A February 20th KOAT TV Target 7 investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD’s) response times revealed an alarming level of time time it takes APD to respond to 911 emergency calls. The time it takes for APD to respond to priority 1 calls in all likely has a major impact on increasing physical injury. It was reported that it takes APD 23 minutes longer to get to an emergency call than it did 8 years ago. There has been an astonishing 93% increase since 2011 with response times getting worse every year since.
In 2011, the average response time to all calls, whether it was a life or death emergency or a minor traffic crash was 25 minutes. In 2019, that time period spiked to 48 minutes in the average response time.
UNDERLYING CAUSE OF DELAYS
The main reason for the dramatic increase in response times is a reduction in the number of sworn police with a corresponding increase in calls for service and 911 emergency calls. Not at all surprising is that when you examine APD’s manpower levels over the past nine years, response times were quicker when there were more sworn police assigned to the field services.
On December 1, 2009, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was staffed at 1,100 police officers. At the time, APD was the best trained, best funded, best equipped and best staffed in the history of the police department. The city’s overall crime rates were significantly lower than they are today.
For the full 8 years from December 1, 2009 to December 1, 2017, APD spiraled down wards as a result of poor management, budget cuts, police salary cuts and an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) resulting in a finding of a “culture of aggression” within the department. The DOJ investigation resulted in a federal lawsuit and a consent decree mandating major reforms to APD and included the appointment of a federal monitor. When Mayor Keller took office on December 1, 2017, APD had plunged to approximately 870 full time police officers and the numbers went down even further to 830 at one time.
Early 2011, APD was staffed with nearly 1,100 sworn police cops. In 2011, it took an average of 25 minutes for an officer to get to respond to a 911 emergency call. It was in 2016 that APD’s manpower dropped. Currently, APD has about 950 officers.
On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued what it entitled “Staffing Snapshot” providing a report on the number of sworn police officers APD has and where they have been assigned. According to the report, APD as of August 1, 2019 had a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers in the field patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. The snapshot does not account for time delays from Human Resources and Payroll that have effective dates and retirements into the future.
As of January 1, 2020, according to pay stubs on file with the city, APD has 950 sworn police officers. The loss of 22 sworn police can be attributed to retirements and the Police Academy not keeping up with replacing officers. There is an APD Academy Class in session that should result in 35 to 40 more new officers added to the force in the Spring.
Although last year APD hired 117 sworn police, including laterals, not all of those officers are patrolling the streets with upwards of 60 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureau of APD for the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement CASA) Order Consent decree.
APD ADDS NEW PRIORITY CALL CATEGORIES AS ATTEMPT TO REDUCE RESPONSE TIME
The Albuquerque Emergency Communications Center has been trying to reduce response times for several years. In March, 2019 it was reported that 911 changed what is called the “priority system.”
Before when a call would come in, it was given one of three priorities based on it’s level of importance. With so few priorities, however, calls like someone locking a dog in a car was given the top priority. That was the same importance as if someone with a gun was robbing someone.
On March 6, 2019, APD announced that the way it was dispatching police officers to 911 calls was changed. 911 calls expanded priority the list to include a total of five categories a opposed to 3.
Call priorities were generally on a scale of 1 to 3 with 1 being the highest or most important type of call.
For decades APD had a three priority 911 dispatch system defining the calls as follows:
A PRIORITY 1 call is a felony that is in progress or there is an immediate threat to life or property.
A PRIORITY 2 call is where there is no immediate threat to life of property. Misdemeanor crimes in progress are priority 2 calls.
A PRIORITY 3 call is any call in which a crime has already occurred with no suspects at or near the scene.
Routine events and calls where there are no threat to life or property are priority 3 calls.
In 2018, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) police officers were dispatched to 476,726 calls for service. The 2018-2019 City general fund performance measures contained in the 2018-2019 fund budget, reflects significantly more calls for service with the projected number of calls for service reported as 576,480, and the actual number being 580,238.
Under the new system, a Priority 1 call is “any immediate life-threatening situation with great possibility of death or life-threatening injury or any confrontation between people which could threaten the life or safety of any person where weapons are involved.” A major goal of the new system was to determine what calls do and do not require a police officer.
A Priority 5 call is a where a crime has already occurred and there “is no suspect at or near the scene and no threat of personal injury, loss of life or property.”
In announcing the change in policy, APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos had this to say:
“What we want to do is get officers to the scene of a call as quickly as possible for the most urgent calls, and by that I mean calls where there is a life-threatening situation. … Basically we’re adapting to the situation where we’re trying to make the system much more efficient and much more effective “.
APD stresses every call is different and depending on the circumstances of that call the level of priority can always change. The single most compelling reason for the change is that it was taking way too long to dispatch police officers after a call is received. Police are now being dispatched to calls where an officer is not always needed freeing up resources.
Under the new 5 call policy, police officers only run code lights and sirens to life-threatening situations like a shooting, stabbing, armed robbery, or a crime where a weapon is involved. Under the system, the public are asked to go to the telephone reporting unit to make a report and APD will not dispatch officers unless it meets some other criteria elevating the call. For the lower priority calls where an officer isn’t needed, callers have three ways to file a report: online, over the phone, or at any police substation.
