Our Eyes have been taking a look into some of the complaints behind the move for a no confidence vote and found some expected things, some surprising things, and some truly alarming things. As expected, right at the top of the list is officer pay.
For years, Mayor Marty has been touting 1,000 officers over at APD. Just recently the Journal reported that "APD has 998 officers, including 18 part-timers." (Subscription Required) That was in the same article that reported APD's request for $1 MILLION for officer recruitment and retention. In the last Mayoral election manpower levels at APD became an issue with the administration claiming to have around 1,000 officers and Mayoral opponent and City Councilor Brad Winter claiming significantly less, particularly when looking at officers available to take calls. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)
(Sidebar)Our Eyes tell us that right now, today the number of sworn officers that APD could put into the field in an emergency is just north of 800. That's everyone folks, including the chief himself. The Eyes have it that the 998 number mentioned by the Journal is everyone at APD including clerical staff. If you look at these numbers in light of the $1 MILLION supplemental request it's not hard to believe that the administration is playing fast and loose with manpower numbers.
Is this really the message that APD wants to send to potential recruits? "Join APD and catch a bride!" What genius thought this up?
(Sidebar)You're probably wondering what in the world does this have to do with the price of tea in China. One of the main complaints voiced by officers behind the no-confidence movement is pay inequity. The pay inequity that the officers are talking about is being created by the pressure to not only field 1,000 officers but to expand the force to Mayor Marty's 1,100 officers. It's the same pressure that caused APD to ask for $1 MILLION to throw at recruitment and retention.
It's interesting to us to look back and see that APD seems to always magically have close to 1,000 officers, even when they have been faced with a record number of retirements and academy classes that have as few as 7 cadets.
Since APD is having trouble recruiting NEW officers they have put in place a series of incentives for retired officers to return to APD. These officers not only receive their retirement, but they receive a little more than $4,300 a year more than the same officer with the same rank and longevity (APD Benefits & Salary). Don't get us wrong, we don't think that rehiring experienced officers is not necessarily a bad idea; but when you have a system in place that incentivizes return, then you have also created a system that incentives departure.
A patrolman 1st class with 20 plus years of experience makes $50,180 per year. If they wait and retire at 22 years and 10 months of service they will receive 80% of that pay equaling $40,144 per year. When they return they will earn $41,745.60 as a patrolman 1st class, jumping to $43,825.60 after 1 year. In other words, they will be making $83,969.60 per year. By retiring, they get a $33,789.60 raise. They'd be crazy not to retire, particularly since they've topped out in pay.
The rehire program is simply a stop-gap measure that only slows attrition. When you rehire a retired officer, you have a net gain of zero, better than a net loss but we're really incentivizing the wrong thing. Not to mention our Eyes tell us that senior officers have not received a pay raise in 10 years.
We've got an idea... Perhaps it's time that the city council and Mayor Marty get together and decide to pay all of the officer's better and incentivize continued service with additional benefits, instead of building arenas and giving HUGE tax breaks to developments like Mesa Del Sol and developer Forrest City Covington. After all, how can we have confidence in our businesses and our daily lives when we can't keep crime fighters on the street?
The bottom line here is that Mayor Marty and the council are responsible for police protection or lack thereof. It's their first responsibility. The very fact that this no confidence vote has been placed in motion should give us all pause; and it's a reflection not only on Chief Schultz but on the Chavez administration as well.