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.
To keep his campaign promises on APD, Mayor Keller order his Administration to begin implementing an $88 million-dollar 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 4-year period. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term, pledging to hire 100 new police officers a year.
CURRENT APD PERSONNEL NUMBERS
During the February 8, 2021, City Council Public Safety Committee, then Interim Chief Harold Medina reported that APD had 957 sworn police. Of the 957 sworn police, Medina reported a mere 371 sworn police were in Field Services responding to calls for service or 39% of the entire sworn force. The 371 sworn police taking calls for service were 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 sergeants’, 21 bicycle officers for a total of 511 officers assigned to field services. The problem is commanders, lieutenants, sergeants, and bicycle officers do not patrol the streets and are not dispatched to calls for service as are the field officers.
Fast forward to August, 2021 and after the 2021-2022 APD budget was approved. APD is the largest budget department in the city. APD’s approved general fund operating 2022 budget is upwards of $222 million. The 2022 approved APD operating budget has funding for 1,100 sworn positions and 592 civilian support positions for a total of 1,692 full-time positions. It also includes funding for new positions, including 11 investigators to support internal affairs and the department’s reform obligations under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement, and two communications staffers.
Notwithstanding the approved funding for 1,100 sworn police the number of police officers patrolling the street of Albuquerque is dangerously low. As of July 24, 2021, APD has 940 sworn police according to city personnel records, but only 369 are actually patrolling the streets of the city. The 369 filed service officers are divided into 6 area commands and 3 separate shifts.
According to an August 2 KOAT TV news report, APD patrol staffing is as follows:
369 patrol officers, for six area commands and 3 shifts
59 patrol sergeants
18 – 22 bike officers
LEAVING IN DROVES
According to a recent ABQReport, police officers are leaving APD in droves and either moving on to other departments or just simply retiring. The total number of APD full time sworn police officers has dwindled from 998 at the end of March of 2021 to 940 as of July 24, 2021 with the department losing 58 officers in a 4-month span. APD continues to lose officers at an alarming rate.
In June, APD announced the list for police uniform officer’s bids for shifts. These are the field officers who are dispatched by 911 and who respond to calls for service and who also patrol the streets of Albuquerque. It is field officers that are the backbone of APD and who patrol the city streets, 7 days a week and assigned to the 6 area commands in 3 shifts. On the date the first bid list was produced, APD had a disappointing 376 officers who made bids. Since June the number reduced to 363 officers, a reduction of 13 officers in just a month.
The link to the full ABQReport is here:
HIRING BONUSES OFFERED IN RECRUITMENT
Over the last 20 years, APD’s attrition has been a consistent 60 police officers a year. That includes terminations, transfers and police officers who have decided they do not want to be a police officer anymore. For all of 2020, APD had 81 departures and this year, halfway through the year, the department is at 82 departures.
As of August 2, APD has hired 6 lateral transfers with 48 cadets scheduled to graduate in October with 100 laterals and cadets starting classes by the end of the year. Given the difficult rigors of the police academy, which includes academic and physical training, there always those who wash out because of the inability to pass the academics or inability to deal with the physical training. Out of a class of 50, and average of 15 to 20 cadets do not make it through to graduation. There is no guarantee how many cadets will actually graduate.
Recruitment of new officers has been difficult to the point that APD is now offering hiring bonuses worth thousands of dollars. According to the August 2 KOAT TV news report, the bonuses are:
$15,000 for lateral police officers (officers from other departments)
$5,000 for cadets or new recruits
$1,500 for police service aides
INCREASE WORKLOADS PLACE STRESS ON DEPARTMENT
Complicating the failure to keep up with APD departures is the city’s spiking violent crime rates and the increase in response times by field officers that are placing extreme pressures on the department workloads. In 2020, FBI statistics revealed that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.
A synopsis of the homicide statics provides insight as to increasing demands on APD during Mayor Tim Keller’s 4 years in office:
2018 there were 69 homicides.
2019 there were 82 homicides
2020 there were 76 homicides
2021 there have been 81 homicides as of August 16 and counting.
