Gorden Eden and Richard Berry left the Albuquerque Police Department in shambles. Now it is up to Mike Geier and Tim Keller to fix it, but how?
The biggest issue facing Geier and Keller at APD is manpower. Just a few years ago, APD had almost 1,100 cops on the force. Now that number may drop to 800 by January 1, 2018! The flood of officers leaving APD has to be stopped immediately. How does this happen?
Appointing Geier is a good first step. He is a cop, real cop. He is well respected and knows how to lead. But good leadership alone is not going to grow APD. It’s going to take money, and it needs to be found quickly.
If Keller and Geier can come up with a plan that would stop officers from quitting / retiring but also bring back many officers who have left in the last three years, it would be a win / win for Albuquerque. Why is three years important? Officers who have left within the last three years have been trained under the DOJ settlement agreement. This allows them to come back to the streets almost immediately upon rehiring.
How can Albuquerque entice these officers to return? Money.
Here is my recommendation. Offer any APD officer who left APD in the last three years, but had at least five years on the department, a $10,000 signing bonus to return. Of course, the officer had to be in good standing when he left. It doesn’t matter if they quit or they retired, just that they had five years at APD.
Create an immediate pay step at five years that would raise patrolman pay at APD from $28 / hour to $34 / hour. This would be contractual as all other ranks would have to be increased in accordance. A 42-cent-an-hour raise will not bring any officer back to APD. Albuquerque must give officers a reason to suspend their retirement to return and build a new retirement. Albuquerque must be competitive with other cities and their pay scale for VETERAN cops. Albuquerque has the money; do we have the will?
For New Mexico certified police officers with five years and good standing, offer a $5,000 signing bonus and count their years at their current agency toward the five years / $34 per hour at APD. Why a smaller signing bonus? These officers are will have to attend a shortened academy to be brought up to speed on the DOJ training.
What about the current APD officers? Give them a $5,000, one time, bonus if they have five years or more on the department. That plus their seniority and $34 per hour will keep them at APD.
Offer the $5,000 signing bonus to officers in good standing from outside New Mexico. Dallas PD is in turmoil due to major problems with their pension fund. Send APD recruiters to Dallas and recruit as many good officers there to join APD. If they are coming from out of state, offer a moving allowance. Pay them the $28 new APD cops get with the knowledge that they will get $34 per hour when they have five years on the department.
Streamline the hiring of new cadets into APD. Get rid of the Polygraph test. It has been scientifically proven not to work. Polygraph excludes good candidates for no good reason. By getting rid of this fake test, hundreds of good candidates will be left in the process. If you are going to exclude a candidate do so with a real reason, that means increase the number of background investigators.
But Geier, Keller and the city council are going to have to act quickly. More APD officers are leaving (I was just told another quit to join Denver PD) and more are retiring this month. With the plan I have outlined APD could grow it’s ranks in 2018 to well over 900 cops.
Geier’s job will be to lobby Keller and the city council to find the money and act quickly, but it will come down to Keller and the city council to find and appropriate the money. Does the new administration and city council have the will to write our cops the checks needed to retain them and bring them back? Do they have the will to make Albuquerque safer?
I will give Keller and the city council sixty days then we will know if they care about fixing the crime problem in Albuquerque.