The mantra at City Hall these days is that Albuquerque police officers are quitting in droves because they can make more money at other departments and that the city has to throw tens of millions of dollars at the problem.
And Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council are going to do just that with the $55 million-year tax increase that was just approved by the Council and signed by Keller.
But on Thursday it was revealed that the city has no idea why cops are leaving APD and whether salaries are even an issue.
(Photo: Ed Harness.)
Because APD doesn't do exit interviews with departing officers to ask them why they left the department. And now, the department is asking the Police Oversight Board to step in and write it a policy so it can do those exit interviews.
Why the POB?
Apparently because the city's Human Resources Department is so bureaucratic that it can't come up with a policy to conduct exit interviews.
That's what was revealed Thursday at a meeting of the POB's Policy and Procedure Review Subcommittee. Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, told POB members during the meeting that he had been approached by APD's recruiting person, Officer Russell Alberti, about having the POB write APD an exit interview policy.
Watch the video of the meeting here.
“I was contacted by APD recruiting today, and they would like the Police and Procedures Subcommittee to consider two actions, one of them long term, one of them short term,” Harness told subcommittee members. “The short term is they would like a policy recommendation on exit interviews for officers that are leaving and have left the department so that they have real data on why they're leaving as opposed to the speculation that it's only the pay.”
“The discussion came about because the presentation to the public is, you know, that, you know, they netted what, three over the last year .. they netted three officers with graduating over a hundred, and the presentation is that it's all about pay why the officers are leaving. But they have no data to back that up, they don't do an exit interview, they don't contact the officers to say 'Why are you leaving? Why are you going to this other department?' We're just assuming because it's a larger paycheck there. So this is something that the committee could decide and make a recommendation … do exit interviews, set a timeline.”
At that point, POB member Chelsea N. Van Deventer asked Harness: “ Although I'm curious as to why, why can't they just decide to just do that? Why do they need us to make a recommendation?”
Harness responded: “Because they don't want to wait for the bureaucracy of HR, the city. This is a much more direct way to get it to a decision maker.”
APD officials weren't immediately available for comment on Harness' remarks.
But, in a way, the city does know why officers have been leaving APD, which has been chronically understaffed for years.
In 2015, the City Council approved a survey of APD officers who had left or retired from the department. The survey found that the primary reasons that officers were leaving was a lack of support from city officials and concerns about the leadership within the department.
Dissatisfaction with APD's pay scale ranked sixth out of 17 reasons of why officers left the department.