APD RESPONSE TIMES ALARMINGLY HIGH
Whenever response times 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, and the number of police officers patrolling the streets. The City budget is a “performance based” budget where each year departments are required to submit statistics reflecting job performance to justify the individual department budgets.
Review of APD’s response times to 911 emergency calls revealed an alarming level of time it takes APD to respond to emergency calls. The time it takes for APD to respond to priority 1 calls has a major impact on increasing the likelihood of physical injury. There has been an astonishing 93% increase in response times since 2011 and getting worse every year.
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 and as high as a full hour and a half.
In an August 2, 2021 KOAT TV news report, Police Union President Shaun Willoughby had this to say:
“We see on a regular basis, 700 minute [or 11.6 hours] wait times on a domestic violence call or a disturbance call with over a thousand-minute [or 16.6 hours] wait time. … If you get involved in a call and the comments on the call say the subject is armed with a gun and officers respond and find that subject, and point their firearms at them and give them verbal commands to get on the ground, so they can safely take him into custody, that action one gets activated as a level one use of force. The sergeant has to go to the scene, ascertain information witnesses that are civilians, has to look at all the video, they have to call a forensic investigator to take picture of the gun that wasn’t used. This one attribute takes cops out of doing what this community expects them to do.”
No attempt was made by KOAT TV to confirm the truthfulness of what Willoughby said, but it turns out the times he provided are at best embellished and at worst just a lie.
Links to quoted news sources are here:
KOB 4 REPORT DISCREDITS UNION PRESIDENT
On August 11, KOB 4 did a report that discredited APD President Shaun Willoughby’s claims of response times on Channel 7. Channel 4 did the work required to get at the truth on response times. KOB 4 requested the response times from APD management for Priority 1 calls over the last few years. Priority 1 calls are calls made to 911 and include shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, sexual and aggravated assaults, domestic violence with weapons involved and home invasions.
According to the data reviewed by Channel 4, the time it takes a dispatch APD officer to get to a crime scene stayed relatively consistent between January 2018 to May 2021. That time was between 9 and 12 minutes, considerably less than the 11.6 hours wait times on a domestic violence call and the16.6 hours on disturbance calls Willoughby proclaimed.
The response time data obtained by KOB 4 revealed some drastic differences in recent years. In 2018, clearing a crime scene ranged from an hour to 1 hour and 12 minutes. Fast forward to 2021 and APD is averaging more than 2 hours to write reports, gather evidence and interview witnesses, or a full 1 hour longer than three years ago.
KOB 4 found different answers as to why it is now taking longer to process crime scenes from the APD Chief and from the Police Union President:
APD Chief Harold Medina had this to say:
“It’s obviously, it’s very concerning to me because the longer we’re taking on calls, the less officers we’re going to have available for the next call that we know is going to come in. … Now it takes officers hour upon hours, because in a lot of ways, our technology has really slowed down our efficiency. … So updating our technology and getting the better records management system is hopefully going to help us clear these calls fast.”
APD Police Union President Shaun Willoughby not at all surprising said the problem is overworked officers and had this to say:
“[I] get complaints on a daily basis, like, ‘Shaun, there’s three of us out here right now, there’s three of us on graveyard. We can’t even conduct a felony stop within policy because we don’t have resources. … .There’s several calls that get canceled. … Sergeants say we’re just not going to go to that call. Or we get complaints from officers that calls are holding for hundreds of hours. They leave work, the call is holding. They get to work the next day, that same call is still holding.”
Willoughby added that APD has a retention and recruiting problem and said a comprehensive study needs to be done on staffing and daily workload to show the command staff how deep the problem runs.
Chief Medina said he agrees staffing remains an ongoing issue, but it’s unclear what is driving the lag in investigation times and he said:
“That would need a lot of research. … But I’m glad you pointed that out because that is something that we can definitely look at. … I think we have to start finding ways to get our officers back into service.”
Medina did point out that new Department of Justice mandates, for example, require APD to invest a lot more resources in some investigations which may be one reason why officers are spending more time on a scene.
