APD brass say department will deal with reduced staff

Posted at: 12/30/2013 6:14 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Stretched too thin and getting even thinner.

Is that the truth about the Albuquerque Police Department?  The leader of the police officers’ union says it is, but the city’s mayor and top officers in the department say it’s not so.

Union President Stephanie Lopez blames most of the staffing problem on retirement, and the mayor and top brass agree it’s a challenge – but they say it’s a challenge APD can meet.

The Albuquerque Police Academy will only graduate 20 to 30 cadets in the next class. The union says 93 veteran cops will retire by that time, jeopardizing routine patrols and draining officers from investigative and preventive duties.

“We have so few officers patrolling that they are limited to responding to calls for service,” Lopez said. “We have become a reactive police department.”

“We do have retirements just like we do every year,” said Deputy Chief Eric Garcia, who puts the retiree number at 47, not 93. “We are recruiting, aggressively recruiting right here in the state and throughout the nation, but we want to get quality candidates. We want quality over quantity, so we have high standards. We are not going to reduce those standards.”

“We’re fully funded for 1,100 officers,” said Mayor Richard Berry. “We’ve raised some of our entrance requirements to the academy. We want to make sure that we get the right kind of recruits into the Albuquerque Police Department to get noth the public safety and the community outcomes that we want.”

Berry said he will ask the state legislature to change the rules for police retirement to eliminate any drawbacks for officers who want to stay more than 20 years. He said that should help retain veteran officers. The mayor said there is a tentative agreement on a new contract for police officers that should be up for a ratification vote early in the new year. It includes pay raises and bonuses for retention of officers who decide to stay instead of retiring.