On Monday, March 5, 2018, the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths (3/8t ths) of a percentage point to deal with a $40 million project deficit for fiscal year that commences July 1, 2018 and to fund public safety and hire more police to increase ranks.
The gross receipts tax increase of 3/8th of a cent could potentially raise an additional $30 to $40 million in revenues this year when it goes into effect July 1, 2018 and upwards of $55 million each year thereafter.
The City of Albuquerque has a total general budget of $955.3 million dollars, of which $529.6 million is the general fund which goes to providing essential services.
“Public Safety” represents 29% of a $529.6 million general fund budget appropriation and includes both the Albuquerque Fire Department and the Albuquerque Police Department.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Annual budget is $171.8 million.
On April 1, 2018, the Keller Administration will be submitting the city budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 to the city council for public hearings and approval.
THE $88 MILLION APD EXPANSION PLAN ANALIZED
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.
In order to address the $40 million deficit, the Keller Administration prepared a “Budget Deficit Initiative Report” submitted to the city council for consideration outlining cuts and revenue generating options for the city council to consider.
(For the full February, 2018 Budget Deficit Initiative Report prepared see:
The “Budget Deficit Initiative Report” included outlining an aggressive and ambitious four (4) year plan to expand APD sworn police personnel.
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 $88 million dollars for expanding APD does not delineate in detail or account for the academy training nor the vehicles and other equipment that additional officers will require.
The amount does not delineate in any great detail nor take into account pay increases, which will be necessary for many recruitment and retention strategies.
The recruitment and hiring plan proposes to add 100 new police officers per year until a 1,200-staffing level is reached.
The ultimate goal is to return to community-based policing.
At a minimum, the plan calls for $32 million dollars in recurring costs.
The recurring costs does not include the price of recruitment strategies nor pay increases designed to recruit and retain officers.
EXISTING APD BUDGET AND STAFFING
“Public Safety” represents 29% of a $529.6 million general fund budget appropriation for the City of Albuquerque and includes both the Albuquerque Fire Department and the Albuquerque Police Department.
The Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) annual budget is $75.5 million and employs 699 full time employees.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Annual budget is $171.8 million and employs 1,484 which consists of funding for 484 civilian support staff and funding for 1,000 sworn police officers.
APD is currently funded for the salary and benefits for 68 additional officers.
However, the funding for the 68 additional officers is being absorbed by the need to fund overtime to cover the officer shortage.
Although fully funded for 1,000 sworn officers, APD has 853 sworn police officers with only 436 assigned to field services, divided into three working shifts, less any of those on vacation, sick leave or in court.
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.
STATUS QUO PROJECTIONS FOR APD WITHOUT $88 MILLION EXPANSION
A “Status Quo Projection” for Number of APD Officers was included in the plan for consideration:
Starting Officer Count each year for the next four years: 2018: 880, 2019: 872, 2020: 864, 2021: 857
Annual New Recruits each year for the next four years: 56 per year for a total of 224
Annual Lateral Recruits each year for the next four years: 2 per year for a total of 8
Total Annual Recruits each year for the next four years: 58 per year for a total of 232
Annual Retirements each year for the next four years: 41 per year for a total of 164
Annual Resignations each year for the next four years: 24 per year for a total of 96
Total Annual Attrition each year for the next four years: 65 per year for a total of 260
Net Loss each year for the next four years: 8 per year for a total of 32
Remaining Officers each year for the next 4 years: 2018: 872, 2019: 864, 2019: 857, 2020: 849
According to the status quo projections APD will virtually have no if any projected growth rate without expending $88 million dollars.
COMMENTARY: The status quo projections for starting officer count, lateral recruits, annual recruits, annual retirements, annual resignations, annual attritions and the net losses are each flat and reflect the same numbers each year for each category. The statistics during the past eight years are very fluid and the status quo projections are believed not to be an accurate representation.
IN A NUTSHELL
The overall objectives of the $88 million-dollar APD Expansion Plan are nothing more than very general proposals which are very short on details, budget matters and fails to show exactly what the City, APD and the public will get for $88 million.
In a one sentence nutshell, the plan is to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures not delineated, to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 850 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing in the hopes of bringing down crime rates.
The entire expansion plan is extremely short on details, including and not limited to, detailed budget proposals and costs associated with the hiring of the 350 police officers, budget costs of recruitment, costs for training and equipment, budgets for advertising and recruiting, benefit and retirement contributions to PERA and police academy expenditures.
The expansion plan fails to give a breakdown of the $32 million-dollar recurring costs and costs and expenditures for the completion of the Department of Justice consent decree reforms to accomplish constitutional policing with the $32 million based on speculation.
Although the plan has a chart to compare before and after staff for 2010 and 2018, the plan also fails to address any type breakdown of what the administration plans to do with the additional police officers hired, what units they will be assigned to, the number that will be assigned to field services and units such as auto theft, violent crimes and property crimes units.
It can only be assumed because of the lack of detail the APD expansion plan presented in the “Budget Deficit Initiative Report” was based on sure speculation and offered merely as an effort to justify the tax increase and as reference point for city council consideration.
APD RECRUITMENT PLANS DETAILED
Following is the detailed APD recruitment strategy developed by the Keller Administration.
The expansion strategy that APD intends to pursue are three specific programs:
A. A program to attract new recruits.
B. A Program to attract lateral hires from other law enforcement agencies.
C. A Program to retain existing APD police by convincing them not to retire.
PROGRAM TO ATTRACT NEW RECRUITS
To attract new recruits, APD is proposing the following:
1. Institute and broaden hiring and referral bonuses. The total cost of adding new officers to the Police Department depends on the extent to which APD uses increased pay, longevity incentives, incentives for new recruits, and other incentive to increase sworn personnel numbers.
COMMENTARY: Successful programs have been used in the past for recruitment. APD offers a $5,000 sign-on bonus for new hires. Other programs or bonuses could include mortgage down payment bonuses, debt forgiveness bonuses, relocation cost bonuses and education debt pay off bonuses, all contingent and paid only upon successful completion of the academy with an eight-year minimum commitment to work for APD.
2. Create an APD Intern “PSA2 Plan” Program to keep a connection with applicants who were rejected for reasons that can be corrected over time such as credit scores, physical abilities, etc.
COMMENTARY: The inability to meet the physical requirements of academy training pose one of the largest areas of rejection and reducing the pool of applicants. A physical training camp or program after acceptance but prior to entry into the academy could be offered by outside contractors or trainers, either paid for by cadets or the city to prepare cadets before they begin the academy. Cadets need to pass physicals and be deemed capable of handling the physical requirement of the training.
3. Increase recruiting and background check staff to expedite in order to clear more candidates for the police academy.
COMMENTARY: APD recruits must pass a “polygraph” examine as part of the background checks. It is well settled law that the results “polygraph” examines are not admissible in court unless agreed to by the parties. Polygraph examines are considered unreliable and based on highly questionable scientific data and physical responses to questions. 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 or given less weight in the evaluation process. Eliminating the “polygraph test” passage requirement all together would increase the pool of applicants that could be admitted and would not be a lowering of entrance requirements.
4. Produce recruitment videos and ads to be used during movie theatre showings or on local television stations during active recruitment cycle. Video could also be shared on social media.
COMMENTARY: A major financial commitment needs to be made with advertising agencies and funding for an advertising budget to develop a comprehensive recruitment and promotion plan to include television, radio and outdoor adverting, with a formal Request for Proposals (RFPs) issued for competitive bids. An advertising and promotion budget for a four-year period would be in order to coincide with the four year growth plan.
5. Off-site testing for the Academy.
COMMENTARY: Academy testing sites and dates should be made available at major Universities and community colleges and major cities in New Mexico and other major cities such as Houston, Denver, Phoenix and elsewhere.
