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          Front Page




APD Adjusts Hiring Goal

By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
    Albuquerque police officials, conceding that Jan. 1 is an unattainable goal, now say September is a more realistic time frame for getting 1,100 officers on the streets.
    As of Wednesday, APD had 989 officers among its ranks, Deputy Chief Mike Castro said. Castro is in charge of recruiting.
    The department's academy is set to graduate 34 cadets in April, Castro said. As many as 60 more could graduate as part of APD's 100th recruiting class, which begins the academy in March. Three more classes are to be seated next year, too.
    Mayor Martin Chávez said he's pleased with the way APD is growing its ranks— just not the speed at which it's happening.
    "They did not meet my expectations or my direction," the mayor said Wednesday. "There will be some interesting meetings next week. Having said that, it's hard to grow a police department with the highest standards in the state. And this isn't like growing other departments (in city government). These people have badges and guns.
    "But I've always, always told my chiefs that it's more important to grow it right than it is to grow it quickly. You pay for years when you make that mistake."
    Castro attributes missing Chávez's last two manpower goals— 1,000 officers by February 2005 and 1,100 by Jan. 1— to a couple of factors.
    "First of all, we had a phenomenal attrition rate the last two years," he said. "We've gotten hit really hard by retirements. We're at 55 this year and still counting. And last year, we had a record number of 62.
    "We hadn't projected such a high number for 2007, so it came as a little bit of a shock."
    APD also had a high number of cadets drop out of the academy in 2007, Castro said.
    "If all 179 we seated this year had graduated, we would've made 1,100 easily— even with all the retirements," he said, adding that people drop out for personal reasons, because they had better job offers locally or wound up moving out of state for work.
    Moreover, APD has tightened its standards for the academy in the past few years.
    "A lot of people will come up and say: 'We need 1,500 officers; we need 2,000 officers,' '' Castro said. "But there is no mathematical equation that says we need X number of officers. We use our crime rates and other factors to determine that.
    "Would it be nice to have 11, 12, 1,300 officers out there? Yeah— if only to reach a certain comfort level for the public. But if we are going to grow our department to those depths, we better do it right, with the right people, with the right kinds of people. And that is our commitment to this city."
    An aggressive recruitment program— which includes advertising in New Mexico and elsewhere, a $5,000 signing bonus and a new deferred compensation package for retention— have Castro's hopes high for the future of the department's size.
    He figures the department spent about $150,000 on advertising this year. That includes two one-minute television commercials and another that's 30 seconds long. There are also five billboards up around town advertising the department.
    APD is also looking outside New Mexico for recruits. A trip to Michigan netted 17 academy candidates, Castro said. There are also efforts under way in New York and Wisconsin.