A mandated officer level would send a very clear message that public safety is a priority for our city.
The mandate would also take the politics out of police force staffing. No longer would a mayor be able to come in and gut our department. Don’t think that happens? Consider this: When Mayor Richard Berry took office, APD was its highest staffing level with more than 1,000 officers. Now we have about 840.
The exodus started as soon as Berry took office. He immediately cut officer salaries and broke a multiyear contract. It was a slap in the face to the men and women who serve and protect this city every day and a clear signal that he did not value them.
Then, this administration all but halted recruitment efforts. Take 2011 for example, when only 11 new officers joined the ranks.
The proposed mandate wouldn’t fix our public safety issues, but it certainly would be a step in the right direction.
It does not mean we should lower our standards for hiring officers, but it does mean that we will have to look at recruitment differently. We will have to be more forward thinking about how to encourage our youth to pursue law enforcement as a career choice.
It will also require us to make a greater investment in our police force. We must be willing to pay officers competitively. Currently, Albuquerque police officers make far less than their counterparts around the country. We can’t even compete with other departments here in New Mexico!
We all know we need more officers, that I think we can agree on. Why not try to make public safety a priority for Albuquerque? Even if it is an election year. Our officers are just grateful that someone is trying to fix the problem.