APD PERFORMANCE MEASURES REPORTED IN 2019-2020 GENERAL FUND BUDGET
Whenever response time for 911 of calls is discussed, it must be viewed in the context of how those calls are broken down with respect to types of crime, arrests, number of police officers. The City budget is a “performance based” budget where yearly, the various departments must submit statistics reflecting job performance to justify the individual department budgets.
According to the 2019-2020 approved budget, in the last fiscal year APD responded to the following:
Number of calls for service: 580,238
Average response time for Priority 1 calls (immediate threat to life or great bodily harm): 12:26 minutes, (NOTE: The National standard 9 minutes.)
Number of felony arrests: 9,592
Number of misdemeanor arrests: 18,442
Number of DWI arrests: 1,403
Number of domestic violence arrests: 2,356
You can review the performance measures of APD on page 211 of the budget here:
REAL NUMBERS OF SWORN OFFICERS RESPONDING TO CALL
APD has an approved general fund budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 of $188.9 million dollars, which represents an increase of 10.7% or $18.3 million above last year’s budget. According to the approved budget, APD has 1,560 approved full-time positions with 1,040 sworn police budgeted positions and 520 budgeted civilian positions. The links to city hall budgets are here:
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD ) has five major bureaus:
1. The Field Services Bureau
2. Investigative Bureau
3. The Compliance Bureau
4. The Administrative support Bureau
5. The Support Services Bureau
Each bureau has a Deputy Chief appointed by the APD Chief of Police.
APD divides the city into six geographical areas called “area commands.” Each area command is managed by an APD Commander (formerly called Captains) and staffed with between 82 and 119 officers, depending on size of the area command and level of calls for service. All officers are dispatched through the police communications operators by calling (505) 242-cops for non-emergency calls or 911 in an emergency.
APD also has 3 divisions that are separate from the other divisions and they are:
1. The Bike Patrol
2. Operations Review
UPDATED STAFFING REPORT
On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued what it entitled “Staffing Snapshot” providing a report on the number of sworn police officers APD now has and where they have been assigned. According to the report, APD as of August 1, 2019 a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers in the field patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. The snapshot does not account for time delays from Human Resources and Payroll that have effective dates into the future.
It is the field services bureau that forms the front line of sworn officers that repond to emergency calls for service. Following is the complete breakdown of sworn police assignments:
FIELD SERVICES BUREAU — TOTAL STAFFING: 600 (Out of 970)
The field service bureau’s primary function is to provide uniformed police officers throughout the city and at the six police substations and area commands. Officers assigned to field services handle calls for service and patrol the area commands in 3 separate shifts. These are the sworn police in uniform that are on the front line of law enforcement dealing with hundreds of thousands of calls for service a year. This is where the “rubber hits the road” when it comes to keeping neighborhoods safe and community-based policing.
The number of sworn officers assigned to each area command is somewhat fluid and based on the number of calls for service in the area command. Area commands with higher crime rates have always had far more officers assigned than those that have lower crime rates.
One Deputy Police Chief is appointed to oversee and manage the Field Services Bureau.
Following is a breakdown of sworn police assigned to each one of the area commands:
SOUTHWEST AREA COMMAND
The Southwest Area Command is bordered by Interstate 40 the north, the Rio Grande to the east, the South Valley to the south, and Albuquerque city limits to the west. Following is the staffing reported:
58 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 7 Sergeants
VALLEY AREA COMMAND
The Valley Area Command is bordered by the Albuquerque city limits to the north and south, Interstate 25 to the east, and the Rio Grande, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and the North Valley to the west. This Area Command has an extensive history of having the second highest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
67 Patrol Officers , 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 6 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers
SOUTHEAST AREA COMMAND
The Southeast Area Command is bordered by Interstate 40 to the north, Eubank Boulevard to the east, Kirtland Air Force Base and Albuquerque city limits to the south, and Interstate 25 to the west. This Area Command has an extensive history of having the highest crime rates in the city. Following is the staffing reported:
89 Patrol Officers, 4 Lieutenants, 9 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers
NORTHEAST AREA COMMAND
The Northeast Area Command is bordered by Albuquerque city limits to the north, Eubank Boulevard to the east, Interstate 40 to the south, and Interstate 25 to the west. This Area Command has a more recent history of increasing crime rates in the city, especially residential break-ins and robberies. Following is the staffing reported:
78 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 8 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers
FOOTHILLS AREA COMMAND
The Foothills Area Command is bordered by San Antonio NE to the north, the Sandia Foothills to the east, Kirtland Air Force Base to the south, and Eubank Boulevard to the west. This Command Area has some of the lowest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
57 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 8 Sergeants, 3 School Resource Officers
Northwest Area Command
The Northwest Area Command is bordered by Albuquerque city limits to the west and north, the west bank of the Rio Grande to the east, and Interstate 40 to the south. This Command Area has some of the lowest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
59 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 7 Sergeants, 1 School Resource Officers
INVESTIGATIVE BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 173
The Investigative Bureau consists of Criminal Investigations Division, the Special Investigations Division, Scientific Evidence Division and the Real Time Crime Center. This bureau deals primarily with the completion of felony investigations and prepares the cases, including evidence gathering and processing scientific evidence such as DNA, blood and fingerprints, for submission to prosecuting agencies, primarily the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. Units in the bureau include homicide and auto theft. Following is the staffing reported:
142 Detectives, 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants
COMPLIANCE BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 61
The Compliance Bureaus consists of the Internal Affairs Professional Standards Division, Policy and Procedure Division, Accountability and Oversight Division, Internal Affairs Force Division and the Behavioral Health and Crisis Intervention Section. One of the major concentrations of this bureau is the ongoing cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree (CASA) and its implementation of its terms and conditions. Internal Affairs deals with investigation police misconduct cases. Crisis Intervention deals with the crisis intervention teams who deal with the mentally ill. Policy and Procedures deals with the review and writing of standard operating procedures.