6. Host a Law Enforcement Explorer Program and other outreach programs for youth.
COMMETARY: The minimum age to become a police officer is 21 and any outreach programs for youth may have a negligible benefit.
7. Reconsider educational requirements to allow recruitment of officers to temporarily defer the college credit requirements and meet the requirement within reasonable time frames following graduation from the police academy
COMMENTARY: 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 who would be better police officers. A person’s education level does not always reflect intelligence nor how a person will react under pressure, especially when that person perceives their own life is in danger and they have to make life and death decisions to defend themselves.
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. Eliminating altogether the “college credit” would increase the final pool of applicants and not be a lowering of standards.
8. Formalize a CNM Pipeline-apprentice program.
COMMENTARY: The New Mexico Community College (CNM) offers an associate’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. A partnership or memorandum of understanding should be explored on what additional training or classes that could be offered by CNM to satisfy academy credit hours and training. Classes in constitutional policing methods could be developed and offered by CNM
9. Morale building initiatives including parking, re-examining take home vehicle restrictions, reasonable tattoo standards and other issues important to frontline officers.
COMMENTARY: The effectiveness of morale building measures are always difficult to gage in para military organizations such as APD that deal with criminal elements, but they do matter and should be implemented whenever possible.
PROGRAM TO ATTRACT MORE “LATERALS” FROM OTHER AGENCIES
To attract more “laterals”, the Keller Administration is proposing as follows:
1. Create lateral transfer program with career development program to allow certified law enforcement officers to be hired and placed at salary levels commensurate with their training and experience.
COMMENTARY: Lateral hires have the advantage of lower training costs. Lateral hires have the disadvantage of requiring more pay for the experience. Another major disadvantage is the potential hiring of experienced officers that have not been fully trained in constitutional policing methods as mandated by the Department of Justice consent decree.
2. Use strategic and targeted longevity increases for recruitment of lateral officers in order to adequately compensate them for their law enforcement time and experience.
COMMENTARY: The City Administration reinstated longevity pay where experienced officer are paid anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000 depending the number of years on the force to stay with APD or not to retire and the program should be made permanant.
3. Reach out to recently retired APD or other New Mexico law enforcement officers with incentive plan to return to the department.
COMMENTARY: What is very problematic is hiring and returning to work APD police officers that helped create, or participated, or did not stop the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice. Another problem area would be hiring police officers that are not fully committed to the DOJ mandated reforms under the consent decree.
PROGRAM TO RETAIN EXISTING PERSONNEL
To retain more existing officers from leaving for other police departments or retiring, the Keller Administration is proposing:
1. Increasing overall compensation to police officers.
COMMENTARY: APD police officers in general are some of the best paid police in the country with a very generous retirement program where a police officer can retire after 25 years of service and earn 90% of their “high three” salary for the rest of their lives.
The average and normal yearly salary paid APD Police Officers First Class after about one year on the job is $56,000 a year. 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).
Patrol Officers First Class are all paid $27.50 an hour regardless of the number of years of service. 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. The main reason for the high pay is the overtime worked. The Albuquerque Police Department consistently goes over its overtime budget by millions to the detriment of other city departments and other city employees. Last year, APD went over is overtime budget by $4 million when it went from $9 million budgeted to $13 million spent. An audit of APD’s overtime found serious deficiencies in the granting of overtime and time cards.
There are listed 66 Patrol Officers First Class in the list of the top 250 wage earners at city hall earning more than $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.
All sworn police officers, including management, are paid on an hourly basis. What should be implement is a base salary pay scale program with steps increase in salaries for years of service.
Overtime pay and time and a half pay should be strictly prohibited with a yearend bonus program initiated and bonuses paid for levels of overtime worked. Command Staff should be paid salaries, not hourly wages, with no allowance for any overtime and working hours be a minimum of eight hours a day and no further paid for work over the mandatory eight hours.
2. Adopt a flexible shift schedule for officers assigned to field services division.
COMMENTARY: Flexible shift schedules do not necessarily result in an increase of productivity.
