I was delighted to contribute information to the Associated Press for its story on Albuquerque Police Department (APD) overtime budget.
An Associated Press (AP) review found that seven (7) first class police officers patrolling Albuquerque took in a salary of at least $124,000 in 2016.
By contrasts, the Mayor of Albuquerque is paid $104,000 a year and the sixteen (16) city department directors are paid average of $109,000.
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 and their salaries stay the same for the fiscal year.
According to the AP report, critics of the overtime spending say it is a result of officers taking advantage of a system that allows them to grab excessive overtime at the expense of the city.
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.
The average Albuquerque patrolman first class makes around $56,000 a year and are paid an additional 15% for benefits, such as insurance, paid sick leave and annual leave.
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 wage as a ten (10) year veteran.
The average and normal yearly salary paid APD Police Officers First Class is $56,000 a year.
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.
APD police officers have one of the better retirement plans in the country and with 25 years of service can retire with 90% every year for the rest of their lives of the average amount of their top three (3) wage earning years with the city.
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.
The Albuquerque Police Department is the only city hall department that pays longevity bonuses to city hall employees.
A review of the city’s 250 top earners revealed that 66 first class police officers were among the highest paid city employees earning a total of around $7.1 million in salary and overtime.
Patrolmen first class earning excessive overtime is nothing new and has been going on for years.
The salaries inflated by overtime show to some extent that there are officers that know how to manipulate the system to earn overtime.
A city internal audit report released in March of this year revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent over $3.9 million over its “overtime” budget.
The audit said in fiscal year 2016, APD paid over time to APD employees a total amount of $13 million when the actual budget was for $9 million.
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.
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 would have to have been approved and ordered by CAO Rob Perry.
The audit says 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.
When the city audit first came out, CAO Rob Perry said that the excessive overtime was attributed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree mandates and training.
Nowhere does the audit blame the implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms as the cause of the overtime as was argued by CAO Rob Perry.
During the last 7 years, the Albuquerque Police Department has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions to the detriment of other city departments and other city employees.
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.
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.
However, there are only 850 sworn actually employed with 435 assigned to the field patrolling the streets and handling approximately 650,000 priority one 911 calls a year.
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.
A complete reorganization and change of management at APD is needed to get more police officers patrolling our streets.
An aggressive hiring and recruitment program needs to be initiated to increase the ranks of patrol officers.
A mandatory “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police office 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.
As an alternative, what needs to be considered is getting away from hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service.
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 have patrolman first class making two to three times their base salary.