On Tuesday, June 21, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina held a news conference at Central and Third to announce a new law enforcement initiative they are calling “Targeted Enforcement Action Monitoring” or “TEAM” program. The new program will begin after July 4.
According to Don Tim Keller, extra police officers will be assigned to focus on traffic enforcement, DWIs, modified car exhaust citations, illegal firearms and to patrol parking lots where after parties and violence break out after the numerous bars close. The city will also be adding more streetlights and is planning to open a substation on Central between Third and Fourth in the Rosenwald Building by the end of the summer.
THERE’S A CATCH
Keller and Medina’s message to downtown businesses is that if you are concerned about crime and public safety issues and you want police protection, you need to pay extra for it. Mayor Tim Keller and APD Police Chief Harold Medina announced that they want businesses to contribute to a fund to pay for a program modeled after “chief’s overtime.”
Due to the officer shortage in Albuquerque, officers participating in this program will do so on a volunteer basis at first through the chief’s overtime program. Main Capo Chief Harold Medina explained that the TEAM program will build and expand off the Chief’s overtime program. Medina had this to say:
“The TEAM concept will build off of our Chief’s overtime program. What’s different about this is, in the past, we’ve always gone out and allocated resources to big box stores and protected one industry or one location. In a way it was hampering our ability to put the resources where we wanted to, to protect the whole city. So we did make adjustments to our chief’s overtime program earlier this year and we cut out our involvement at so many big box stores to ensure we would be prepared for this next step.”
According to Medina, this TEAM program will also be of no cost to the taxpayer. Instead, it will be funded by the city, downtown business owners, and private donations. Medina said he has noticed that the big box stores are hiring private security instead.
Typically, chief’s overtime consists of private businesses, organizations or event organizers paying for officers to be stationed in certain areas. In anticipation of the implementation of the plan, APD Chief Harold Medina began moving officers off assignments at big box stores.
Don Tim Keller had this to say:
“What we are announcing today Downtown is that we are going to do something very different. We are going to treat Downtown, essentially, like a neighborhood that has an acute crime problem. … Now I want to mention not all of the businesses are supporting this. … We want them to, we need them to. We have enough funding to get started and try this out this summer. That’s all the funding we have. But we hope we’re going to demonstrate how important this is and then we’ll get enough funding to run this year round.
Downtown all of a sudden is going to be a very different place in terms of a couple of things. We’re adding in lights all over downtown, including the alleys over the next six months, we also know that we’re going to be opening this new police station right in the middle of downtown and most importantly we’re adding desperately needed resources downtown at key times of the day and key days of the week.
The challenge is we are in a resource-constrained environment. … Downtown has to take control of their own future, too [ by creating a business improvement district.] … We’re there to help them and we’re going to get it started but they cannot be dependent on the City of Albuquerque to continue to do everything for them every year. … Because that is exactly why we’ve gotten into this spot right now.
Chief Capo Harold Medina was asked during the press conference why private businesses should be asked to pay for extra police presence instead of the city itself. Capo Medina said he must choose where to spend public funds and have to be fair to the rest of the city. Chief Capo Harold Medina had this to say:
“This is a way for people to fund Downtown, specifically, and not us devoting all our resources and money to just one specific part of town. … Because the moment I devote our resources and funding to Downtown, I guarantee there’s going to be another part of town asking ‘where’s my cut?’”
The use of the term “where’s my cut?” by Capo Medina is embarrassing but reflects that he thinks police protection is some sort of ill gotten gain a person in not entitled to.
Officials said PNM has contributed $15,000. So far there is a total of $90,000 pledged. President of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Terri Cole said the chamber supports the plan. Cole had this to say:
“We think this proposal helps level the playing field for smaller businesses in the Downtown area, which we’re obviously supportive of. … Right now businesses like Home Depot and Lowe’s pay chief’s overtime during the day and it seems reasonable to us that Downtown businesses ought to be able to use the same model.”
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT BUDGET
On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the 2022-2023 city budget that will commence on July 1, 2022 and runs through to June 30, 2023. The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.
The Keller administration projected that the city will have over $100 million more in gross receipts tax to spend in 2023 than it budgeted for this year. Gross Receipts Tax is the tax assessed on the sale of most goods and services and GRT revenues have been much stronger than expected creating a balance of funding that can be applied to the 2022- 2023 budget cycle.
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and sworn count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions.
APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police for the past 3 years. However, there are currently 875 sworn officers in APD. The APD budget provides funding for 1,100 in order to accommodate growth.
APD PROJECTED TO HAVE $12,390,000 IN UNSPENT SWORN POLICE SALARIES AT END OF FISCAL YEAR 2023
On Thursday, April 28, the City Council “Committee of the Whole” held its budget hearing on the 2022-2023 proposed Albuquerque Police Department Budget. Capo APD Chief Harold Medina presented the budget for his department to the Council.
The link to the proposed 244-page 2022-2023 budget it here:
During the budget hearing, the city council was told that as of the week of April 15, APD had a mere 878 sworn officers. During each of the last 4 years, APD’s budget has provided full funding for 1,100. In an interview, Medina had this this to say:
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to get to 1,100 [sworn officers] … But we want to start laying the groundwork with extra PSAs and helping find proper support for our officers.”
