When Mayor Tim Keller was first elected in 2017, the Albuquerque Police Department had a total of 836 sworn officers, all ranks included. Four years and one month later, APD has 893 sworn officers including Chief Harold Medina, a net increase of 57, though the sworn status of some is in question as they were brought in from out of state to fill high salaried commander and executive staff positions.
In 2017, Keller promised to hire 100 new police officers every year, with a goal of APD having 1,200 officers by 2022. He may have kept the promise to hire new officers, but he has failed to keep the veteran officers who were here. Medina blames this on the last police contract, signed in 2017, that gave substantial raises to veteran APD officers. Medina claims that because the retirement system is based on a high three-year salary, many have retired because it did not benefit them to stay.
Medina is correct, but there is a problem. Medina and Keller knew how the retirement for these officers is calculated, therefore, why didn’t they do something at the three-year point to increase those salaries to entice these veteran officers to stay? Had they offered another, let’s say, 10% increase to those veteran officers at the three-year point of the contract, they could have stopped many retirements as those officers would stay to build a new pension calculation.
It’s just like the ongoing crime epidemic; Medina and Keller point to crime rising around the nation and say Albuquerque is just part of the national crime trend. That doesn’t give any comfort to Albuquerque crime victims.
It’s like a mechanic telling you after your car has broken down that at your last service he knew the transmission was going to fail but he didn’t do anything about it. Would you continue to have that mechanic work on your car? Of course not, but in public safety it seems that we reward incompetence instead of demanding excellence.
Many officers have quit because they have no faith in the leadership at APD and City Hall. They were tired of the constant, incompetent DOJ oversight, lack of backup officers on the streets, overworking detectives because it is more important to fully staff DOJ force review than homicide. Morale at APD is in the toilet, once again Keller and Medina know and acknowledge this, and once again they seem incapable of doing anything about it.
The future looks grim for APD staffing issues. APD currently has 46 cadets in the police academy who will not graduate until the summer of 2022 and reportedly one lateral officer in the pipeline.
City taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars on APD’s budget over the last four years and got an increase of 57 officers. It seems the only people benefitting from APD right now are the highly paid outside DOJ monitors and bloated APD command staff and the criminals who are running rampant.
This all falls upon Keller. He must start demanding excellence from APD command staff, and when they fail, fire them and bring in someone who can do the job right. Keller must figure out a way to appease the federal judge overseeing the settlement agreement so we can send James Ginger and his failed monitors packing. The mayor has been given four more years. What does he plan to do? I pray that in 2026, I can write a column that says APD has increased to 1,200 officers. Sadly, if past performance is an indicator of future performance, I don’t think that will happen.