Following is the staffing reported:
40 Detectives, 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants
SUPPORT SERVICES BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 116
The Support Services Bureau is comprised by the Homeland Security and Special Events Division, the Metro Traffic Division, the Records Division, the APD Police Academy, and the Public Safety Districts such as the Downtown Public Safety Division. Following is the staffing reported:
68 Officers, 1 Deputy Chief, 2 Commanders, 8 Lieutenants, 20 Sergeants, 6 Cadets/Pre-hires
ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 43
This bureau provides clerical, secretarial, administrative, budgetary preparation and grant application support to the entire APD Department. Following is the staffing reported:
34 Officers, 1 Deputy Chief, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 4 Sergeants
SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND TACTICAL UNIT – TOTAL STAFFING: 30
This unit consists of the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT). SWAT is trained to deal with situations of unusual danger, especially when requiring aggressive tactics or enhanced firepower, as in rescuing hostages, thwarting terrorist attacks or assassinations, and subduing heavily armed suspects. Following is the staffing reported:
24 Officers, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 3 Sergeants
BIKE PATROL- TOTAL STAFFING: 16
The bike patrol is what the name implies: Uniformed police ride on bikes an patrol the areas assigned to show a police presence such as in the Downtown Central Area, the City Plaza and Nob Hill. A total of 16 officers are assigned to the Bike Patrol.
Police operations is generally defined as standard operating procedures, review of job duties, responsibilities, and activities that law enforcement agents complete in the field. 7 Officers, 4 Lieutenants and 5 Sergeants are reported as staffing Operations Review.
OTHER SWORN POLICE: TOTAL STAFFING 51
There are 41 APD recruits, laterals and sergeants assigned to on-the-job training.
10 sworn APD are assigned to etro Court officers to provide security to the Metropolitan Court and Mayor’s security detail that provides protection to the Mayor and security to the Mayor’s Office.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It’s no wonder that with only 600 out of 980 sworn police in field services handling call for service that response times are dangerously high. The high response times by APD to Priority 1 calls for service are unacceptable on so many levels and pose a clear threat to the city’s public safety. Every year from January 8, 2010 to mid-2015, response times for Priority 1 by APD have risen.
Midway through 2015, APD response time to “Priority 1” calls, which included shootings, robberies, finding dead bodies and car wrecks with injuries, was 11 minutes and 12 seconds. In fiscal year 2016, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 11 minutes and 35 seconds. In fiscal year 2017, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 12 minutes and 16 seconds. In 2019, that time period spiked to 48 minutes as the average response time.
There is no doubt rising response times over the years by APD was a side effect of the dwindling police force that went from 1,100 police officers in 2010 to 853 sworn police in 2017, the lowest number of sworn police officers since 2001. Aggravating the increase in response time to 911 Priority 1 calls was the increase in the overall number of calls for service. The dramatic increase in the city’s overall crime rates, violent crime rates and the city’s population also increased response times beyond the national average of 10 minutes.
The Keller administration is spending $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers in order to return to community-based policing. The Keller Admiration also negotiated with the police union significant APD pay raises and bonuses and an aggressive hiring and recruitment program offering incentives to join or return to APD.
When it comes to violent crimes such as aggravated domestic violence cases, rapes, murders and armed robberies, seconds and minutes can make a difference between life and death of a person. City officials project that by the summer of 2020, APD will employ a total of 980 sworn police. With the establishment of new categories priority call and the addition of more police the APDs response time should have a dramatic decline, but it has not.
With more police officers and the change in Priority 1 categories, APD should be able to better dispatch and save resources, yet overall response times continue to climb to dangerous levels.
Erika Wilson, the 911 Director had this to say:
“I think APD is doing the best it can with the resources it has.”
The truth is, that is a very weak excuse by any one’s standard as is 48-minute average response time being inexcusable.
Currently, there are 61 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureaus, which includes APD Internal Affairs. There are 40 detectives involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement. Those 40 officers would be better utilized in the field services patrolling the streets and bringing response times down to more respectable levels.
People in Albuquerque will never genuinely feel safe or have confidence in APD as long as they know when they make a 911 call for help, it may take upwards of 48 minutes before you see a uniform, if not longer, or perhaps not at all.