The term “poaching” is somewhat insulting as an illegal hunting term when referring to law enforcement recruitment from other law enforcement departments and communities. On July 22, 2019, speaking before the real estate development organization the National Association of Industrial Parks (NAIOP), Mayor Tim Keller acknowledge that “poaching” is what APD has done for the last year to recruit 100 sworn police and said:
“We are done trying to poach folks. … It was something we needed to do – and I will say I did work with all the other mayors on that and, I think actually, net-net, it worked out OK and we got our additional 100 – but we’re going to have to go to other cities now.”
GROWING THE DEPARTMENT
In the last year, APD has added 116 sworn police to the force because of “poaching”. APD’s goal is to spend $88 million dollars starting last year in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, 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 massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Last year’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provided for increasing APD funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. This year’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget has funding for 1,040 sworn police.
The APD recruiting plan to grow the size of the department included the city increasing police officer hourly pay and increasing longevity incentive pay. In 2018, the Keller Administration and the APD Union negotiated and agreed to a 2-year contract. The approved contract provides that the pay rate for officers with zero to 4 years of experience went from $28 to $29 an hour. Starting pay for an APD officer right out of the APD academy is $29 an hour. Under the two-year contract, officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour. The new contract pays senior officers between $30 to $31.50 an hour. Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour. The rate for sergeants went from $32 to $35 an hour, and lieutenants pay went from $36.70 to $40.00 an hour.
The approved longevity pay scale effective the first full pay period following July 1, 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 of 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.
Time employed by a lateral from other law enforcement agencies qualify for the APD longevity bonuses. APD announced that officers from other departments can get credit for up to 10 years of experience they have had with other law enforcement agencies which means $3,900 longevity pay after working for APD for only 1 year. In the past, lateral hires were given credit for only half of their previous work experience. That work experience directly increases an officer’s pay in the form of yearly incentive retention bonuses.
APD’s new pay structure and increased longevity pay incentive bonuses allowed APD to recruit experienced police officers from other New Mexico law enforcement agencies. The law enforcement agencies APD recruited from did raise serious concerns about losing their officers to Albuquerque to the point many had to raise their pay structure to retain their officers. Police officers who left other agencies to join APD are some of the more experienced and highly trained officers at the agencies they left.
APD’s hourly pay is significantly higher than what officers and deputies make in other law enforcement agencies in the New Mexico. Notwithstanding, Bernalillo County Sheriff Officers (BCSO) are paid about the same as APD and the Santa Fe Police Department (SFPD) has raised their pay scale to match APD.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
NO, poaching was not something that needed to be done given the significant increase in APD budget, increases in hourly pay and the very lucrative longevity pay raises negotiated. APD’s ability to attract officers from other New Mexico Law enforcement agencies probably has peaked with the other agencies also increasing their pay to compete with APD.
The poaching was done soley as a “rush to hire” sworn police as quickly as possible. The poaching seriously impacted other communities and law enforcement agencies contrary to Mayor Keller’s claim of working with other Mayors. The problem with “poaching” is that it increases the risk of hiring problem officers from other agencies as lateral transfers, which is what caused in part APDs problems in the first place with the Department of Justice and the finding of a “culture of aggression”.
Lateral transfers are given abbreviated training and they may not be committed to fully constitutional policing practices. The city’s so called “rush to hire” cops from 2005 to 2009 is what resulted in a major lawsuit and a large payout when the plaintiff’s attorney established that an inordinate number of police shootings came from a single APD class.
Now that the “poaching” is over, Keller has said he still wants to recruit another 300 cops to reach his goal of 1,200 and to keep up with retirements. Recruiting a younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department at this point will be difficult for any number of reasons including:
1. APD’s poor and negative national reputation.
2. 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.
3. The increased dangers of being a police officer in a violent city such as Albuquerque.
4. The DOJ oversight requirements.
5. Many recruited lateral hires may also be looking to retire sooner rather than later, coming to the City to increase their high three salary to retire with a more lucrative pension and collect the longevity pay bonuses, and
6. From a personnel management standpoint, it is highly likely that many APD police officers who are eligible for retirement now have decided to stay on and continue for a few more years with APD because of the significant increases in hourly pay and longevity pay and increasing their retirement benefits but still plan on retiring in three years once they get their high 3 years of pay.
APD consistently has thousands of applicants that apply to the police academy every year. The overwhelming number of police academy applicants fail to get into the academy for any number of reasons including failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications, unable to pass criminal background checks, unable to make it through psychological background analysis, 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 and drop out.
Keller and Geier and the APD command staff need to realize that APD must recruit a new generation of young, committed police officers to start their law enforcement careers with the city who are fully trained in constitutional policing practices. Otherwise all that has been accomplished with the DOJ consent decree may have been for nothing and APD will revert back to old habits and destructive practices. APD needs to curb its efforts of hiring even more lateral hires from other agencies in the country and concentrate on hiring a younger new generation of police officer to begin their law enforcement career and to continue rebuilding APD from the ground up.
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