On December 1, 2009, when former Mayor Richard Berry was sworn into office for his first term, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history. APD was fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers.
Over 8 years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police all under the public safety leadership of Mayor Berry, his Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White and his appointed APD Police Chiefs Ray Schultz, Allen Banks and Gordon Eden.
When then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller ran for Mayor, he ran in part on the platform of increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) to 1,200 police and returning to “community-based policing” by the end of his first term. When Mayor Tim Keller assumed office on December 1, 2017, there were 861 full time sworn police according to the 2017-2018 city budget figures and payroll records at the time.
MASSIVE INVESTMENT, LITTLE RETURN
To keep his campaign promises on the police department, Mayor Keller order his Administration to begin implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program. The announced goal was to increase the number of sworn police officers from 861 positions filled to 1,200, or by 339 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term, proclaiming 100 new offices were being hired a year.
Candidate Tim Keller during a televised debate promised in clear words not to raise taxes without a public vote, even if it was for law enforcement or for public safety. In May, 2018, 4 months after Keller was sworn in as Mayor, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a gross receipt tax increase that raises upwards of $50 million a year. The Council dedicated 75% to public safety.
The tax was enacted in response to reports that the city was facing a $40 million deficit. Mayor Keller broke his promise to demand a public vote on the tax and signed off on the $50 million a year tax increase. He signed off on the tax increase without any fanfare and without proposing any alternative budgets dealing with the deficit. The $40 million projected deficit never materialized. The City Council never repealed the tax. Keller went on a spending binge.
APD PERSONNEL LEVELS
During the February 8, 2021, City Council Public Safety Committee, Interim Chief Harold Medina reported that APD has 957 sworn police. Of the 957 sworn police, Medina reported a mere 371 sworn police are in Field Services responding to calls for service or 39% of the entire sworn force. The 371 sworn police taking calls for service are spread out over 3 shifts and 8 area commands to patrol and based on crime rates in the areas. Medina also told the committee that Field Services has 6 area commanders, 18 lieutenants, 53 sergeant’s, 21 bicycle officers for a total of 511 officers assigned to field services. The problem is commanders, lieutenants, sergeant’s, and bicycle officers do not patrol the streets and are not dispatched to calls for service as are the field officers.
On April 14 the on line news ABQReports reported that APD reported having 998 officers during the first week of March, 2021, but a check of APD payroll reflects only 984 sworn officers. According to ABQReports:
“Losing 15 officers in one month is not a good trend, but in cities like Albuquerque, Portland and Seattle it is a way of life. A source within APD advised that dozens of officers have inquired about retiring and quitting. Who can blame them in today’s toxic atmosphere and another hot summer on the way.”
KELLER’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
As of January 9, 2021, APD payroll showed there were 953 sworn officers with 48 cadets in the academy.
On March 14, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller held his third “State of the City Address”. It was held virtually and was a very slick and impressive one hour production of not just Mayor Keller speaking, but other members of his administration giving presentations, including newly appointed APD Chief Harold Medina and newly appointed Interim Public Safety Office Sylvester Stanley. A “YOU Tube” link to the State of the City Address is here:
Mayor Tim Keller boldly proclaimed during his March 14 State of the City address that he has made good on his promise to expand the ranks of APD by hiring 100 officers every year over the last 3 years. Keller said:
“We have honored our commitment to rebuild the ranks after decades of depletion. We have hired 100 new officers each year with another 100 on deck for this year. … It’s a big hole to climb out of when officers only have time to run from call to call. This is how we will end the days of just waiting for crime to happen and struggling to respond.”
ACTUAL NUMBERS CONTRDICTS KELLER
On March 21, 2021, it was reported that APD is just shy of 1,000 officers. APD previously said they were hoping to reach that milestone by the end of 2019. It was reported that in May 2019, APD had 957 officers, and in 2018 it had 850.
According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, after the graduation of APD’s March cadet class, APD has 998 sworn police officers. Gallegos had this to say:
“Right now, it has been kind of fluctuating in the past year. We get up to 1000, or maybe a little lower, than we do lose officers at a certain time of year. But, we only gain them two or three times a year on one date. We get a— like just now— last week added 45 officers, so that puts us up close to 1,000”.
According to Gallegos, in the last 3 years, APD has had about 100 officers resign or retire, which is fewer than the same time during the previous administration.
Gallegos acknowledge that the pace of growing the department has slowed and said:
“It’s tough going to kind of keep moving that up, inching up and up. … We’re doing more, actually we’ll announce something soon to help retain officers with the most experience, too. So, we’re putting out information to convince them that it’s worth their while to stay even longer. ”
Gallegos added that there are some large cadet classes coming through the pipeline.
When Gallegos was asked if he thinks the mayor will reach his goal of having 1,200 officers by 2022, he had this to say:
“I think so, yeah. I mean, we’ve hired over 300 right now. This next year is looking really good. I think we’re going to get there. The trick is, at the same time, keeping people from retiring and keeping that steady pace.”
A link to the news source is here:
CITY COUNCIL GUTS “ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY SAFETY” DEPARTMENT
During his March 14, State of the City Address and his March 22 announcement for reelection, Mayor Keller touted a revitalized public safety effort and his “innovative new safety department” called the “Albuquerque Community Safety” (ACS) department. His embellishment glossed over the truth and the new department likely has years before it will actually materialize and have any effect on crime.
