The Albuquerque police union on Thursday blasted the practice of neighborhood associations hiring off-duty officers as private security, saying it’s another sign that APD doesn’t have enough cops.
But the practice has been in place since 1995 and money paid to the city by neighborhood groups and homeowner associations since then for extra police protection has accounted for just 1.2 percent of the so-called “Chief’s Overtime” revenue.
The entities pay the city to provide additional security for neighborhoods and big-box stores, to direct traffic at sporting events and churches and other police-style work. The city, in turn, pays officers roughly time-and-a-half their base hourly rate.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said the city keeps about $3 per officer, per hour, most of which covers administrative costs. What’s left over goes into the city’s general fund, he said.
The city received about $2.5 million each year for Chief’s Overtime services from 1995, when the program began, to 2009. However, the total revenue dipped under $2 million in 2010 and 2011, according to data the city provided after a public records request. The city did not provide figures for 2012.
Fourteen neighborhood and homeowners’ associations have paid more than $450,000 for Chief’s Overtime services since 1995. The number of associations peaked in 2002 with six of them paying for Chief’s Overtime officers, but the figure has declined steadily since then.
Last year, two associations hired off-duty officers through the program.
“Patrolling and keeping our neighborhoods safe is the most basic function of any police department. That’s what taxpayers pay us to do,” Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Greg Weber said in a written statement. “So when residents feel they have to pay the city hundreds, even thousands, of dollars more for additional patrols to feel safe, there’s a problem. It’s a problem we believe the city should be working to immediately address.”
APD is funded for 1,100 officers, a figure the department hovered around between 2008 and 2010. Now, there are 997 sworn officers in Albuquerque, according to union figures, and fewer than half of those respond to routine calls for police service.
“The number of officers is what the number of officers is,” Schultz said in an interview Thursday. “We continue to address calls for service — it’s our highest priority, those 911 calls.”
Glenwood Hills, the only association that has used the Chief’s Overtime Program each year since its inception, has been by far its biggest client. The Northeast Heights association has spent about $20,000 each year since 1995.
APOA officials didn’t know how many neighborhood associations currently are using Chief’s Overtime officers. But they pointed to two neighborhood associations as examples of a recent increase in demand: Huning Castle near Downtown, which just began contracting with the city in late August, and the Oñate Neighborhood Association in the Northeast Heights, whose August newsletter asks members to make donations for Chief’s Overtime patrols.
Schultz said he isn’t aware of a recent increase in demand for Chief’s Overtime patrols in neighborhoods.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal