The city of Albuquerque asked the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to conduct an …
Updated: Monday, 07 Nov 2011, 11:30 AM MST
Published : Friday, 04 Nov 2011, 10:05 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Albuquerque Police Department is looking for a different kind of officer.
Public scrutiny and pressure for change in the wake of 20 police shootings – 14 of them fatal – in the last 22 months has led Chief Ray Schultz to revamp the department’s officer selection process.
And the 40 new cadets who will start APD’s training academy Monday will be the first class to be affected by the some of the new changes, Schultz said. Future classes, beginning early next year, will be subject to all the new changes.
“What we will be doing is hiring better, more qualified folks,” Schultz said.
The changes include trying to recruit less aggressive and less confrontational officers, as well as looking for people who are more compassionate, better problem solvers and those who can more easily de-escalate a situation, the chief said.
Schultz said he thinks that begins with older recruits – 25-year-olds instead of 21-year-olds – because they have more life experience.
In addition, APD will ditch its previous rating system that merely rated applicants as “pass” or “fail” and hire an outside psychologist to rate applicants as “not qualified,” “qualified” or “best qualified.” That process will cost about $1,500 per applicant.
“You can have people who pass a test but you don’t know, did they barely pass it or do they really have the skill-set that we want in an officer,” Schultz said.
The shootings aren’t the only problems at APD either. Other highly publicized firings over the past few years have included everything from officers tipping off suspected drug dealers, ranting on the Internet about citizens, bribing a prostitute for sex and raping a woman while on duty.
And then there’s the most notorious of them all: former Officer Levi Chavez, who is accused of murdering his wife.
Schultz already has implemented other changes, including requiring officers to carry non-lethal weapons like Tasers and bean bag guns, and expanding training efforts.
The changes come from a Washington D.C. law enforcement think tank called Police Executive Research Forum, which studied APD and identified 40 ways the department can change how it handles violent situations. The group’s report was released in June.
Schultz said he hopes the new changes will provide better quality officers for the city.