Dinelli: ABQ Needs a Public Safety Dept.
On April 1, 2018 Mayor Tim Keller submitted his first budget to the Albuquerque City Council.
For the next 2 months, public hearings will be held by the City Council with the final budget to be voted upon for approval.
The approved budget will to take effect July 1, 2018.
USE BUDGET PROCESS TO ESTABLISH PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT
It is during the budget approval hearing process that the Keller Administration has the best opportunity to propose sweeping and dramatic changes to improve public safety and the Albuquerque Police Department.
Mayor Tim Keller should propose the creation of a Department of Public Safety by executive order or executive communication to the Albuquerque City Council for their approval and funding during the budget process.
Over time, the Department of Public Safety would include both the Police and Fire Departments, both Police and Fire Academies, and 911 emergency dispatch center, the emergency operations center with the appointment of a Public Safety Commissioner.
A national search should be conducted to identify qualified candidates to serve as Public Safety Commissioner who have a firm understanding on constitutional policing practices.
Implementation of the DOJ consent decree reforms would be the top priority of the Public Safety Commissioner and would to include continued formulation, writing and implementation of standard operating procedure and changes agreed to under the consent decree, expansion of crisis intervention mandates and certified training of APD department personnel in constitutional policing practices.
There is a need for a complete overhaul and restructuring of APD with the appointment of a new chief, new commanders, lieutenants, academy director and a 911 manager.
Every single APD felony unit needs to be increased in personnel by anywhere between 40% and 60%, including the following APD units: Armed Robbery, Auto Theft, Burglary, Homicide, Gang Unit, Narcotics, Property Crimes and Sex Crimes Units and the Criminal Nuisance Abatement Unit.
The number of sworn police officers patrolling the streets is currently 436 and it should be increased to at least 650 out of a fully staff department of 1,200.
The Public Safety Department would consist of four civilian staffed divisions and managed by the Public Safety Commissioner:
1. Personnel and training, for recruiting, hiring, internal affairs investigations and police academy;
2. Budget and finance;
3. Information technology support and crime lab; and
4. 911 emergency operations center with a civilian manager.
“Deadly use of force” cases need to continue to be investigated by the Critical Incident Review Team and the final reports with finding and recommendations.
ABOLISH APD INTERNAL AFFAIRS
APD has consistently shown over many years it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by the Office Independent Council.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators.
The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit where necessary.
The Office of Independent Council would make findings and recommendations to the Public Safety Commissioner for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
IMPLEMENT NEW PAY SCALE STRUCTURE FOR THE RANK AND FILE POLICE
Albuquerque Police Officers are some of the best paid law enforcement in the country when you take into account their pay, longevity pay incentives, benefits and retirement pay.
Based on a recent police union annual survey, many APD police officers strongly dispute they are well paid, but in comparison to other city employees, they clearly are.
There are approximately 4,200 “classified” employees who work for the City of Albuquerque.
The average salary for classified city employees is $30,000 to $35,000 a year.
The average entry level Albuquerque patrolman first class makes $56,000 to $58,000 a year, depending on actual hours worked in a year.
Sworn police are paid an additional 15% for benefits, such as insurance, paid sick leave and annual leave and the positions are classified and a police officer cannot be terminated without cause.
A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2017 reveals that 66 patrol officers first class were among the highest paid city employees earning a total of around $7.1 million in salary and overtime.
A total of 124 of the 250 top wage earners at city hall are employed by the Albuquerque Police Department.
The 124 include patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders and deputy chiefs, assistant chief and the chief with annual pay ranging from $95,000 a year up to $166,699 a year.
(See City of Albuquerque web site for full list of 250 top city wage earners).
Five (5) APD Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage workers as being paid $146,971, $145,180, $140,243, $137,817 and $125,061 respectfully making them the 6th, the 7th, the 10th, the 12th and the 20th highest paid employees at city hall.
There are listed 66 Patrol Officers First Class in the list of the top 250 wage earners at city hall earning in excess of $95,000 a year and as much as $146,000 a year.
The high pay paid to the Patrol Officers First Class can is attributed to excessive overtime paid.
Combined, there are a total of 91 APD sworn police officers and sergeants who are named in the top 250 wage earners and city hall.
All patrol officers first class are paid the exact same hourly rate of $27.50, no matter the number of years on the police force, therefore a four (4) year veteran of the force makes the same hourly wage as a ten (10) year veteran.
Every year, the police union makes the same old tired demand of increasing hourly wages to Patrol Officers First Class as a solution to improving morale and retention numbers.
Under the union contract, sworn police officers are paid a mandatory two hours of overtime and paid “time and a half” for court appearances such as arraignments of DWI offenders and police prosecution of misdemeanor cases.
A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries should be implemented.
APD has an extensive history of exceeding its overtime budget by millions each year.
In 2017, APD exceeded its overtime budget by $4 million going from $9 million budgeted to $13 million spent.
APD should do away with hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service.
A mandatory “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police officer can be paid needs to be established that is fair and equitable for all sworn personnel to make available overtime to more sworn police officers in the department.
A system of overtime bonuses to be paid at the end of the year for accumulated increments of overtime could be implement.
Shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete work load, the employee works it for the same salary with no overtime and a modification of shift times for court appearances.
Salaries and step increase take away inflating overtime and motivates employees to get more done within the allotted shift or modification of shift times.
Yearly experienced officer retention bonuses should be increase and made permanent.
High crime rates, public safety, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Department of Justice reforms, were the biggest issues debated in the 2017 Mayor’s race.
Mayor Tim Keller was swept into office with a 62% vote landslide giving him a mandate for change.
The Keller Administration is still in its infancy, and many voters are loyal with high hopes.
However, the tone and direction the Keller Administration is taking does not represent visionary change and frankly not much of change at all when it comes to APD management.
Mayor Keller has yet to take any substantive advantage of his election mandate win.
Voters are not seeing the sweeping, visionary change he promised with APD.
Notwithstanding, voters are expecting results and they are impatient after 8 years of failed APD leadership and high crime rates.
Mayor Keller should use some the considerable political capital given to him with his landslide win and seize the opportunity to make real change with the creation of a Department of Public Safety before the opportunity completely vanishes.