had a great dad who was not only highly intellectual but was always present in my childhood and was there for me when I needed him. It was my dad that instilled in me the first notions of the importance of looking out for others.
In 1961 the Royal Canadian Air Force decided they wanted to set up a liaison office at the special weapons centre at Kirtland Air Force base in New Mexico. Dad was offered the assignment to set up the office.
So, in 1961 we moved down to Albuquerque in a 1958 Volkswagen Beetle, filled to the brim, no air conditioning, myself, my mother, dad and a standard French poodle by the name of Powerful Pierre. The further South we drove the hotter it got.
Route 66 to my new home
We followed the fabled Route 66, which was the main interstate thoroughfare in those days. Although it was blisteringly hot, the new terrain really was something to behold. I remember it vividly, the mountains, the desert and the clear skies. It was truly incredible.
Originally, my dad’s posting was for four years. However, he subsequently retired and we decided to call Albuquerque home. This was our new life and after all, the winters would never be as brutal as in Canada.
I went to high school and then university in Albuquerque where I studied journalism. After university I took a job with The Associated Press. At some point in my journalism career, I developed a bleeding ulcer and was advised by my doctor that I needed to find a less stressful line of work.
And so, I became a cop. What was I to know? Funnily enough, neither my dad or my doctor was impressed.
Training to be a cop
My training to become a police officer was thorough but enjoyable. The class consisted of 50 cadets and we spent one month in the classroom and then one month with on the job training whereupon we’d go back in the classroom. The training lasted 7 months.
We were ready but as every police officer will tell you, your training is just beginning the day you put on your badge and step out of the academy for your first day of work. Getting through the academy was one thing, becoming an effective, successful police officer was quite another.
My experience as a police officer commenced around the time of the Vietnam war and by 1973 there was a strong anti-establishment attitude that people had towards government. Because police officers were a highly visible part of government, we received a lot of that antipathy.
It was a difficult and challenging time but I do see some similarities to what’s happening around the world these days within law enforcement agencies.
Today’s shortage of police recruits
Jurisdictions globally are facing increased shortages and difficulty in retaining recruits. The shortage of suitably qualified officers is something that really is becoming a problem worldwide and it’s an issue that is having a tremendous impact in the United States.
Many reasons exist but among the most pertinent are issues of police pay and the appeal of other less dangerous jobs, especially in a booming economy where employment options are more abundant.
It is also problematic that there’s been a lot of negative publicity directed to law enforcement agencies and police officers in recent times. This is not just limited to the United States but affects a lot of other countries, too.
Ironically, the danger of the job today is less than when I first joined the force in the 70’s. Those times were notorious for the high rates of police murders. This was not as publicised back then, unlike today’s proliferation of instant media and mobile technology.
The public must be involved
From the earliest stages of my time as a police officer, then as a Violent Crimes Detective in Albuquerque, it was apparent to me that the public are the most critical agent for ensuring a safe and vibrant community.
Once the public begins to realise that they are part of the safety equation, their involvement naturally increases, and they become an important (the most important) part of the solution. I believe it’s true that crime rates are a symptom of the level of involvement and commitment by the public — that crime rates are representative of the public’s overall tolerance of crime.
I can’t help but feel that the safest communities in the world are those where the police and the public work well together, with trust and for the common good.
A better world
My view of the world and my successes are owed in large part to my parents. They shared with me the importance of people working together. Whatever we do and wherever we go, we can make a positive difference but only if we espouse and live the core values for a safer world.
Although my mom’s circumstances had changed with the posting of my dad to New Mexico, her values were as strong as ever. I can’t help but feel that Albuquerque is a slightly better place today because of the influence of her and my dad and how they helped shaped me to create the world’s largest crime-fighting network.
I still hear the voice of my mother as we drove from the snowy climate of Canada into the high desert plains of New Mexico. “My god, look at all the rocks”.
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