The link to the full KOB 4 report with quotes is here:
PERFORMANCE AND PROGRESS MEASURES REDACTED FROM 2021-2022 BUDGET
When it comes to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), statistics are compiled in areas that reflect performance and outcomes aimed at influencing the larger outcomes and goals that APD is striving to achieve. The performance measures capture APD’s ability to perform the services at the highest level achieved from the previous year and the “target” level for the new fiscal year. Target levels and percentages are merely goals that may or may not be achieved.
For purposes of the proposed 2021-2022 budget, the Keller Administration made the decision to:
“reimagine how the City looks at performance and progress measures for services to the Albuquerque community. To kick off this work, APD is one of six departments piloting this new approach. As such, the performance measures section will look different from the rest of the departments in this document.”
(2022 Proposed APD Budget, page 149, INNOVATION introduction)
The result of the “reimagining” is a total absence of many statics from the previous fiscal years of 2019, 2020 and 2021 for response times. .Because of the so called “reimagining”, actual performance statistics from previous years are deleted in the proposed budget and only “targeted statistics” for the 2022 fiscal year are provided.
The total number of 911 calls listed in the approved 2020-2021 budget are as follows:
Number of 911 calls answered in 2018 were 338,765.
Number of 911 calls answered in 2019 were 345,729.
Number of 911 calls answered mid-year 2021 were 177,465
Absent from the budget are any response times to the 911 calls.
REASONS FOR HIGH RESPONSE TIMES
One of the biggest reasons for the dramatic increase in response times is the reduction in the number of sworn police patrolling the street 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 10 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 sworn 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, including 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 during his first year in office.
Early 2011, APD was staffed with nearly 1,100 sworn police officers. In 2011, it took an average of 25 minutes for an officer to respond to a 911 emergency call. It was in 2016 that APD’s manpower dropped. Currently, APD has about 950 to 970 officers.
In 2019, APD hired 117 sworn police, including laterals. But not all of those officers were assigned to patrolling the streets. Upwards of 60 sworn police are assigned to the compliance bureau of APD for the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
On January 1, 2020, according to pay stubs on file with the city, APD had 950 sworn police officers. APD lost 22 sworn police attributed to retirements and the Police Academy not keeping up with replacing officers.
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.
On March 2, 2020, it was reported that 911 APD response time increases by 93% to 45 minutes as the average response time.
SHIFT CHANGES ANNOUCED IN ATTEMPT TO FIGHT CRIME
On July 20, APD announced plans to change officer shifts in an attempt to fight crime across the city. According to APD, it will increase coverage during peak periods, and on Wednesdays it will increase patrols by 33% and on Thursdays by 46%. APD said some officers will switch from four 10-hour shifts a week, referred to as “4-10’s”, to five 8-hour referred to as “5-8s”. An APD spokesperson said APD as of mid July, APD has 939 sworn officers.
Not at all surprising, Albuquerque Police’s Union President Shaun Willoughby said police officers are overworked and condemned the management decision saying it will have a negative impact on morale and said:
“Officers are exhausted, they’re stressed out, they love that extra three days. Most of them are really, really disgruntled they’re disgruntled and disappointed about it. .. It’s just another morale hit, officers are like, ‘I just got to find another job. … The truth of the matter is [APD management] have a very serious problem on their hands [as to personnel numbers] and I don’t think they know what to do about it.”
An APD Spokesperson responded by noting the department has 48 officers expected to graduate the APD academy in October, and 100 cadets will head to the academy by the end of the year and said:
“Our aggressive recruiting efforts are paying off, and we are about to announce new incentives that will help us keep the momentum.”
An APD spokesperson said department has 939 sworn officers right and soon there after the hiring bonuses were announced.
PROS AND CONS OF 4-10s and 5-8s
Research has proven that shift length has does have varying effect on an officer’s performance. The problem for management, it is deciding on what is the perfect length to deal with current problems. According to the research, short shifts do make it a little more difficult to make sure you have 24×7 coverage. On the other hand, having shifts that are too long puts police officers at a higher risk of fatigue, which can affect their performance.
According to the Police Foundation’s research, shift length impacts an officer’s performance, overtime use, safety, health and quality of life. The Police Foundation studied 8-hour shifts and 10-hour shifts.
