As you can imagine this wasn't a pleasant meeting for the contingent from the 5th floor. As we've told you right here, it doesn't seem to matter how much money they spend or how much time they spend turning over rocks APD can't recruit, rehire, or retain enough officers to meet Marty's mandate.
According to our well placed Eyes, His Honor pulled rank on the assembled crew and ordered them to reach 1,100 no matter how they have to do it or who they have to hire. At one point our Eyes tell us that the maddened mayor told his Chief of Police that he had ordered him to reach 1,100 officers and if the Chief couldn't obey his orders he'd find someone who could.
There's a lot to be concerned with here. If the mayor has truly mandated that APD will have 1,100 officers at any cost then he's sacrificing our safety on the altar of political expediency. APD should not be hiring just anyone to enforce our laws (even if it's some silly cell phone ban) as the integrity of the entire department rides behind the shield of each and every officer.
When even one officer engages in some kind of unscrupulous behavior, the whole department gets a black eye. (Can anyone say Matt Griffin?) It's impossible for the public to tell the good from the bad, especially since they both wear the same uniform. The result is a public that doesn't trust the police charged with protecting them.
We cannot afford to have anything less than the best qualified, best trained, hard-working, honest officers on our streets - and for the most part they are all of those things and often much more. Lowering standards and hiring just about anyone in order to reach some arbitrary number for the sole purpose of making the mayor look good at a press conference is dangerous and foolish.
(Sidebar)Yesterday's meeting exposes the very real problem that we have with our current city police structure - the Chief of Police is an at-will employee of the mayor. As a result, the Chief is and must be as political as the mayor's Chief of Staff or any of his directors. This type of political involvement would place just about anyone who is unfortunate enough to be chief in an untenable position - do they answer first to the law or to the mayor.
Marty would be sure to miss that next news conference where the Chief is having to explain to the media and to the citizens of Albuquerque that one of these substandard officers just got caught doing some of the things they are hired to catch others doing.
In light of Albuquerque's property crime problem, there's little doubt that we need 1,100 or more officers on the street. But, you can't get there by counting PSAs, officers on leave (often to sunny Iraq), civilian support staff, and reserve officers, which our Eyes tell us APD is doing now. More importantly, you shouldn't try to get to 1,100 by lowering APDs standards and allowing just anyone to become an officer.
We'd rather have 500 good officers than even 3,000 questionable ones. For a police department to be effective it must earn and maintain the trust of the public. APD is on the verge of losing that trust and achieving 1,100 at any cost would certainly push the department beyond the very fine line of public trust and tolerance.