Many thanks to the Albuquerque Journal for publishing my guest column on APD pay abuse entitled “Stop Gaming Police Overtime, City Should switch to salary structure for officers”
Below is the guest column followed by the link to the Albuquerque Journal:
“APD is being investigated by the New Mexico attorney general and state auditor for overtime pay abuse after it was revealed that a number of APD police officers were paid in excess of $100,000 in overtime in addition to their hourly pay. APD paying excessive overtime to a few is nothing new and has gone on for years. Historically, time and time again, year after year, the temptation to be paid two, three, even four times more a year than what your base pay is by padding hours worked is way too great. Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system and proof of police resource mismanagement. The overtime gaming system must be stopped.
One guaranteed way of stopping anyone within APD from gaming the system is to abolish the existing system of overtime pay and bonus pay. Sooner rather than later, the city and the APD union need to recognize that being a police officer is not trade work justifying hourly wages, but a learned profession that requires employees to work whatever time is necessary to get a day’s work done that may arise in that day. APD police can be compensated with a decent salary and not merely paid hourly wages.
A complete restructuring of the existing APD 40-hour work week and hourly wage system needs to be implemented. As an alternative to paying overtime and longevity bonus pay to APD officers, the city needs do away with APD hourly wages and time-and-a-half for overtime and implement a salary structure based strictly on steps and years of service.
A base salary system for all sworn police officers should be implemented with step increases for length of service. The longevity bonus pay would be eliminated and built into the salary structure. Mandatory shift time to work would remain the same. If more time is needed to complete a workload or assignments for the day, the salaried police officer would work it for the same salary with no overtime paid and a modification of shift times for court appearances. Officers would have control over time worked.
APD Patrol Officers First Class who handle DWI during nighttime shifts should be required to change their shift times to daytime shifts when the arraignments and trials occur to prevent overtime pay. As an alternative to DWI arraignment, the City Attorney’s Office should explore the possibility of expanding or modifying the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office assisting to include not just traffic citations but DWI arraignments to eliminate the need for APD officers to appear.
Until the APD salary structure is changed, APD will always have Patrol Officers First Class making two, three and even four times their base salary, and emotional burnout will be the norm, not the exception endangering public safety. Until the APD salary structure is changed, you will also have more than a few employees “gaming the system.”
It’s the taxpayer and other city employees who are getting hurt when APD exceeds its budget by the millions and when APD management does not really care about anyone else but APD. When APD exceeds its overtime pay budget, the money has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is usually other city departments affecting other city employees. The mayor, APD management and City Council are being foolish if they do not realize that when APD exceeds its overtime budget, it causes morale issues and resentment within other city departments and employees who are not paid overtime.
Negotiations for a new APD union contract have been suspended because of the pandemic. If and when the city and the APD union return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract, the abolishment of hourly wages for APD sworn officers and implementation of a salary structure should be the first negotiated item for the new contract.”
The link to the Albuquerque Journal is here: