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Survey: 70 percent of APD cops considering working in other cities

A whopping 70 percent of Albuquerque police officers who responded to a recent survey about their jobs said they have seriously considered looking for work in other cities and states in the past two years, according to a survey of officers released Thursday by the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

The main reasons that cops have thought of looking for jobs elsewhere were working conditions (69 percent), better pay (67 percent), better quality of life (67 percent), and concern over APD's leadership (53 percent).

And 98 percent of the 491 officers who responded to the survey said that APD's chronically low staffing numbers are jeopardizing their safety and the safety of other officers.

(Photo: Shaun Willoughby)

When asked what the biggest thing Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council can do to increase the number of officers on the department, 77 percent of those who responded to the survey said pay needs to be increased to a competitive level.

What should that pay be?

Between $32 to $36 an hour, according to 76 percent of those surveyed. The current pay rate for most APD officers is $28 an hour. The survey found that just 0.6 percent of officers believe the current $28/hour is a competitive wage.

APOA President Shaun Willoghby said he understands why so many officers have thought about going to work in other cities.

“Policing is never going to be an easy job, but I’m not sure most people appreciate just how hard it is to be an Albuquerque Police Officer right now. We’re at dangerously low staffing levels, criminals are emboldened, officers are having to work insane amounts of overtime and, unlike most other cities, we have the additional workload and scrutiny that comes with a DOJ decree,” Willoughby said. “It’s all taking a toll on our officers. It’s no wonder why they would be looking at other departments. Plus, many of those departments are willing to pay them a whole heck of a lot more.”

And where all those APD cops looking to go?

Denver, Austin and Phoenix were the tops three picks. Other places they've looked at are Seattle, San Jose, Las Vegas, Aurora, Colo., and in New Mexico, Farmington, Las Cruces and Hobbs.

APD has been chronically understaffed for years. For the current fiscal year the department is budgeted for 1,000 officers. But it has only around 850 sworn officers.

Mayor Keller has pledged to increase the size of the force to 1,200 officers in four years, but based on the survey, that will be a difficult job.

Keller has said that public safety is his biggest concern. In his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, Keller is asking for a $574.8 million general fund budget. That represents a $44.6 million, or 8.4 percent increase over the current $530.2 million budget.

Nearly half of that increase, or $19.6 million, would go to the Albuquerque Police Department. Under Keller's proposal, APD's budget would climb to $190.2 million from the current $172.3 million. That represents an 11.5 percent increase.

But the proposed budget, which Keller said would allow APD to hire 100 more officers, budgets APD at 1,040 officers. For the current fiscal year, APD was initially budgeted for 1,000 officers.

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