Goal is to recruit new officers, retain others
A trio of Albuquerque city councilors on Sunday announced they are introducing a measure that would provide $2.4 million annually aimed at rebuilding the police department.
City Council President Dan Lewis and Councilors Isaac Benton and Don Harris held a news conference on the steps of the Albuquerque Police Department headquarters to announce they will introduce a “non-partisan effort” to recruit new officers and retain experienced ones.
“The intent here is to rebuild the department, not only in numbers, but I am also very hopeful that in time, it will be rebuilt in the esteem of the public and the morale of its officers,” Benton said.
Lewis said the council did not want the bill to be used as “leverage” by either the city or the police union in ongoing contract negotiations.
“It’s a starting process, a framework in which they can negotiate,” he said.
Because of retirements and attrition, the number of sworn officers in APD has gone down dramatically, Lewis said. He acknowledged that an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the department’s use of lethal force by some of its officers has also depressed numbers of new recruits and retention of senior officers.
The bill states as one of its goals having a force of 1,100 sworn officers, a goal it said the department hasn’t reached in five years.
The funding would come from “unexpended, unencumbered” money from the city’s general fund, which for 2014 is $480.3 million. It’s become available because the city’s fiscal health has improved in recent years, partly because of the city being “very fiscally responsible,” Lewis said.
Of the $2.4 million proposed boost, about half is intended to raise officer pay, which together with a 1 percent raise, already included in the city’s operating budget, would translate to a potential 2.5 percent increase for officers, Lewis said.
The rest would go to a program to retain senior officers and to attract recent college graduates to apply for new openings. Lewis stressed that all the funding is subject to the collective bargaining process.
Harris said the City Council believes that the cornerstone of any great city is public safety.
“We need to ensure that we have enough officers to keep Albuquerque a safe and desirable place to live,” he said.
The bill is scheduled to be introduced at the Aug. 19 meeting of the City Council. It will also be heard at the City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee on Sept. 9.