"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.Anyone who has been paying any attention over the last two years could have predicted APD's failure. It has been apparent that APD has been attempting to hide their actual force strength since the 2005 election when Mayor Marty set goals of 1,000 then 1,100 officers by January 1, 2008. APD has steadfastly refused to publish a list of sworn officers and their positions within the organization.
"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."
Our Eyes hold that they're counting everyone with a pulse and a badge and the badge may be optional. The number of officers on the street has been an issue for some time. APD's number has ranged from a low of 857 two years ago to a high of 1,033 claimed by DC Castro just last September. It's clear that it's almost impossible to take the 5th floor at their word; which ultimately is at the heart of our crime problem.
"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.Normally we'd agree with the Deputy Chief but there's just one problem - Albuquerque's crime rate is on the increase in two major areas, property crime and violent crime. There are a lot of reasons for our crime problems and a lack of sworn officers is just one of them.
According to the data, the metro area per capita ranks in the top 10 percent for violent crimes, which include murder, rape and robbery. And the metro area ranks in the top 13 percent for property crime, such as auto theft and burglaries.
The impact is huge. More than 5,000 vehicles were stolen and more than 6,000 homes were burgled last year.If Albuquerque's crime rates were decreasing we'd tend to agree with Castro, but the stats show an alarming increase. Currently (assuming you accept APD's 998 number which we don't), APD has 1.81 officers per thousand assuming a population of 550,000. The national average for cities over 250,000 is 2.8 officers per thousand (FBI Crime in the United States).
Each day, an average 15 autos were stolen and 17 homes or businesses were hit.
The fact is it doesn't matter how many officers APD has if they are able to effectively police their jurisdiction. Since that doesn't seem to be the case, we'd believe that the 5th floor would be doing everything in its power to make sure that we lose as few experienced officers as possible.
Instead we've seen what can only be characterized as an exodus of experienced officers losing over 10% of APD's manpower in just 2 years with 62 retirees last year and at least 55 retiring this year. Our Eyes tell us that officers who are fully vested are leaving even though they would rather stay. In other words, they're voting with their feet; choosing to leave rather than continue to have to fight crime on our streets and an administration that just doesn't seem to get it.
So what's going on? If you've read many stories about APD over the last year, it's plain to see that they've got a problem. There are the standard issues of pay and retirement, but there also seems to be a serious division between the brass on the 5th floor and the rank and file in the field.
Lincoln once said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand" and so it is with our police department. As long as they keep playing the numbers game, it will be impossible for the public or the rank and file officers to trust APD's management and their house will continue to be divided.
We are already one of the top 10 most violent cities and we are seeing "unexpected" officer attrition. As citizens of Albuquerque, we are being placed in more and more danger by and administration that would rather play politics than do their jobs. Eventually, their house will collapse. Unfortunately, it will fall on those who it was designed to protect.
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Sometimes our fingers out run our spell check... such is the case above when we typed loose when we intended lose. It has been corrected above.