Alibi V.24 No.13 • March 26-April 1, 2015 

Council Watch

Retaining APD’s Finest

Robert Maestas

What does it take to keep experienced officers in the Albuquerque Police Department? This was one of the topics on a quiet night for the Albuquerque City Council at its March 16 regular meeting. With less than 100 people attending, councilors took care of business that included a number of appointments to city boards, commissions and committees, and a proclamation in support of the upcoming 22nd annual César Chávez Day set for March 28. Councilor Rey Garduño questioned the administration about what was happening with the homeless residents. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said the city administration was not in support of a permanent tent city. On Tuesday Mayor Richard Berry announced $2.05 million in funding to five local nonprofits to provide shelter, food and other services to people who are poor, homeless or have mental health problems.

The Issue: Keeping experienced officers on Albuquerque’s police force

Councilor Diane Gibson sponsored a bill to conduct an anonymous survey to find out what the city can do to retain our more experienced police officers. The survey comes with a $5,000 price tag and will ask 52 officers who either recently retired or are eligible to retire what the department can do to keep experienced officers on the job longer. The city police department has seen the total number of sworn officers tumble from approximately 1,099 in 2010 to about 901 currently. The actual number of officers on the streets hovers around 650. Survey results are expected back in May.

Word from some city beat cops is that Burque is a rough town to be a cop in right now, what with additional pressures from the Department of Justice peering over shoulders, changes in benefits and the chronic low morale due in part to local and national scrutiny that has exposed some of the department’s bloodiest laundry.

Council take

The council would like to see a stable 1,000 officers on city streets. Councilor Gibson said she hopes the survey will provide information that can be used to retain more officers. This was postponed from the last council meeting. There was no discussion at this week’s meeting, but at the last council meeting, Gibson said she was prompted to do the survey because last year was a tough year for the department with more than 50 officers retiring. Gibson said the information gleaned would help the city understand why officers are leaving when they could stay on a few more years. The bill passed unanimously.

Reporter’s take

Word from some city beat cops is that Burque is a rough town to be a cop in right now, what with additional pressures from the Department of Justice peering over shoulders, changes in benefits and the chronic low morale due in part to local and national scrutiny that has exposed some of the department’s bloodiest laundry. This survey is limited in its scope and should have been expanded to include all mid-career officers, especially those who left the police department for better opportunities and those who are considering a move to a different law enforcement agency.

Other council actions included:

Approved: An amendment to the Winrock Town Center Tax Increment Development Districts 1 and 2 Master Development Agreement to allow bonds to be sold early to finance the next phase of the Winrock center development. The bonds will be sold in May, so we should see the money at work by mid summer. This $120 million phase is being funded with $80 million in private financing and $40 million coming from the Winrock area’s self-imposed TIDs. This is a great example of public/private partnerships working together to turn a blighted eyesore back into a unique retail destination.

Postponed: Adopting the Bikeways and Trails Facility Plan until the April 6 meeting. The purpose of the plan is to provide a well-connected, safe, non-motorized transportation and recreation system of trails throughout the city. The plan has been through the public vetting and comment process for the last six years. It was postponed to allow for more time to review proposed last-minute amendments. I urge all of the city’s bicycle riders to check out this plan and use the city’s extensive trails.

Agreement: The Albuquerque Press Club and the city came to an agreement over the shared use of a parking lot adjacent to the club and the soon-to-be renovated Highland Park located on High Street. The council approved withdrawing the pending appeal filed by the Press Club.

The next regular meeting of the City Council is Monday, April 6, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it live on GOV TV Channel 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv.