Albuquerque’s police chief answered questions Thursday night about how the department chooses which officers become detectives and what kind of training they receive.
This, after the Albuquerque Police Department came under fire for how they handled recent crimes involving children.
Police Chief Mike Geier and one of his commanders, Paul Duran, addressed the Police Oversight Board Thursday night. Board members had a list of questions. They ranged from how crimes are investigated, to who is ‘deemed’ qualified enough to investigate certain crimes, and the training involved for those officers wanting to become detectives.
Chief Geier admitted, right now the process is not where he wants it.
He said for officers aspiring to become detectives, they have to take it upon themselves to enroll in certain training classes and that it’s not a “requirement.”
He said his command staff is now looking to implement what they’re calling a “career path” for these officers; a guide that will require officers to take these “prerequisites” and training courses before they can even apply to be a detective.
The chief told the board becoming a detective is considered a lateral move and not a promotion.
He said those starting out in a detective role usually spend a few years investigating lower level crimes.
“They work these in the area command and investigate things like property crimes, shoplifting, burglaries,” Chief Geier said. “It’s kind of like an apprenticeship because that’s where detectives really start their training.”
The chief admitted, overall he wants his detectives to have more advanced training throughout their careers. He said the process to become a detective within APD needs to be “more formalized.”
“There is a hierarchy with some of the most serious crimes being at the top, homicide being one of them,” the chief said. “So of course we wouldn’t want someone who just came from patrol to become a homicide detective. We want that series of steps where that person gained experience.”
When it comes to testing, the chief said it’s very limited.
“It’s a knowledge based test on policies and it really doesn’t go into depth in terms of the different areas of focus other than the policies that relate to it,” he said. “It’s kind of like a rope memory test.”
He said with the new career path they’re looking to set up, they want the testing to include things like a written and oral exam, even some type of hands on assessment; requirements they already have in place for officers who are receiving a promotion.
The chief said he wants to implement a “well-developed process.” One that looks at giving officers who have that “detective interest” more opportunities to gain knowledge early on.
“The idea is not to just take people out of the blue and place them in these assignments, we want to prepare them so they are well trained and not an expedited process, but one that they’re earned,” Chief Geier said.
The chief said they’re also considering putting a year probation on each assignment the officer will have to complete.
“So if they don’t cut the mustard, so to speak, or they find out it isn’t right for them or they’re just not meeting the requirements, then we can pull them from that assignment during that probation period,” he said.
APD said they have 10 homicide detectives and would like to grow that number in future years.
“We want to build their skill set from the first time they become a detective to when they leave their career and retire,” the chief said. “So hopefully it’s a lifetime path so that they don’t lose that experience and we have a better chance at serving that public.”
Commander Duran said just this week, APD created a “working group” to address some of these issues.