This is a commentary written by retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein and published in the Albuquerque Free Press.
The commentary rightly slams the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
It was written is response in part to a “Letter to the Editor” by Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Board of Director member Paul Silverman entitled “Ease crime epidemic by allowing retired cops to return to work.” (July 20, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A7).
Silverman states in his Journal letter that Mayor Berry has “consistently pointed out the primary problem” to our rising crime rates as “building the police force without hurting other agencies or busting the city budget”.
Silverman agrees with Mayor Berry’s proposal to “reinstate a form of return to work after taking retirement” as a solution to increasing the number of sworn police officers.
Silverman says the union APOA President is the most vocal critic of the policy, which is just not true as Klein points out.
There were many who opposed the return to work legislation pushed by Mayor Berry in Santa Fe the last three years, including myself, and it was not just the police union.
The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), many retirees and other government employees, testified in Santa Fe before the New Mexico Legislature all opposing the return to work legislation that Silverman and the Chamber of Commerce were promoting for Mayor Berry.
Analysis by PERA revealed clearly that the return to work legislation undermined the solvency of the PERA funds and had a direct impact on PERA reserves used to pay pensions.
Silverman discloses that he is a downtown property owner, but does not disclose he is the developer of the recently built grocery store and apartment complex on city property in downtown Albuquerque.
Silverman has benefited from Berry’s terms in office and it should not come as any surprise that he feels Berry has done an excellent job with public safety.
Silverman and the Chamber of Commerce refuse to hold Mayor Berry at all accountable for being responsible for destroying APD and the reduced number of sworn police officers.
On December 1, 2009 when Berry was sworn in, APD had 1,098 sworn police officers.
In eight (8) years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 844 all under the watchful eye of Mayor Berry pretending he supported public safety.
In 2010, Mayor Berry unilaterally decided not to pay a 5% negotiated in good faith pay raise and for 4 full years there were no meaningful pay raises.
In 2010, Mayor Berry also abolished the longevity pay program that kept experienced police officers from retiring and he also abolished the APD take home car policy for APD, eliminated sign on bonuses and mortgage down payments for new recruits.
Moral within APD plummeted and the mass exodus of experienced police officers began when the longevity pay program was abolished.
Reinstating the “return to work” policy would be a major mistake in that it would essentially allow the return to work of many of those who created, contributed or who did not stop the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
APD needs a new generation of police officer trained and educated in “constitutional policing” and “return to work” is not the answer.