Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque city councilors late Wednesday adopted a resolution that would make enough money available to boost police officers’ pay by 2.5 percent.
The sponsors of the bill – Dan Lewis, Isaac Benton and Don Harris – said they hope to improve the recruitment and retention of officers. It passed unanimously.
The size of the police force fell about 15 percent in a recent three-year period.
“We need to do more to get our academies filled at the Police Department,” Harris said.
Expanding the police force was a major issue in the mayoral and City Council campaigns this fall. The city has about 920 officers, though 1,100 are authorized in the budget.
Councilor Ken Sanchez said he has heard concerns about whether APD is responding quickly enough to top-priority calls. Response times to “Priority 1″ calls climbed about 1 minute in a recent four-year period, according to city data.
“We’ve got a shortage of police officers,” Sanchez said.
The council cannot promise the pay raises. Salaries must be negotiated with the police union, and the city administration and union representatives haven’t reached agreement on a new contract.
But the council’s action sets aside $2.4 million, enough to cover a 2.5 percent raise for officers and the reinstatement of financial incentives aimed at retaining officers, such as a student-loan-forgiveness program. In other words, the money is available if agreement with the union is reached.
For other employees, the city budget has enough funding for 1 percent raises.
Councilor Rey Garduño questioned why Wednesday’s proposal singled out police officers.
“Why aren’t we talking about firefighters?” he asked. “They also risk their lives.”
Harris said the Fire Department hasn’t had as much trouble filling its academies.
Benton added that passage of the bill wouldn’t prevent the city from trying to address other employees in a future proposal.