Police Union Back Handed Swipes At Keller; Wage Increase Will Not Solve Officer Shortage

The Democratic Keller Administration and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) police union have successfully negotiated a two-year contract that includes an hourly pay increase and increase longevity pay benefits.


On May 21, 2018 rank-and-file Albuquerque police officers overwhelmingly approved by a 501 to 40 vote a new two-year contract that will give police officers $12.1 million more in pay.


In announcing the new 2-year contract with the police union, Mayor Tim Keller said:

“This agreement gets us one step closer to addressing the public safety challenges our city is facing head on. … We were at a competitive disadvantage with our neighboring cities for recruitment efforts. These compensation adjustments will level the playing field so we can attract and retain qualified officers.”

In characteristic style, the police union when announcing approval of the contract by rank and file took a back handed swipe at the city administration.

The police union said the downside to the contract is that it is a two-year deal.

The police union claimed it wanted a one-year contract because many officers “don’t trust the city to keep its word on a multi-year deal.”


Why should the city trust the police union when it consistently criticizes any administration in office and has opposed many policy changes mandated by the Department of Justice consent decree?

It should not be forgotten that six days after Mayor Keller was sworn into office, it was the police union president that claimed the Mayor was “dishonorable” when the Mayor “apologized for a group of police officers”.

The union president claimed that the rank and file felt “discredited” by the Mayor when he gave an apology to the citizens of Albuquerque for APD’s history of excessive use of force and deadly force that bought the Department of Justice to find a “culture of aggression”.

The police union gave no credit to the six-month-old Keller Administration for the negotiated pay increases and a major change in attitude towards all the city unions.

The previous Republican administration for the past eight years had been at repeated impasse and unable to negotiate contracts with virtually all city unions, especially the fire and police unions and those impasses resulted in litigation.

Within weeks after taking office, the Keller Administration negotiated and approved an $8 million settlement with the Albuquerque Firefighter’s Union, ending a pay raise dispute that dated backs to 2011 with the previous Republican Administration.


The approved contract provides that the pay rate for officers with zero to four years of experience will go from $28 to $29 an hour.

Under the contract, officers with 4 to 14 years of experience will be paid $30 an hour.

The new contract will also raise the pay of more senior officers to between $30 to $31.50 an hour.

Officers with 15 years of more will be paid $31.50 an hour.

The rate for sergeants will go from $32 to $35 an hour, and lieutenants pay will go up from $36.70 to $40.00 an hour.


Longevity pay increases of between $2,600 to $13,000 a year will take effect August 1, 2018 and longevity pay will also increase in the contract’s second year.

The new contract calls for officers next year to start collecting longevity pay bonuses based on their years of experience.

Starting when an officer has five years of experience, the longevity bonuses will range from $100 to $600 every pay period.

The approved longevity pay scale effective August 1, 2018 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is as follows:

For 5 to 9 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 10 to 14 years of experience: $150 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,900 yearly
For 15 to 17 years of experience: $200 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,200 yearly
For 1 to 19 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 10 to 20 years or more: $500 will be paid bi-weekly, or $13,000 yearly

The approved longevity pay scale effective the first full pay period following July 1, 2019, and that will replace the 2018-2019 is as follows:

For 5 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 6 years of experience: $125 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,250 yearly
For 7 to 9 years of experience: $225 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,800 yearly
For 10 to 12 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 13 to 15 years o experience: $350 will be paid bi-weekly, or $9,100 yearly
For 16 to 17 years or more: $450 will be paid bi-weekly, or $11,700 yearly
For 18 or more years of experience: $600 will be paid bi-weekly, 15,600 yearly


The police union got into the act and parroted Mayor Keller when it said the pay increases and longevity pay will go a long way to help recruit experienced officers from around the country and make the city more competitive.

The increases in hourly wages and longevity pay are in no way a panacea for APD recruiting a new generation of police officers fully trained in constitutional policing practices.

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.

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

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

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 8 few years, the Police Academy will not meet the goal of recruiting and hiring 162 police officers.

APD is having significant problems filling unfilled positions and difficulty in growing the department even with APD offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus for new hires.


The APD Police Academy is unable to keep up with retirement losses.

For a number of years, graduating classes have averaged 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.

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 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 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:

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
5. 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.


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 more than increasing hourly pay and longevity pay to make APD more attractive to come and join to begin a 25-year career.

Growing the department will take time, major changes in management a major financial investment for recruitment and compliance with the DOJ consent decree reforms.

Until then, the Police Union’s motto will always be “What’s in your wallet?”

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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.