Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
With an economic shutdown leaving thousands of New Mexicans without jobs, the city says the officer-hungry Albuquerque Police Department is seeing unprecedented levels of interest in its jobs.
APD’s April applications were more than four times higher than in April 2019, rising to 248 compared to 59 a year ago, according to the city.
And officials say the 203 applicants who signed up to begin APD’s three-day testing regimen June 5 is more than the department has ever seen.
“This is unprecedented for APD,” said department recruiting director David Romo, who returned to APD last year after retiring as a lieutenant in 2017.
The testing marks just the start of a lengthy process to get into the academy, a stage that only about 25% of those who take the test ultimately reach, according to Romo. Those who get through testing must also go through background screening, a polygraph exam and more to make it to the academy. But officials see the interest as a positive sign for a department that has taken a number of steps in recent years to boost its depleted ranks.
Mayor Tim Keller set a goal of hiring 100 new officers per year when he took office in late 2017 and he said 2020 looks promising.
“We believe right now we’re still on track for that 100 despite the challenges (related to COVID-19),” Keller said Wednesday during a media briefing livestreamed from City Hall.
In an effort to hit those goals early in the Keller administration, the city boosted pay – a new officer now makes $29 per hour, or roughly $60,000 annually, following a year of probation – and hired many away from other departments around the state.
But Keller said the COVID-19 pandemic may have created a whole new audience for the city’s pitch.
“We know a lot of folks are out of work,” Keller said. “We want to articulate there’s another career path that could be available for folks out there who are interested in it.”
Romo said his staff tapped into that audience in April by partnering with New Mexico Workforce Connections on a virtual question-and-answer session about APD that had more than 10,000 views.
But he is also crediting his team’s new approach for the rising interest in APD. With COVID-19 temporarily halting opportunities to recruit face to face at such events as job fairs, he said the team has bolstered its brand via social media. It posts regular videos, telling the personal stories of existing APD officers, providing physical fitness instructional videos or offering other advice for those who want to apply.
He said the department was seeing year-to-year application gains even back in January and February.
“My recruiters are thinking out of the box and they’re doing really neat things on social media,” he said.