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Survey of ABQ police officers finds 70% considered leaving

An Albuquerque Police Department officer is shown at the scene of a shooting last May. A recent survey of nearly 500 APD officers found 70 percent of responding officers have thought about leaving the department. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The large majority of Albuquerque police officers who responded to an annual survey by the police union have “seriously considered” leaving the department in the last two years.

Early this month, 491 officers holding the rank of lieutenant and under completed a survey about working for the Albuquerque Police Department. The department has about 850 officers.

The survey found that 70 percent of responding officers have thought about leaving the department.

When asked to pick among choices about why they were considering going elsewhere, 69 percent said work conditions, 67 percent said better pay and 67 percent said they want a better quality of life.

Some officers made specific comments when asked why they had considered leaving the department. They included:

• “Fear of media scrutiny and criminal charges.”

• “The (Department of Justice) has no business running a police department.”

• “This town sucks as a whole. Bad schools bad crime bad housing.”

• “Family would be safer outside of ABQ where police are allowed to do their job.”

• “The clowns that get promoted to supervisor.”

In the survey, 98 percent of responding officers said APD’s staffing level has compromised officer safety.

“Police officers in comments are saying, ‘I don’t want to raise my kids here, it’s dangerous,’ ” said Shaun Willoughby, the president of Albuquerque Police Officers Association. “If your cops don’t feel safe, how do you feel safe?”

Mayor Tim Keller has said he wants to grow the number of officers from its current level to 1,200 over the next several years.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said an aggressive recruiting pitch is underway.

And Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the police department, said in a prepared statement, “We appreciate the input from the union survey and we are moving forward with an aggressive recruiting and retention program that reflects our community policing strategy.”

When asked what the mayor and city council could do to increase the number of police officers, the survey found that 77 percent of officers said they could pay officers a more competitive salary.

About three-fourths of the officers who took the survey said a competitive salary would be between $32 and $36 an hour.

Most Albuquerque police officers make $28 per hour.

Willoughby said the department’s staffing level is making officers weary. And he said it has also created dangerous situations, because officers have longer drives to calls for service and don’t have as much time to de-escalate situations because the response time is longer.

“They are tired of working so much overtime. They are tired of being forced to work overtime. They are tired sacrificing time with their families. They are tired of not making a competitive wage. They are tired of being understaffed,” Willoughby said. “I think the officers are getting fed up, and I think they are getting tired.”

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