Looking For A Few Good Cops

The Keller Administration is proposing to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers.

The plan is to implement 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.

For the first fiscal year of the four-year plan, the 2018-2019 budget provides for increasing funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040, not much of an increase the first year.

Notwithstanding the existing funding for 1,000 sworn police, APD at the beginning of 2018 had 878 sworn police.

If the past 8-year history with the APD Academy is any reflection of what will happen, the APD Academy will be lucky to hire and train enough cadets just to keep up with retirements.

The number of sworn police officers has dropped dramatically from 1,100 full time sworn police in 2009 to 878 at the beginning of 2018.

In order to increase APD from the current 878 sworn police to 1,040 sworn by this time next year, the APD Police Academy will need to keep up with expected retirements and will have to hire at least 162 new officers either as new recruits or as lateral hires.

Based on APD Academy past performance over the last few years, the Police Academy will not be able to meet the goal.

1,000 to 1,200 applicants are needed to get a class of 40 cadets.

In 2016, the APD Academy graduated more than 90 cadets but because of retirements and other departures, the department had a net gain of six (6) officers.

According to the status quo budget projections, the Keller Administration claims there will be virtually no increase in growth without spending $88 million dollars to attempt expansion.

The 2018-2019 fiscal year budget reports the following number of cadet graduates over the last few years as follows:

Actual number of cadet graduates for fiscal year 2016-2017: 52
In 2016, APD had 90 retirements
Actual number of cadet graduates for fiscal year 2017-2018: 43
The net gain in 2017 was almost zero.
Approved number of cadet graduates for fiscal year 2018-2019: 80
Mid-Year number of cadet graduates for fiscal year 2018-2019: 24
Proposed number of approved cadet graduates for fiscal year 2019-2020: 100
At the beginning of 2018, APD had 878 sworn police officers.

A “Status Quo Projection” for Number of APD Officers was included in an APD expansion plan presented in a budget analysis as follows:

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

The status quo projections suggest APD will virtually have no increase in growth without expending $88 million dollars in to attempt to expand the size of the department.

If APD has the same number of retirements and other departures that it had last year, the the numbers show the department’s sworn officer count will shrink.

APD insiders are saying moral within the Department has improved somewhat, but not enough to keep another large wave of retirements come July 1, 2018 when the new fiscal year begins.

Retirement paperwork for police retirements need to be submitted before July 1, 2018 to allow a retiree to be eligible for cost of living adjustments (COLA) within two years and to cash out or be paid unused accumulated annual and sick leave.


On February 6, 2018, it was reported that two thirds of Albuquerque Police Academy applicants do not show up for testing to get into the APD academy.


APD is having is 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.

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 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 is a three-day testing process which explains why there are so many no shows.


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.

(NOTE: A misdemeanor charge or conviction for small amount of marijuana can disqualify an applicant.)


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].



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.


In 2009, APD was fully staffed at 1,100 police officers.

In 2009, APD command staff determined and recommended to the Mayor Martin Chavez that 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 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.


The Keller Administration has developed a detailed recruitment strategy that has three specific components:

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.

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.
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.
3. Increase recruiting and background check staff to expedite in order to clear more candidates for the police academy.
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.
5. Off-site testing for the Academy.
6. Host a Law Enforcement Explorer Program and other outreach programs for youth.
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
8. Formalize a CNM Pipeline-apprentice program.
9. Morale building initiatives including parking, re-examining take home vehicle restrictions, reasonable tattoo standards and other issues important to frontline officers.


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.
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.
3. Reach out to recently retired APD or other New Mexico law enforcement officers with incentive plan to return to the department.


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.
All sworn police officers, including management, are paid on an hourly basis. What should
2. Adopt a flexible shift schedule for officers assigned to field services division.
3. Provide diversified training offerings.
4. Institute other non monetary measures designed to improve morale.


In order for the Keller Administration expansion plan to be successful, the pool of applicants must be enlarged which has always proven to be very problematic for the APD Academy.

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 878 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 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.

Those reasons include:

1. Failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications.
2. Unable to pass criminal background checks.
3. Unable to make it through psychological background analysis.
4. 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.
Graduating classes average 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.


Mayor Keller promised to return to community-based policing with the hiring of 322 sworn police to reach a 1,200-staffing level within 4 years.

The Keller Administratio APD expansion plan looks good on paper, but based upon projected retirements, past performance of the APD Police Academy as well as the “pool of applicants” it remains to be seen if APD can even approach the the 1,040 figure planned for 2018-2019.

The proposed recruitment plan and strategy contains few programs that have not already been done in the past nor that are that much different from the past.

Applicants must have a strong desire to come to Albuquerque and begin a law enforcement career in what is considered on of the most violent cities in the country with soaring crime rates.

The main challenge is to expand the pool of recruits without compromising or reducing minimum qualifications and standards.

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, perhaps as much as 10 years.

Major changes in management and a major financial investment for recruitment are within the 2018-2019 budget submitted by the Keller Administration.

The downside is that it is going to be very difficult to expand the pool of qualified recruits and for APD to compete with other law enforcement agencies in the country.

The problem is that we have very little time left as a community to get a handle on our rising violent crime.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.