By Rick Nathanson
ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Police officers with 19 years of service credit through the Public Employees Retirement Association, or PERA, are being offered a $1,500-a-month incentive to remain with the Albuquerque Police Department instead of retiring.
That translates to $18,000 a year.
In addition, the department will pick up 100% of the officers’ medical benefits.
The measures are part of a newly approved retention package APD Chief Harold Medina unveiled Friday.
The incentives, he said, are necessary to try to stem the number of officers resigning or retiring, which cannot be offset by the number of new recruits entering the department.
“We currently have 41 retired officers that have come back into PERA, and we have at least 50 that are working in the department under contracts with temp services,” Medina said, “so we know that officers have a value beyond their 20 years. They want to work and we’re trying to find ways to incentivize it.”
APD is also giving officers who resign a window of 90 days in which they can ask to be reinstated, something that allows an officer to step back and reevaluate his or her law enforcement career.
Medina said APD has seen an increase in recruiting since it announced that it increased its compliance with the court-mandated settlement agreement with the Department of Justice.
“You know, departments under a consent decree are not easy places to work for, and I personally try to recruit laterals from surrounding agencies on a consistent basis,” Medina said. “The No. 1 thing that deters them is the fear of our settlement agreement, and we have been working to reduce those fears.”
Medina said he worked with the DOJ to change policies and processes so as to see a reduction of discipline handed out to officers.
“We remain committed to reform and trying to find the most sustainable way to move forward and fight crime at the same time,” the chief said.
One way APD has been doing that is by diverting calls that do not necessarily require a police officer to the Community Safety Department, which has taken 9,425 calls for service that otherwise would have gone to APD officers.
The department has made some improvement in resignations and retirement numbers, Medina said. Thus far in 2022, APD has seen 45 resignations, compared with 58 in 2021, and 44 retirements through Oct. 3, 2022, compared with 91 in 2021.
Things are also looking more positive at the police academy. The current APD cadet class has 26 people enrolled. Medina said he anticipates the upcoming class will have between 50 and 60 cadets.
The often-stated goal of getting 1,200 sworn officers out on the streets still has not changed, but “it’s going to be very difficult,” given the current environment, Medina said. The focus now is providing comprehensive services with the current roster of 857 officers, as well as boosting the number of people enrolled in the Public Service Aide program and the number of professional staff who support the officers in the field.
In addition, APD hiring bonuses remain in effect and have been extended through Jan. 6, 2023. These amount to: police cadets, $10,000; lateral officer hires, $15,000; police service aides, $1,500.
City employees may also receive a finders fee of $2,500 for assisting in the recruitment of lateral officers or police cadets, and $1,000 for public service aides.
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