This could have been one of the worst weeks for APD and The Almighty Alcalde. From divisive contracts to potential felonious corruption the 5th floor seems to be in a complete meltdown. If all of this weren't enough the brain trust decided it was time to change the basic operational structure of the entire department.
Chief Schultz announced Thursday through the Journal's T.J. Wilham that the new bid and operational model for APD will be for 5-8s (ABQ Journal - Subscription). For the uninitiated that means that officers will work 5 days a week for 8 hours a shift. Currently, officers work 4 days a week for 10 hours per shift. The reason given for the unprecedented change - response times. We'll get back to that concept later.
Our Eyes tell us that the real reason behind the move is the Almighty Alcalde's desire to open a sixth area command on the northwest side of town. Now, we don't disagree that Albuquerque needs more officers and even more area commands, but this administration's perception over reality approach has made our city one of the more dangerous places in the country to live even if Chief Schultz feels safe.
Let's take a look at the current 4-10 shift schedule. In addition to picking up bad guys forty hours a week, officers have additional responsibilities that neither they nor their superiors have control over most of which have to do with the less than optional obligation of appearing in court. At present the 4 day 40 hour work week doesn't mean that officers have a full three days off, it means that if their days off happen to be during the Monday through Friday work week they'll more than likely end up in court on their day off.
Typically court won't last a full eight hours and sometimes they won't be scheduled with any court obligations - whether those are court appearances or pre-trial hearings. However, most officers are lucky to get one full day off a week once their non-shift obligations are taken into consideration.
We believe adding an 8 hour shift and reducing four of the other shifts by two hours will not only create a situation where there are fewer officers on the street, but will end up making law enforcement a 24-7 endeavor where officers are either on the street or in court. In addition to the unwieldy burden placed on officers and their families, we also must consider the effect of fatigue on an officer's judgment. Poor judgment results in poor decisions. Poor decision making results in offenders going free and endangering the public in ways that we don't even want to contemplate.
Let's get back to "poor response times." Right now we live in a dangerous city, poor response times are a result of a lack of officers on the street, high crime and we believe poor policies instituted by the 5th floor and the Chavez administration. Chief Schultz's 5-8 scheme stretches an already insufficient force over an increasingly large area. What it doesn't appear to do is reduce response times or reduce crime. After all, the same number of officers will be working the same number of hours. Do we really improve the quality of law enforcement by stretching them to their limits, spreading them over an increasing large area, and wrecking their family lives?
In just a week APD has managed to divide the rank and file against itself, and get rid of one of the most attractive benefits that APD provides its officers - the 4-10 work week that really means maybe a full 24 hours off. We've got to admit, that's quite an accomplishment if your goal is to wreck an already struggling department.
Chief Schultz and crew aided and abetted by the APOA have designed a contract that encourages senior officers to retire or leave APD for better opportunities. The change in operational structure to 5-8s will further encourage senior officers to leave and/or retire early - a situation that neither makes us safer nor helps APD reach its arbitrary goal of 1,100 officers.
(Sidebar)In the end all that will be accomplished is more officers leaving the department, deteriorating morale, and an increasingly inexperienced police force. In the end APD will be 10-7 as an effective law enforcement agency.
We're already hearing rumors of a "blue flu" and of increasing officer retiring by July 1st. Our Eyes tell us that the intrepid brain trust of the 5th floor plans to keep all of the departing officers on the roster as long as possible in order to minimize the appearance of force degradation. In other words, the plan is to lie to the general public - not exactly new when it comes to APD and numbers.