Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

ABQ mayor, APD chief must retain experienced staff

When Mayor Tim Keller was first elected in 2017, the Albuquerque Police Department had a total of 836 sworn officers, including all ranks. Four years and a month later, APD has 893 sworn officers, including Chief Harold Medina, a net increase of 57, although the sworn status of some is in question as they were brought in from abroad to fill high-paying command and leadership positions.

In 2017, Keller pledged to hire 100 new officers each year, with a goal for APD to have 1,200 officers by 2022. He may have kept promises to hire new officers, but he failed to keep the experienced officers who were here. Medina blames the last police contract, signed in 2017, which brought significant pay increases to experienced APD officers. Medina claims that because the pension system is based on a high three-year salary, many have retired because it hasn’t helped them stay.

Medina is right, but there is a problem. Medina and Keller knew how retirement is calculated for these officers, so after three years why didn’t they do something to increase these salaries to encourage these experienced officers to stay? Had they offered these experienced officers another, say 10% increase at the time of the three year contract term, they could have stopped many retirements as these officers would stay to recalculate pensions.

It’s just like the ongoing crime epidemic; Medina and Keller point out that crime is on the rise across the country and say Albuquerque is just part of the national crime trend. That’s no consolation for Albuquerque’s crime victims.

It’s like a mechanic who, after your car broke down, tells you that the last time you serviced it, they knew the transmission was going to fail, but didn’t do anything about it. Would you continue to let this mechanic work on your car? Of course not, but in public safety we seem to reward incompetence rather than demand excellence.

Many officers have resigned because they lack confidence in the leadership of APD and City Hall. They were fed up with the DOJ’s constant, incompetent oversight, the lack of backup officers on the streets, and the overwork of detectives because staffing the DOJ force review is more important than murder. Morale at APD is in the doldrums, Keller and Medina once again know and acknowledge this and once again they seem unable to do anything about it.

The future looks bleak for APD staffing issues. APD currently has 46 cadets in the police academy, who will not graduate until the summer of 2022, and reportedly has one junior officer in the pipeline.

City taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars on APD’s budget over the past four years, receiving an increase of 57 officers. It seems that the only people currently benefiting from APD are the highly paid DOJ outside observers and bloated APD commandos and the criminals running rampant.

It all falls to Keller. He needs to start demanding excellence from the APD command staff and when they fail, he needs to fire them and hire someone who can do the job right. Keller needs to find a way to appease the federal judge overseeing the settlement agreement so we can send James Ginger and his failed monitors home. The mayor was given four more years. What is he up to? I pray I can write a column in 2026 saying APD has grown to 1,200 officers. Unfortunately, if past performance is an indicator of future performance, I don’t think that will happen.

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