There are pros and cons to the 2 traditional shift lengths in law enforcement which need to be considered to help determine the best fit for work life quality in a police department. The police foundation found the following:
8 HOUR SHIFTS (5-8s)
• Manageable for officers to stay alert throughout the shift
• Officers will be more available to pick up overtime shifts
• Officers have more personal time
• May be easier to get open shifts filled because of the shorter shift
• Shorter shifts become more complex to manage
• Officers work more days per week
• Officers filling an open shift will only earn 8 hours of overtime
• Studies have shown that officers on 8-hour shifts work significantly more overtime which will likely be a problem for APD given the recent controversy on overtime fraud.
10 HOUR SHIFTS (4-10’s)
• Manageable for officers to stay alert throughout the shift
• Will only have to work 4 days a week for regularly scheduled shifts
• Depending on your department size, 10-hour shifts can maximize savings
• Longer days compared to 8-hour shifts.
• Complex to manage
• What is best for one APD unit such as field services, may not necessarily be best for another specialized unit such as homicide.
The link to source material is here:
APD PAY RATES
The Albuquerque Police Department is one of the best paid departments in the country when you add base pay, longevity pay, overtime pay and consider that a APD officer can retire with 20 to 25 years of service and be paid upwards of 80% of their high 3 wages for the rest of their life.
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
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is painfully obvious that APD has become a mere shell of a once great law enforcement department. The downward spiral began with 1,100 sworn police in 2010 until it hit a low mark in 2017 with 850 sworn police. For the past 4 years, Mayor Tim Keller has attempted to grow the department to 1,200 essentially spinning his wheels and making very little progress with the number of sworn police. As of July 24, 2021 at 940 with a mere 363 sworn officers assigned to the field services to patrol the streets of Albuquerque, Keller has failed with APD.
Mayor Tim Keller APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos have said that during the first 3 years of Mayor Keller’s 4-year term, APD has hired 100 officers a year. What they do not say is that 65% of those hires have been offset by resignations, retirements and terminations. 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 3 years as claimed, 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 940 sworn police from the 1,161 total which means APD lost 221 sworn police officers over 3 years. In other words, 65% of the 300 hires over the last 3 years have been lost to retirement, transfers or terminations and now need to be replaced.
When you offer $15,000 bonuses for lateral hires, what happens is that those officers are not making a long-term career commitment to stay with APD. What the lateral hires are doing is taking the bonus, hired at a higher salary for a few years to cap off their retirement pay and then move on as quickly as they can and retire. This is exactly what happened in the early part of Keller’s term. APD began a process of raiding other New Mexico law enforcement departments offering higher wages and bonuses. Keller actually called it “poaching”.
Former Chief Geier recruited many from the Rio Rancho police department where he retired. The first year of lateral hires resulted in 70 lateral transfer hires. Three years later, APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos revealed that most of those 70 laterals were no longer employed with APD and retired or moved on. Offering the bonus pay for new cadets being recruited to start their careers would likely be far more successful with a 5 year commitment from the new officers.
It’s likely that the sign on bonuses of $15,000 for lateral police officers, $5,000 for cadets $1,500 for police service aides will have some limited success but in the long run not make much of a difference. Paying more money to APD police officers to stay has been tried before, is still going on and 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.
Police Union President Willoughby says that APD has a “retention and recruiting problem”. Nothing gets past Sherlock Holmes Willoughby as he states the obvious that is well known. His call for a comprehensive study to be done on staffing and daily workloads are counterproductive and a waste of time and taxpayer money. There have have been staffing studies done ad nauseum that have made it clear what the city needs is at least 1,200 sworn police, not the 960 we now have. Further at least 70% to 75% of sworn officers need to be assigned to the field services, and not the mere 369 patrol officers, for six area commands and 3 shifts, currently assigned.
When it comes to APD, “5-8” shifts have been an “on and off again” approach to deal with personnel shortages. Changing hourly shifts from 4-10s to 5-8s hour shifts has always been problematic for the APD Union. The APD Police Union prefers “4-10” shifts primarily for morale considerations while police management prefers the 5-8’s to allow more coverage to patrol the streets.
The only solution to both problems is hiring more sworn police and getting the department to the 1,200 staffing level of sworn police and assigning a larger percentage to the field services to patrol the streets and take calls for service.