Addressing the Police Shortage in Albuquerque
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The Albuquerque frontline against violent crime – the Albuquerque Police Department – is slowly recovering from a chronic shortage of officers. Ten years ago, there were more than 1,000 sworn officers in the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), budget documents show. In 2016, there were only 833. As of December 2021, there were approximately 926 sworn officers in the department.
This means that there are now around 16 agents per 10,000 inhabitants, up from around 20 agents per 10,000 inhabitants in 2010.
There are several reasons why the membership has declined over the past decade, DPA chief Harold Medina told KRQE News 13 in a recent interview on the New Mexico News podcast. Policing is a difficult career, he says, and it has only gotten worse in recent years, especially because of public criticism.
In 2020, Albuquerque saw protests related to police shootings and the conduct of officers. Chief Medina says these kinds of stressful scenarios are partly responsible for the officer shortage.
âI remember at one point in mid-2020 going to a briefing from our ERT [Emergency Response Team] as we were getting ready for another protest, and I literally asked [the officers], ‘How many of you are having trouble at home because we’re back at work?’ Â», Remembers Medina. âI raised my hand, and as soon as I did, half the room raised their hands. I was like, ‘We’re going to go through this together.’ ”
On top of that, Medina points out that there has been a recent wave of retirements. In 2018, a new retirement indemnity was offered to executives. This allowed officers eligible to retire to get a larger payout if they only stayed three more years, he explained. As a result, âof course, in August 2021, which was three years later, we started to see massive retreatsâ.
But other officers are on the way. With a focus on recruiting, the data shows APD is slowly rebuilding its ranks. After a low number of less than 850 sworn-in officers in 2016, mayoral candidate Tim Keller came forward with a promise to add 400 officers by 2021. Given the retirements and resignations, the APD does not quite live up to the mayor’s goal. But recent signing bonuses show the city is making an effort to increase the ranks.
APD currently offers a $ 10,000 hiring bonus for cadets. The department offers side agents – who are agents who come from another department for APD – a bonus of $ 15,000. KRQE News 13 previously reported that the bonus is the biggest hiring bonus they have ever offered.
New training programs outside of ODA
Side recruits and new cadets must undergo training before they can enter the streets of Albuquerque. Traditionally, APD has run its own training academy. But in 2018, APD partnered with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) to launch the CNM Law Enforcement Academy.
The CNM program can help train new officers alongside the DPA academy. As of December 2021, the CNM Law Enforcement Academy has more than a dozen new graduates, according to Ray Fritts, the program director. Fritts also worked for APD for over 20 years as a patrol officer and trainer.
“Even 10 or 15 more [officers] for APD helps them in their ultimate goal of adding agents, âsays Fritts. âWhether it’s one, 10 or 20, a little bit helps. “
Adding officers is one thing, but Fritts says there are even bigger plans for the CNM program. He says that by offering a combination of hands-on and discussion-based training, the program aims not only to create more officers, but better officers too.
“The big call today in law enforcement, or by the public, is a change in the culture of law enforcement, a change in the way law enforcement is carried out on a daily basis. “said Fritts. âWe are not going to be able to make fundamental changes to police culture overnight. But if we train the students correctly – and they go through our academy and come out with the right philosophy, the right mindset, the right ideas – they will go to their agencies and over time … they will be able to make changes within their agencies on the go.
The program curriculum includes all agent training content required by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS). But Fritts says it’s the fact that the CNM Law Enforcement Academy goes beyond requirements that can lead to better officers.
The program âincludes a crisis intervention component. There’s domestic violence, emergency vehicle operations, firearms – all the training DPS requires for a basic policeman, âhe says. But students also receive more than 30 additional hours of legal training from a retired judge and former defense attorney, Fritts says.
âWe are doing different things to reinforce this idea that we deal with the public on a daily basis,â adds Fritts. âA lot of times law enforcement academies can be very sterile environments where training takes place and they don’t really interact with the community during training. But one of my instructors has incorporated into his teaching block some activities that involve students actually going out and interviewing CNM students. They will go to the CNM campuses, the UNM campus, and they will interview and interact with the students. [Theyâll] ask them questions about their views on law enforcement.
The hope, then, is that the next generation of Albuquerque police officers will be better connected to the community. Fritts says the reviews so far have been positive. And he looks forward to expanding the program and making the program even better.
Currently, the program only accepts potential officers sent by the DPA or other law enforcement agencies. Average CNM students cannot graduate from the program as a means of law enforcement. But Fritts hopes that eventually the program will allow so-called âself-sponsoredâ students to attend.