3. Provide diversified training offerings.
COMMENTARY: This was at one time offered by APD.
4. Institute other nonmonetary measures designed to improve morale. Apart from the base cost of hiring new officers, including detectives and other law enforcement professionals and first responders, the price of these options depends on whether APD officers’ compensation increases. Currently APD compensation for new recruits is competitive with other departments, but that competitiveness decreases with longevity over time.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR PUBLIC SAFETY THAT ARE NEEDED
Police officer shortage and increasing personnel are only part of the problems to deal with Albuquerque rising crime rates.
The City’s public safety departments lack critical key equipment and technology for them to be effective.
Additional resources are needed for public safety to address communications.
These items over time have contributed, and will continue to contribute, to broader criminal justice system delays across the criminal justice systems, including prosecution, criminal defense and the courts.
Some of the most pressing needs include the following:
1. To comply with federal regulations, the land mobile radio system for the Police and Fire Departments needs to be replaced at an estimated one-time cost to the City of $15 million.
COMMENTARY: The $15 million is only the replacement cost for the communications system, and given the system finally selected and when you factor in remodeling or construction costs for the 911 Emergency Call Center, it will likely reach a cost of $40 million. The one-time cost should not come out of the city’s general fund but rather be part of the capital improvements program (CIP) approved by voters. Another option for the update or replacement of the communications system would be securing one-time funding in federal law enforcement grants or a congressional appropriation.
2. In order to redirect more appropriate resources to the over 30 overdoses per day and over 20 calls for psychological issues and suicide attempts, an estimated investment of $2.8 million recurring and $2.1 million in non-recurring for community paramedicine and basic life support units for the Albuquerque Fire Department.
COMMENTARY: These are costs that should be included within the Fire Departments general operating fund.
3. In order to keep up with modern technology, implement effective crime fighting strategies and comply with the Department of Justice settlement agreement, an estimated $2 million recurring for the Police Department needs to update its information technology systems.
COMMENTARY: The fact that this is a “recurring cost” mandates that it be included each year in the APD budget.
4. In order to address the backlog of over 4,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits with a combination of in-house and outsourced testing, an estimated one-time investment of $4 million.
COMMENTARY: The Albuquerque City Council could enact and fund a separate program for this that would require Requests for Proposals and competitive bidding from private contractors.
5. In order to address the backlog of over 6,500 untested fingerprints and 4,800 DNA samples in addition to the sexual assault kits, and a wait time on this testing of up to 16 months, an estimated recurring cost of $400,000.
COMMENTARY: The Albuquerque City Council could enact and fund a separate program for this that would require Requests for Proposals and competitive bidding from private contractors.
COMMENTARY: RECRUITMENT IS MAJOR OBSTACLE AND THE MAIN PROBLEM
APD is severely understaffed and struggling to implement expansive and expensive Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to and mandated reforms.
APD is having significant problems filling unfilled positions and the difficulty in growing the department even with APD offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus for new hires.
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.
According to an APD 2,551 cadet “interest cards” were submitted by people online in 2017.
Saying that there were 2,551 “interest cards” filled out is misleading and does not mean actual applicants.
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.
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 is a three-day testing process which probably explains why there are so many no shows.
Recruiting a younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department has become very difficult and unachievable.
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.
The overwhelming number of police academy applicants fail to get into the academy for any number of reasons including the following reasons:
A. Failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications
B. Unable to pass criminal background checks
C. Unable to make it through psychological background analysis
D. Failing the polygraph tests
E. Lying on the on the applications
F. 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.
The Keller administration will not be very successful anytime soon in filling all the vacancies APD already has and the projected increases promised given the plan presented to the city council.
APD needs to “triple down” on recruitment and dramatically increase the size and number of police academy classes per year if it hopes to make any progress in growing APD ranks.
Based on past experiences, 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.
I suspect it will be more like eight (8) years to get APD back to the department it once was, presuming Keller seeks and is elected to a second term and if any progress is made by APD in reducing our crime rates.