APD's response time on top calls gets top marks - Albuquerque Journal

APD’s response time on top calls gets top marks

APD response times for calls for serviceCopyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque police response to the most serious calls for service is “extraordinary,” according to a police staffing study released in December.

“It’s the best I’ve seen in all of these kinds of communities,” said Alexander Weiss, a former police officer and professor at Northwestern, who conducted the yearlong study.

But he sharply criticized the department’s 15 minutes on average it took for an officer to be dispatched to all 911 calls.

The study also showed that it took the understaffed department more than two hours to complete tens of thousands of lower-priority calls for service.

The study was conducted as part of the settlement agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice after the DOJ found Albuquerque police used excessive force too often. Weiss analyzed a year’s worth of officers’ workloads, including their response times.

In the year from February 2014 through January 2015, Albuquerque police handled more than 383,000 calls.

And although nearly 80,000 calls were completed in less than 10 minutes, almost 30,000 took more than two hours.

The average time it took to complete a call was 48 minutes, which the study found concerning, given Albuquerque’s size.

About 50,000 calls were for false alarms or vehicle crashes with no injuries. A policy change that suggests police respond to confirmed burglary reports and only certain crashes may help improve the response times on other types of calls for service, city officials said.

For example, the Las Vegas (Nev.) Metropolitan Police Department advises drivers involved in noninjury crashes to exchange information and then go to a police precinct and file an accident report. People are supposed to call 911, however, if a driver isn’t cooperative, according to the department’s website.

And Albuquerque police said that if officers have to respond to only confirmed burglary reports – instead of just triggered alarms – it would free up police for more serious calls for service.

“We need to have a community discussion to say whether or not we’re going to stop doing this or we’re going to keep doing this,” Mayor Richard Berry said. “Do we as a community want our officers spending 50,000 hours a year doing these things? Or do we want our officers doing 50,000 hours a year on proactive patrol on aggressive drivers?”

The number of calls varied over the six area commands. The Southeast Area Command was the busiest, as 24 percent of the calls came from there. The area command includes much of the city south of Interstate 40 and east of Interstate 25.

The Southwest Area Command, which covers the area west of the Rio Grande south of I-40, was the slowest. Only 12 percent of the calls for service originated from that area.

When someone calls 911, the call goes into a queue until an officer is dispatched. On average, a call waits in the queue for nearly 15 minutes before an officer is assigned to the call. The study found that was high compared with similar-sized cities.

But for Priority 1 calls, the average time in the queue ranged from 1 minute and 55 seconds in the Southeast Area Command to 1 minute and 31 seconds in the Valley Area Command.

“That’s an extraordinary performance,” Weiss said of the response to Priority 1 calls.

Priority 1 calls include car wrecks with injuries, shootings, stabbings, some domestic violence calls, and burglaries and robberies in progress, said officer Tanner Tixier, a police spokesman.

A Priority 2 call is the most common call and includes calls such as suspicious person reports or domestic violence incidents in which there isn’t an immediate threat. A call is assigned to Priority 3 when there is no immediate threat or suspect information, Tixier said.

The study didn’t say exactly how long it takes police to answer the lower-priority calls.

After the study, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden announced plans to restructure the department by sending officers who currently work at police headquarters in Downtown Albuquerque to the six area commands, the bases for police throughout the city.

“This will be the first major realignment of the Albuquerque Police Department in years,” Eden said.

The department currently has about 860 officers, but the study concluded the department needs 1,000 officers, including about 500 who work on patrol. The department currently has about 390 patrol officers.

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