Keller's broken police promise
By Dan Klein
-- In four years, APD has had a net increase of 57 officers. In 2017, Keller promised that by this time we'd have 1,200 cops. Sadly, APD has now only 893 sworn officers.
-- When it comes to public safety, we reward incompetence instead of demanding excellence.
When Mayor Tim Keller was first elected in 2017, the Albuquerque Police Department had a total of 836 sworn officers (all ranks included). Four years and one month later, APD has 893 sworn officers (including Chief Medina), a net increase of 57 officers. The sworn status of some of these officers is in question as they were brought in from out of state to fill high salaried commander and executive staff positions. I am counting them in the sworn category, but I am not sure all of them are sworn New Mexico law enforcement officers.
In 2017, Keller promised to hire 100 new police officers every year, with a goal of APD having 1,200 officers by 2022. He may have kept the promise to hire new officers, but he has failed to keep the veteran officers who were here. APD Chief Harold Medina blames this on the last police contract (signed in 2017) that gave substantial raises to veteran APD officers. Medina claims that because the retirement system for veteran officers is based on a high three-year salary, that many APD officers have retired because it did not benefit them to stay longer.
Medina is correct in this statement, but there is a problem. Medina and Keller knew how the retirement for these officers is calculated, therefore, why didn’t they do something at the three-year point to increase those salaries to entice these veteran officers to stay? Had they offered another, let’s say, 10 percent increase to those veteran officers at the three-year point of the contract, they could have stopped many retirements as those officers would stay to build a new pension calculation.
This is the issue that plagues Medina and Keller. When they fail, they make statements that show they completely understand why they failed. The citizens must ask, “If you knew the problem, why didn’t you fix it before you failed?” It’s just like the ongoing crime epidemic. Both Medina and Keller point to crime rising around the nation and that Albuquerque is just part of the national crime trend. It’s true that crime has risen significantly around the country, but that doesn’t give any comfort to Albuquerque crime victims. We don’t care about crime in Portland, we only care about crime in Albuquerque.
This same statement is true for APD manpower. If Medina and Keller knew there would be a major issue with retirement calculations, issues that would impact APD manpower, why didn’t they address it before the retirements happened? It’s like a mechanic telling you, after your car has broken down, that at your last service he knew the transmission was going to fail but he didn’t do anything about it. Would you continue to have that mechanic work on your car? Of course not. But in public safety it seems that we reward incompetence instead of demanding excellence.
Retirements only address a portion of the officers who have left APD. Many have quit because they have no faith in the leadership at APD and City Hall. They were tired of the constant, incompetent, DOJ oversight. The lack of back-up officers on the streets. The overworking of detectives because it is more important to fully staff DOJ force review than it is to fully staff APD homicide. Morale at APD is in the toilet. Once again Keller and Medina know this and acknowledge it, and once again they seem incapable of doing anything about it.
The future looks grim for the Albuquerque Police Department staffing issues. APD currently has 46 cadets in the police academy that will not graduate until the summer of 2022. A source within APD said they only have one lateral officer in the pipeline to come on board.
The taxpayers of Albuquerque have spent tens of millions of dollars on APD’s budget over the last four years and they only show an increase of 57 officers. It seems the only people benefiting from APD right now are the highly paid outside DOJ monitors and the highly paid and bloated APD command staff.
Oh yeah, and the criminals who are running rampant.
This all falls upon Mayor Keller. The buck stops at his desk. He must start demanding excellence from APD command, and when they fail, fire them and bring in someone who can do the job right. Keller must figure out a way to appease the federal judge overseeing the consent decree so we can send James Ginger and his failed monitors packing. Ginger likes to blame APD for not complying with the decree, but it’s also Ginger’s job to help APD succeed. The failure of the consent decree is just as much Gingers’ fault as they are Medina’s.
Tim (Keller), you have been given four more years. What do you plan to do? I pray that in 2026, I can write a column that says APD has increased to 1,200 officers. Sadly, if past performance is an indicator of future performance, I don’t think that will happen. It’s up to you Tim, balls in your court.