APD Patrolmen First Class earning excessive overtime is nothing new, has been going on for years and has been common knowledge.
What has not been common knowledge is that the for the past three (3) years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has been using “overtime pay” as a recruiting incentive to attract applicants.
On its recruiting web page, APD goes as far as to say that as as police officer you will get “a great opportunity to earn at least 25-percent above your base salary in overtime and benefits.”
APD’s website makes the claim that recruits have the potential to make “in excess of $87,000 a year”, with the claim based on an “average from the top 50 earning patrol officers.”
It is a major mistake is for APD to use “overtime” pay as a recruitment tool and it should stop.
APD POLICE OFFICER BASE PAY
Albuquerque Police Officers are some of the best paid law enforcement in the country when you take into account their pay, longevity pay incentives, benefits and retirement pay.
No doubt the police union and many APD police officers would strongly dispute they are well paid, but in comparison to other city employees, they clearly are.
The Mayor of Albuquerque is paid $125,000 a year and the sixteen (16) city department directors are paid average of $110,000 and arguably these are 24/7 jobs.
Department directors must manage employees and more often than not work in far excess of a 40-hour week and they are never paid overtime, they are at will employees serving at the pleasure of the Mayor and their salaries stay the same for the fiscal year.
The are approximately 223 “ungraded,” full-time employees who are basically political appointees and who can be fired at will because they don’t have the rights and protections that the city’s 4,200 other “classified” employees do.
The average salary for classified city employees is $30,000 to $35,000 a year and they cannot be terminated without cause.
The average entry level Albuquerque patrolman first class makes $56,000 to $58,000 a year, depending on actual hours worked in a year, and are paid an additional 15% for benefits, such as insurance, paid sick leave and annual leave and the positions are classified and a police officer cannot be terminated without cause.
Even when terminated for cause or disciplined for cause, police officers are guaranteed and appeals process before the city personnel board.
All patrol officers first class are paid the exact same hourly rate of $27.50 no matter the number of years on the police force, therefore a four (4) year veteran of the force makes the same hourly wage as a ten (10) year veteran.
Under the union contract, sworn police officers are paid a mandatory two hours of overtime and paid “time and a half” for court appearances such as arraignments of DWI offenders and police prosecution of misdemeanor cases.
The Albuquerque Police Department is the only city hall department that pays longevity bonuses to city hall employees.
RETIRING FROM APD
APD police officers have one of the better retirement plans in the country.
APD officers can retire after 25 years of service and be paid a pension of 90% of their top three (3) wage earning years with the city every year for the rest of their lives when they retire from the city.
APD officers are also allowed to accumulate all of their yearly vacation time and earned sick leave time and cash it out when they retire or they can be carried on the city payroll until it is paid out.
It is not uncommon for police officers to retire and be handed a check for thousands of dollars to compensate them for their accumulated unused sick and annual leave.
Further, APD officers are paid longevity pay bonuses of as little of $5,000 and as much as $15,000 to stay with the department and not leave or retire early.
APD retirement pay under the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) is considered one of the most lucrative in the country.
APD PATROL OFFICERS FIRST CLASS SOME OF HIGHEST PAID CITY EMPLOYEES
According to city payroll records, a patrolman first class was the city’s seventh top earner, taking home nearly $147,000 in salary and overtime.
Seven (7) patrol officers first class were paid at least $124,000 in 2016.
A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2017 reveals that 66 patrol officers first class were among the highest paid city employees earning a total of around $7.1 million in salary and overtime.
A total of 124 of the 250 top wage earners at city hall are employed by the Albuquerque Police Department and include patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders and deputy chiefs, assistant chief and the chief with annual pay ranging from $95,000 a year up to $166,699 a year.
(See City of Albuquerque web site for full list of 250 top city wage earners).
Five (5) APD Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage workers as being paid $146,971, $145,180, $140,243, $137,817 and $125,061 respectfully making them the 6th, the 7th, the 10th, the 12th and the 20th highest paid employees at city hall.
There are listed 66 Patrol Officers First Class in the list of the top 250 wage earners at city hall earning in excess of $95,000 a year and as much as $146,000 a year.
Combined, there are a total of 91 APD sworn police officers and sergeants who are named in the top 250 wage earners and city hall.
The fact that any APD Patrolman First Class are paid as much as between $95,000 to $146,000, or two to three times their normal salary in any given year should be very concerning to the Mayor and City Council.
CITY INTERNAL AUDIT FOUND APD OVERTIME ABUSES
A March, 2017 a city internal audit of APD’s overtime spending found police officers taking advantage of a system that allows them to accumulate excessive overtime at the expense of other city departments.
During the last 8 years, the Albuquerque Police Department has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions.
When APD exceeds its overtime budget, it is to the detriment of other city departments and other city employees in that the funding must be found by taking it from other departments and programs.
In fiscal year 2016, APD was funded for $9 million for over time but APD but actually spent $13 million.
A city internal audit report released in March, 2017 revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent over $3.9 million over its “overtime” budget.
The city internal audit focused primarily on protocol issues within APD on how over time is garnered, not how much was spent, and the protocol was approved and ordered by the Chief Administrative Officer.
The audit found that too often, officers didn’t follow the rules when it came to get overtime pre-approved or didn’t properly submit overtime for “grant funded” traffic over time.
According to the audit, there were potentially 38,000 cases of unapproved overtime that occurred during fiscal year 2016 based on a sampling of time cards.
The salaries inflated by overtime show to some extent that there are officers that know how to manipulate the system to earn overtime.
From a personnel management standpoint, when you have a select few that are taking the lion’s share of overtime, it causes moral problems with the rest.
Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of police resources and the lack of personnel.
Consecutive shifts or excessive overtime for any police officer can lead to extreme fatigue, emotional burnout and reduce an officer’s alertness and response times and reflexes that can endanger lives and public safety.
The Albuquerque City Council approved and fully funded 1,000 sworn police officers for APD for fiscal year 2017-2018 that ends July 1, 2018.
However, there are only 850 sworn actually employed with 435 assigned to the field patrolling the streets and handling approximately 650,000 priorities one 911 calls a year.
Supposedly, the savings from not filling the 150 unfilled APD positions went to pay overtime.
Albuquerque needs at least 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community-based policing that will reduce overtime costs and reduce crime statistics.
The Keller Administration is calling for an $88 million dollar of additional funding and increased costs for APD over the next four fiscal years from 2018 to 2022.
The Keller Administration is proposing to increase the number of sworn police officers from the current 836 positions filled to 1,200 or by 264 sworn police officers and return to community-based policing.
An aggressive hiring and recruitment program needs to be initiated to increase the ranks of patrol officers, however the amount of overtime a new recruit can earn should not be used in any manner as a recruiting tool.
Sign on bonuses, tuition debt payoff, mortgage down payment bonuses and moving and relocation bonuses need to be offered to new recruits instead of telling them they can increase their yearly wages by working overtime.
A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries should be implemented.
A mandatory “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police officer can be paid needs to be established that is fair and equitable for all sworn personnel to make available overtime to more sworn police officers in the department.
APD should do away with hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service.
A system of overtime bonuses to be paid at the end of the year for accumulated increments of overtime could be implement.
Shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete work load, the employee works it for the same salary with no overtime and a modification of shift times for court appearances.
Salaries and step increase take away inflating overtime and motivates employees to get more done within the allotted shift or modification of shift times.
Until the salary structure is changed, APD will always have patrolman first class making two to three times their base salary and emotional burnout will always be the norm endangering public safety.