Zero growth for APD
By Dennis Domrzalski
-- APD has 957 officers, same as it had two years ago.
-- 40 to 80 cops leave the department every year.
-- Only 371 cops are out there responding to calls from residents.
In June of 2019—nearly two years ago—the Albuquerque Police Department put out a news release saying it had hired 116 new police officers during Mayor Tim Keller's first 18 months in office and that it would grow to 1,000 officers in the next few months. At the time, APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the department had 957 sworn officers.
This past Monday (Feb. 8, 2021), Interim Police Chief Harold Medina told a City Council's Public Safety Committee that the police department now had—wait—957 sworn officers!
In nearly two years, APD has grown its ranks by exactly, well, zero officers.
It means that Keller's goal of having 1,100 to 1,200 officers during his four-term is pretty much unattainable. And no matter how many positive news releases APD issues, it looks like it'll have a little less than 1,000 officers for a long time to come.
That's because the department is losing lots of cops to retirement and other reasons every year. Medina said that in 2019, 46 officers retired. In 2020, 44 officers retired, and an additional 40 “separated” from the department, meaning they were fired or left for other jobs and careers.
Under questioning from Councilor Brook Bassan, Medina related just how difficult it will be for APD to reach a staffing level of 1,200 officers, as Keller promised during his 2017 mayoral campaign. In order to get to 1,200 cops, the department will have to ad 150 to 175 officers a year for the next couple of years, and then, to maintain that level, it would have to add maybe 40 to 80 cops each year.
Getting 150 to 175 new officers a year is a near impossibility for a few reasons. One, APD's training academy doesn't have that kind of capacity. Two, as the DOJ and the independent monitor in the police reform case increasingly scrutinize and second-guess each and every move by every officer in the field, more and more cops will retire or otherwise leave the department. On Monday, Medina told Bassan that there are currently 121 APD officers who are eligible to retire and who could leave at any minute. That's 12.6 percent of the department. And three, it's not likely that officers from other departments will flock to APD once they learn of the restrictions and scrutiny they'll have to work under because of the DOJ and independent monitor.
And here's another frightening number that Medina threw out under questioning from Bassan: APD has just 371 officers responding to calls from citizens. That's 371 cops in the Field Services Bureau who will respond—well,maybe—when some creep is trying to break into your house at three in the morning. That's basically 39 percent of the department's sworn officers who are patrolling the streets and responding to calls.
Now, Medina tried to inflate that figure by telling Bassan that Field Services has 53 sergeants, 18 lieutenants, six area commanders, 21 bicycle officers and 32 crisis intervention officers, for a grand total of 511 officers. But sergeants, lieutenants and area commanders don't respond to burglary, domestic abuse or assault and battery calls. They now basically spend their time reviewing lapel camera videos to see if their patrol officers did anything wrong regarding the settlement agreement with the DOJ.
It looks like Bassan was trying to determine just how many cops are now investigating other cops—as required by the settlement agreement—and endlessly reviewing and rewriting policies. In other words, how many cops are doing something other than fighting crime and protecting citizens, which is a police department's only job.
And Medina also told Basan that if your home is burglarized and your stuff stolen, the fiend who did it will likely never be caught and you'll probably never see your stuff again. Medina said that under 10 percent of property crimes in the city are solved by APD.
These are not good times for APD and for the residents of this city.