During the November 16, 2017 all day hearing before Federal Judge Robert on the Federal Monitor’s sixth report, it was revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department has only 830 sworn police officers despite the department being fully funded for 1,000.
During the hearing, Chief Gordon Eden testified about APD’s recruitment efforts during 2016.
Chief Eden reported that in 2016, the department graduated more than 90 cadets from its training academy, and because of retirements and other departures, the department had a net gain of six (6) officers.
Chief Eden reported that 1,000 to 1,200 applicants are needed to get a class of 40 cadets.
Eden went on to say “Our net gain this year will be almost zero.”
APD Academy Director Jessica Tyler also spoke and reported that APD currently has only 830 sworn officers contrary to the 850 that has been reported.
Major Tyler said the academy will graduate 73 cadets this year.
Last year, APD had 90 retirements.
The problem identified is that if APD has the same number of retirements and other departures that it had last year, it means that the department’s number of sworn officers will shrink.
There was a discrepancy between Eden’s and Tyler’s testimony before Brack in that both had different figures about the net gain of officers last year.
Eden said the department graduate 92 cadets for a net gain of six (6) officers.
Tyler said that last year’s net gain was four (4) officers and later she claimed the net gain was four to six officers.
After hearing from Chief Eden and Major Tyler, Judge Brack’s asked “How do we fix this? You are not going to get [to a fully staffed department] in my lifetime or in the lifetimes of anyone here. What have you done?”
Major Tyler response was “We have got to do more to retain our officers. This year we hired seven lateral officers.”
WHERE APD WAS AND WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO
Eight years ago, Albuquerque had a police department that was fully committed to community based policing and APD employed 1,100 sworn police officers, the most sworn police officers in its history.
Eight years ago, APD was the best trained, best equipped and the best funded department in its history and crime rates were going down.
Today, APD cannot recruit and hire enough sworn officers to keep the department at the 1,000 level already funded let alone the 1,200 that is being proposed.
The average and normal yearly salary paid APD Police Officers First Class after one year on the job is $56,000 a year.
The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 836 over the past eight years in large part because of extensive retirements, extreme low morale resulting in experienced officers deciding to retire sooner rather than later, changes in the Public Employee Retirement Association benefits, failed APD management, heavy workloads and intense scrutiny by the Department of Justice resulting in the DOJ consent decree.
Although APD has 830 sworn police officers, only 436 are assigned to the field services, less those on annual leave or sick leave, spread out over three shifts, and taking 69,000 911 priority one calls a year not to mention priority 2 and 3 calls for service.
Recruiting a younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department has become very difficult and unachievable for any number of reasons.
The APD Police Academy is unable to keep up with retirement losses and for many years graduating classes have averaged 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.
The overwhelming number of police academy applicants fail to get into the academy for any number of reasons including failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications, unable to pass criminal background checks, unable to make it through psychological background analysis or they fail polygraph tests or perhaps even lie on their applications.
Once in the police academy, many cadets are unable to meet minimum physical requirements or unable to handle the training and academic requirements to graduate from the academy.
The “pool” of recruits must be increased by increasing entry level salaries, offering more incentives to join APD and reevaluate whether entry level pay is commensurate with entry level requirements and minimum qualifications.
The City needs 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community based policing that will reduce crime, but to accomplish that will take time, major changes in management and a major financial investment.
Every effort should be made to avoid the hiring of lateral hires with concentration made on hiring a new generation of police officer fully trained in constitutional policing policies and procedures.
The city needs to fund and implement a non-negotiated major hourly rate increase for entry level sworn officers, excluding management, to improve recruitment, retention and morale.
As an alternative, the City needs to negotiate a “salary” structure with steps, not an hourly wage structure as exists now, and eliminate overtime.
Sign on bonuses, tuition debt payoff and mortgage down payment bonuses need to be offered to new recruits.
Yearly experienced officer retention bonuses must be made permanent.
APD needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year.
If necessary, the City Council needs to enact a public safety tax to pay for APD’s staffing expansion, pay incentive programs, needed training programs, DOJ-mandated reforms, equipment acquisitions and 911 emergency operations, staffing and equipment.
Until aggressive action is taken with APD and the Department of Justice mandated and agreed to reforms, APD will continue to spin out of control, crime rates will continue to rise and Albuquerque will continue to see dramatic spikes in violent crime.