The approved 2020-2021 City Council budget guts Mayor Keller’s plan for a new “Albuquerque Community Safety” (ACS) department. The ACS as originally presented by Mayor Keller was to have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts. They were to be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crisis calls for service to APD. The new department was to connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The department personnel would be dispatched through the city’s 911 emergency call system. The intent is to free up the first responders, either police or firefighters, who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.
The City Council approved budget but slashed Keller’s proposed $7.5 million budget to $2.5 million for fiscal year 2021. The City Council removed virtually all of the positions originally proposed by Keller. Cut from Keller’s proposed budget for the new department were 83 employees and $5 million in staffing costs. The staffing cut include 53 security personnel, 9 parking enforcement employees and 6 people from the city’s crossing guard program. The City Council’s budget gives the department a mere 13 positions. The positions include 7 civilian employees from the APD Crisis Outreach and Support Teams, and 3 Family and Community Services Department staffers which include one social worker and 2 people who respond to homeless encampments.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is simply false when Keller says there has been “decades of depletion” of APD. The depletion occurred over 8 years under former Mayor Richard Berry and it continued for another 3 years under Mayor Tim Keller.
Simply put, Keller at worse lied in his state of the city address or at best intentionally mislead people as to how poorly his administration has done with recruiting and retention of sworn police. The poor performance on recruiting is after significant salary increases and large longevity or retention pay increases his administration handed out his first year in office agreeing to a two-year police contract which expired on July 1, 2020.
RESONS WHY RECRUITING AND TRAINING A NEW GENERATION OF YOUNGER POLICE OFFICERS DIFFICULT
Reasons Why Recruiting younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department is 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.
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.
PAY RATES AND RETENTION BONUSES
When APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says “We’re doing more, actually we’ll announce something soon to help retain officers with the most experience” what he is likely talking about is more money for retention bonuses. Paying more money to APD police officers to stay has been tried before, and it still has not worked. APD pay is already some of the highest law enforcement pay in the country when you add base pay, overtime, longevity pay, insurance benefits and retirement program and the city is still having a problem with retentions of experienced cops.
The 160 top wage city hall wage earners employed by the Albuquerque Police Department include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 a year. Far more Police Officers 1st Class are earning 6 figures under the Keller Administration than under the last year of the Berry Administration.
Starting pay for an APD Police Officer immediately out of the APD academy is $29 an hour or $60,320 yearly. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $29 paid hourly = $60,320.)
Police officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour or $62,400 yearly. (40-hour work weeks in a year X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $30 paid hourly = $62,400.)
Senior Police Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour or $65,520 yearly. (40 hours work in a week X 52 weeks in year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $31.50 = $65,520.)
The hourly pay rate for APD Sergeants is $35 an hour, or $72,800. (40-hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $35.0 paid hourly = $72,800.)
The hourly pay rate for APD Lieutenants is $40.00 an hour or $83,200. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $40.00 = $83,200.)
LONGEVITY PAY ADDED TO BASE PAY
In addition to the base pay rates, APD police officers are also paid longevity bonus pay added to their pay at the end of the year. Following are the longevity pay rates:
For 5 years of experience: $100 are paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 6 years of experience: $125 are paid bi-weekly, or $3,250 yearly
For 7 to 9 years of experience: $225 are paid bi-weekly, or $5,800 yearly
For 10 to 12 years of experience: $300 are paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 13 to 15 years o experience: $350 are paid bi-weekly, or $9,100 yearly
For 16 to 17 years or more: $450 are paid bi-weekly, or $11,700 yearly
For 18 or more years of experience: $600 are paid bi-weekly, 15,600 yearly
When the Keller Administration announced the new retention bonuses, they said it should do the trick and stop more cops from leaving, but it did not.
It is simply false when APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says in the last three years, APD has had about 100 officers resign or retire, which is fewer than the same time during the previous administration. Gallegos is either intentionally misleading or he flunked basic math in school.
It’s is not difficult to understand the math and find the truth. When Keller was sworn into office there were 861 sworn police. If the Keller Administration in fact has hired 100 new officers a year over the last 3 years as they claim, you add the new 300 sworn police to the 861 sworn when Keller became Mayor to arrive at a 1,161-total number. You then subtract the current number of 998 from the 1,161 total which means APD lost 163 sworn police over the last 3 years, not just 100 as Gilbert Gallegos claimed. In other words, more than 50% of the 300 hiring gains over the last 3 years have been lost to retirement, transfers or terminations and and need to be replaced.
On March 22, Mayor Keller announced that he is running for a second term with the election to be held on November 4. One key platform that he has promised is to create a new Public Safety Department and hire social workers deal with many calls for service. It is difficult to comprehend that the Keller Administration will be any more successful creating the department than it has been in fully staffing APD at 1,200 full time police.
At the pace the Keller Administration is going, it will be at least another 3 years, perhaps 4, to get to the 1,200-total number of sworn police as promised by Keller. With that kind of record, it’s not at all likely that Keller’s new department of public safety will materialize.
No wonder Tim Keller wants another term. Without 4 more years, he has broken his promises to get the job done by the end of his first term. All of Keller’s broken promises when it comes to APD reminds me of former Governor Bruce King when he said “I may have promised, but I never gave you a firm commitment.”