Over the last 4 years of city budgets under Keller, the City’s Finance Department that prepares the yearly budget has budgeted enough money to pay for 1,100 officers in APD. During the April 28 budget hearing APD Chief Harold Medina acknowledged for the very first time that APD employing 1,100 sworn police is likely unrealistic. Medina told the city council that APD estimates that it will finish the fiscal year 2023 that begins on July 1, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2023 with just 982 officers.
According to City officials, budgeted sworn officer positions carry a price tag of upwards $105,000 apiece when you include base salaries and add benefits such as the city’s portion of retirement pay. That means if by next year’s end there are only 982 officers as Medina told the city council, and APD is budgeted for 1,100 sworn positions, 118 salaries will go unspent.
That translates into $12,390,000 in unspent salaries calculated as follows: 118 vacant positions at $105,000 a piece equals $12,390,000 salaries will accrue as unspent.
MEDINA WANTS TO USE $12.4 MILLION FOR OTHER PERSONNEL
APD Chief Harold Medina told the City Councilors he intends to use some of the money to hire more Police Service Aides (PSAs). Medina told the counselors:
“We know that’s the best pipeline for us to add officers to this department. The vast majority of our police service aides become officers.”
During the April 28 budget hearing, Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis questioned APD for more information on its budgeting strategy on using unspent sworn police officers’ salaries for other priorities. Lewis said this:
“I think it’s good for us to understand this is not a budget that [actually] funds 1,100 police officers. … We’re going to give you [funding for] 1,100 officers this year. We’re going to fund [the amount] just like we did last year. We’re continuing to do that, but I think at the very least what this council is going to need and want is a very specific breakdown of where those salary savings went because we didn’t hire those officers.”
The link to a related blog article is here:
CHIEF’S OVERTIME EXPLAINED
APD “Chief’s Overtime” is an APD overtime program where APD police officers work off-duty security assignments at businesses locations as Walmart, Target, gas stations and other local businesses or work special events. APD officers wear their APD uniforms and use city equipment to perform their security duties. The overtime can only be worked if approved by the Chief. The city receives between $57 and $77 an hour for each chief’s overtime shift worked, depending on the officer’s rank. Police officers from patrolman first class to lieutenants are paid between $31.32 an hour to $45.36 which is taken out of the Chief’s overtime paid with the balance kept by the city, with city essentially making a profit.
The arguments made in favor of Police Overtime include that it place officers out in the community while giving them an opportunity to make extra income using the valuable training and experience city taxpayers have invested in them. And the cost of their extra presence on the streets is more than covered by the businesses footing the bill. Arguments against Chief’s overtime is that the APD Force Review Board has found that officers working chief’s overtime are using force nearly 3 times more often. Further, working consecutive shifts of city shifts followed by Chief’s overtime shifts is a dangerous combination contributing to “burn out”.
The biggest problem with Chief’s Overtime is that it is essentially a program where city resources are being used to make a profit for the city. Any city program that uses public funded resources to make a profit is dangerous and is a ripe for corruption and severe public criticism and scrutiny. The now defunct city “red light camera” program and the defunct “vehicle forfeiture “ programs were two such programs.
DE JA VUE ALL OVER AGAIN
Almost 4 years ago on September 13, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced the creation of a “Downtown Public Safety District.” The creation of the “Downtown Public Safety District ”was in response to a petition drive by Downtown businesses and residents demanding such a substation. The substation for the Downtown Public Safety District is located at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central SW. The location is a conversion of a prisoner transport holding area that required remodeling to remove jail cells.
The goal was to have more of a permanent police presence in Downtown Albuquerque. The congregation of the homeless in the area have been a chronic problem especially around the Alvarado Transportation Center. Consequently, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) was to be assigned to the district to address homelessness and behavioral health needs.
According to the City website, the Downtown Public Safety District is committed to the principles of community policing. The officers walk, bike and drive the streets and alleys of the core downtown (Lomas to Coal, Broadway to 12th Street). The don’t drive by, they walk in and know the business owners, residents, office workers, service providers and people on the streets. They partner with the community to increase safety, address problems, provide training, assist with medical or mental health transport, de-escalate situations, find solutions and create a positive downtown environment.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The “Targeted Enforcement Action Monitoring” program requiring private funding is as about as messed up as any Mayor can get with police department. It is a program that will uses public funded resources, sworn police, to make a profit by charging the private sector for services rendered that it is already entitled to. The proposal to charge the public and private sector for law enforcement services they are entitled to is dangerous and is a ripe for corruption.
Simply put, APD is awash with unused funding that is dedicated to funding sworn police positions never filled. Public Safety and police protection are probably the most important city essential service that any city provides it citizens and which they pay for with taxes, yet Keller and Medina want private funding, telling Downtown business owners they need to take “control of their own future” which means in their eyes paying for police protection.
APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police. For the past 4 years at least, APD has been fully funded for 1,100 but APD has fallen short of that goal each year by 100 sworn police or more . At the time the 2023 budget was enacted there are were 875 sworn officers. During the budget hearing for APD, Capo APD Chief Medina said there was no way APD would end the 2023 fiscal year with 1,100 sworn police and that he intended to use the savings from not hiring upwards of 100 sworn police for other priorities. This excessive unused funding from police vacancies should be used to fund the “Target Enforcement Action Monitoring”.
Don Keller and his Capo Chief Medina telling downtown business that if they are concerned about crime and public safety issues and they want police protection, they must pay extra for it amounts to nothing more than a godfather like “shake down.” In making the request for donations to fund police, both essentially concede that they are failures in managing the personnel resources of the largest budgeted department in the city despite a 14.7% increase in APD’s annual budget which is $255.4 million.
With the enactment of a $1.4 Billion Budget, and with a $857 million general fund appropriations budget containing a $255.4 million APD budget, Keller and Medina should be ashamed of themselves asking for private funding for their “Targeted Enforcement Action Monitoring” program. It is projected that the city will have over $100 million more in gross receipts tax to spend in 2023 than it did last year, yet Keller and Medina proclaimed they are working in a resource-constrained environment.
The only constraint that really exists is in the inability of Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina to manage APD resources. The fact that APD has a shortage of police officers is Keller’s and Medina’s fault, not the taxpayer’s fault, and is a result of their failure, some would say, incompetence to staff APD at the levels that have been fully funded.
Instead of kissing Keller’s ring and paying more for police protection, Downtown business owners should demand Keller and Medina deliver on the police protection they are already paying for.
On June 28, the Albuquerque Journal published the following editorial repeating many of the argument made in the Dinelli blog article above:
Editorial: ABQ’s Downtown police OT scheme like TV mob plot
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
PUBLISHED: TUESDAY, JUNE 28TH, 2022 AT 12:02AM
UPDATED: TUESDAY, JUNE 28TH, 2022 AT 10:40AM
It sounds a lot like a deal they can’t refuse: Pay police a little extra and they’ll protect your Downtown business. If it sounds somewhat shady, that’s because it’s the stuff of gangster movies and TV shows.
Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque Police Department leaders announced the scheme last week that involves businesses paying “chief’s overtime” to have officers stationed Downtown at night. Called “Targeted Enforcement Action Monitoring” it is set to begin July 4.
“Now I want to mention not all of the businesses are supporting this,” the mayor said during a Downtown news conference last week. “We want them to; we need them to.”
When questioned why private businesses should pay for extra police presence instead of the city, Police Chief Harold Medina said the city has to make choices: “This is a way for people to fund Downtown, specifically, and not us devoting all our resources and money to just one specific part of town.”
Stuart Dunlap, president and CEO of The Man’s Hat Shop, told KOAT-TV he already pays taxes for police protection.
“Businesses pay property taxes,” Dunlap said. “We pay business tax when you buy a business license. I don’t think that that’s the correct answer. Additional monies com(ing) from business owners Downtown is completely out of line.”
“For us to have to pay the government to protect us, I just don’t think it’s right,” added Jessica Zubia of Katrina’s Ice Cream Shop.
Never mind the city is experiencing a revenue boom. The city’s 2022-23 budget of $1.4 billion is about $200 million more than the current budget.
Or the city’s $857 million operating budget, which is supposed to cover most basic city services, will increase by about 20%. The bulging budget includes funding for a new police union contract that recently boosted police pay by 8% and will bump it another 5% in July.
Or APD’s $255.4 million budget funds 1,100 sworn police officers when it has just 888. Why not use that unspent money if the brass think more overtime is a good idea?
Never mind the city budget doubles spending on Albuquerque Community Safety and funds 74 new positions for the fledgling unit to take calls related to public inebriation and homelessness.
Or the COVID-19 pandemic has caused about 40% of small businesses to close, taking a heavy toll on Albuquerque’s Downtown. And patrons of Downtown businesses will be the ultimate losers when the cost of a hot dog hits $10 and a beer goes for $15.
At its core, it is just wrong to shake down businesses for police protection.
Keller says Downtown businesses must take control of their own future. That attitude ignores government’s, in this case the city’s, basic responsibility to maintain law and order and will have a chilling effect on new businesses locating Downtown.
Keller also says the Downtown officers — and they are not extra officers, as they are coming from the same limited pool of trained, sworn law enforcement professionals — will be able to focus on things like illegal firearms and fights in parking lots when the bars close. But that type of “chief’s overtime” — for which the city in December 2020 received between $57 and $72 an hour for each shift — is a lot more high stress than simply managing traffic after a large church service or athletics event. It adds the risk of burning our officers out even faster.
Focusing “chief’s overtime” on officers working extra hours Downtown also means they aren’t available for OT in other neighborhoods in an endless game of Whac-A-Mole. What happens if, say, the Winrock/ABQ Uptown area offers to pay more? Only those who pay get police presence?
The bottom line is APD needs to recruit and hire more officers so it can perform the basic functions it’s more than adequately funded to do.
Downtown has to be saved, but Keller and Medina need to come up with something better than pulling a scheme from a mob script and sticking businesses with the bill.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.