It was reported that two thirds of Albuquerque Police Academy applicants do not show up for testing to get into the APD academy.
The news report explained why Albuquerque is having so much problems filling unfilled positions and the difficulty in growing the department even with APD offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus for new hires.
According to an APD spokesperson 2,551 cadet “interest cards” were submitted by people online in 2017.
Of the 2,551 interest cards submitted, 1,479 were out-of-state applicants which reflects a healthy interest of people at least willing to consider coming to Albuquerque and beginning a law enforcement career.
Saying that there were 2,551 “interest cards” filled out is slightly misleading and does not mean actual applicants.
Of the 2,551-people showing an interest in applying, 2,050 qualified to take the academy test but only 606 showed up for the testing.
It turns out that it is a three-day testing process which probably explains why there are so many no shows.
MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS TO BE AN ALBQUERQUE POLICE OFFICER
All prospective Albuquerque Police Department officers must meet the following eligibility criteria:
1. Be a US citizen and at least 21 years old at the time of police academy graduation
2. Have a high school diploma or GED, and possess a valid driver’s license.
3. Applicants must have completed a minimum of 32 college credits unless the applicant has at least of two years of experience with and received an honorable discharge from the United States military.
4. Two years of continuous service as an Albuquerque police service aid or prisoner transport officer or five years of continuous service in a government or private sector position may also qualify for a waiver of the college credit requirement.
5. Immediate disqualification occurs if an applicant has a felony conviction, has been convicted of domestic violence, or has been convicted of a misdemeanor within three years of the application date.
STEPS TO BECOME AND ALBUQUERQUE POLICE OFFICER
Having the “minimum” qualifications to be an Albuquerque Police Officer only gives you an opportunity to test for the job.
The actual steps that must be taken to become an Albuquerque Police Officer are complicated and are as follows:
1. Meet the minimum qualifications for prospective officers and verify your eligibility by submitting an interest card to the Albuquerque Police Department.
2. Take the City Entrance Exam, which is similar to a civil service exam.
3. Submit a personal history statement.
4. Pass a physical abilities test.
5. Take the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (Note: this is a multiple-choice test measuring skill in vocabulary and reading.)
6. Submit the required personal documents, such as a credit report and photograph.
7. Complete a written psychological evaluation and background investigation.
8. Take a polygraph exam.
9. Complete a psychological interview.
10. Attend a panel interview with the Chief’s Selection Committee.
11. Complete a medical exam and drug screen.
12. Accept a conditional hire offer and attend the police academy.
13. Begin working as an Albuquerque patrol officer and [completing six months of patrol work with another sworn officer].
TWO REQUIREMENTS THAT SHOULD BE REVISITED
Approximately fifteen years ago, the minimum of 32 college credit requirement was added as a minimum entry requirement thereby excluding many individuals from being able to apply.
The rationale for the college credit requirement was that it would mean recruiting a higher quality of applicant and make better police officers.
A person’s education level does not always reflect intelligence nor how a person will react under pressure, especially when a life is in danger and you have to make life and death decisions.
The Albuquerque Police Academy is a six-month academy that requires the successful completion of physical and mental training and screening.
The academy has mandatory attendance of academic classes, in standard operating procedures, criminal procedure and the law with “constitutional policing” emphasized.
The college credit requirement needs to be revisited and determined if it is really necessary given the amount of training and education mandated by the academy.
Another requirement is passing a “polygraph” examine.
It is well settled law that the results “polygraph” examines are not admissible in court unless agreed to by the parties primarily because such examines are considered unreliable.
The rationale for the polygraph exam being evidence of a person’s propensity to lie is highly questionable and it is one requirement that should be revisited.
Eliminating the “college credit” requirement as well as the “polygraph test” would increase the final pool of applicants and not be a lowering of standards.
APD STAFFING LEVELS
In 2009, APD was fully staffed at 1,100 police officers, but command staff determined and recommended a staffing level of 1,200 officers was needed for a population the size of Albuquerque in order fully implement community based policing.
The December 11, 2015 Albuquerque Police Department Comprehensive Staffing Assessment and Resource Study prepared by Alexander Weiss for the Department of Justice concluded that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn officers.
The Weiss report concluded that 1,000 sworn police officers were sufficient for Albuquerque provided that APD officers did not respond to certain low priority calls such as minor traffic accidents or false alarm calls.
APD cannot recruit and hire enough officers to keep the department at the current funded 1,000 level of sworn officers.
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 had only 830 sworn police officers despite the department being fully funded for 1,000.
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.
1,000 to 1,200 applicants are needed to get a class of 40 cadets.
In 2016 APD had 90 retirements.
The net net gain in 2017 was almost zero.
Currently, APD has 850 sworn police officers and in 2017 graduated 73 cadets.
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.
After hearing from Chief Eden and Major Tyler at the November 16, 2017 hearing 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?”
THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
APD is severely understaffed and struggling to implement expansive and expensive Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to and mandated reforms.
Although APD has 850 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 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 number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 officers to 850 over the past eight years for any number of reasons including:
1. Extreme low morale resulting in experienced officers deciding to retire sooner than later or going to other law enforcement agencies.
2. Changes in the Public Employee Retirement Association benefits
3. Failed APD management by the previous administration
4. Poor Working conditions as a result of heavy workloads and caseloads
5. Intense scrutiny by the Department of Justice resulting in the DOJ consent decree.
6. Terminations and disciplinary actions
7. Inability to attract “lateral” transfers from other departments
APD’s poor and negative national reputation and Albuquerque’s high violent crime rates are also not conducive to attracting people who want to begin a long-term career in law enforcement in Albuquerque.
The DOJ oversight requirements and the increased dangers in being a police officer in a violent city such as Albuquerque has also had an impact on recruitment.
APD consistently has thousands of applicants that apply to the police academy every year as evidenced by the number of “interest cards” submitted which is the first step to applying with APD.
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, failing the polygraph tests, lying on the on the applications or failing a credit check.
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 APD Police Academy is unable to keep up with retirement losses and for a number of years graduating classes have averaged 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.
There is no doubt that it will take years to grow the department to the 1,200-level desired to return to community-based policing.
Growing the department will take time, major changes in management and a major financial investment for recruitment.
The problem is that we have very little time left as a community to get a handle on our rising violent crime rates.