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APD added 116 officers over past year

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Cadets during a graduation ceremony for the Albuquerque Police Department in May 2018. Two classes of cadets will graduate this summer. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The number of officers with the Albuquerque Police Department is expected to reach almost 1,000 in the next couple of months – nearing a staffing level the city has not had since 2013.

According to a news release from APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, 116 officers were hired and trained in the first budget year since Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council devised a plan to boost department staffing. About two-thirds of those new officers are already on the streets, and the rest are expected to be on duty by the end of the summer.

Of the 116 officers:

◊ Seventy-two are being added to the six area commands, with each area command getting seven to 17 new officers.

◊ Three will serve in other commands that were not specified.

◊ 13 are completing on-the-job training now.

◊ 28 (two classes, one made up of cadets and the other of lateral transfers from other police departments) are finishing their training this summer.

Gallegos said APD now has 957 sworn officers – 533 of whom patrol the streets – and expects to have 981 by the end of the summer. The department is budgeted for 1,053 sworn officers in the next fiscal year.

Over the past several years, the number of sworn officers at APD dropped from 983 officers in 2013 to below 900 – reaching a low point of 821 officers in 2016.

However, the ranks have been building slowly since then.

In an interview with the Journal on Monday afternoon, Deputy Police Chief Harold Medina credited the recent boost to the department to the administration’s focus on recruiting officers from other departments around the state. Exact numbers weren’t provided, but Medina estimated that of the 116 new officers, about 70 were lateral hires.

“We’re paying more than anyone else in the state, in some cases substantially,” Medina said. “And it’s really led to individuals wanting to come over to the department.”

Medina said the bulk of the officers hired from other agencies were from the Santa Fe Police Department, the Rio Rancho Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. Those jurisdictions have raised concerns in the past about losing their officers to Albuquerque.

Although APD did not immediately supply data on the number of officers who have retired in the past year, Medina said he believes substantial raises have persuaded many who might otherwise retire to stick around to increase their retirement benefits through the Public Employees Retirement Association.

“We looked at where we are losing the most when we lose people, and now instead of individuals leaving the department there is a lot of incentive for them to stay,” he said. “So it was planned in a lot of different ways, to recruit laterals and then to get people to stay in.”

The new officers on patrol will also allow more experienced officers to fill out positions in the homicide unit, sex crimes unit, the newly created gun violence reduction unit and the problem response teams that were created to address the needs of specific neighborhoods and areas, Gallegos said.

He did not provide details about how many detectives will be in each unit.

“We are in a stronger position now to meet more community needs with proactive policing as a result of hiring 100 new officers,” Police Chief Mike Geier said, according to the news release. “We also have a more robust recruiting pipeline that puts us on a good track to meet our goal to hire another 300 officers.”

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