ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police says seasoned officers now stand to make as much as $18,000 extra per year under the department’s new retention plan. That increased pay also comes with 100% of medical costs covered, according to the department.

APD unveiled the new incentives at a news conference Friday morning, while admitting that the department has had a difficult time keeping officers past 20 years of service, the typical retirement plan for most officers. Last year, APD says 97 officers retired from the department.

In 2022, so far, APD says just 44 officers have retired from the department. The latest incentive aims to keep more officers on board later into their career. In September, just one single APD officers retired, which APD Chief Harold Medina called an “outlier,” as the department has seen far more monthly retirements announced in recent years.

“We know that officers have a value beyond their 20 years, they want to work,” Medina said Friday. “We’re trying to find ways to incentivize [continued work.]”

The latest bonus for long-standing officers applies to police officers with 19-years of “PERA service.” PERA, which stands for Public Employees Retirement Association, applies to New Mexico’s public employees.

“We’ve had members here with our recruiting team that said [the new benefits] made a different for them, and they’ve decided to stay on the department past 20 years because they see the financial benefit,” Medina said. “It seemed to make a difference the first month, and at the end of the year, we’ll be gauging, we’ll be releasing to the community whether we saw a reduction.”

Meanwhile, APD says it has seen fewer resignations and fewer terminations so far in 2022. Through September, 45 APD officers have resigned in 2022, compared to 58 total in 2021. In the realm of terminations, APD has fired 5 people this year, as opposed to 8 in 2021.

The latest APD cadet class has 26 people training to become officers. The upcoming next cadet class, which hasn’t begun yet, is likely to see between 50 to 60 people.

Meanwhile, the department has 514 professional (civilian) staff, 40 public safety aides, 73 911 operators, 23 dispatchers, 41 retired officers that have returned, more than 50 retired officers on contract work for the department,

Sworn officers

In all, APD has 857 sworn officers as of October 2022. Chief Medina said Friday that number is “not where we want to be,” but he said the department “makes things work.” The department is still targeting for 1,200 sworn officers.

“I know when the Mayor took office, we talked about our goal is 1,200 officers. We still would love to get to 1,200 officers, but I’m here today to say that it’s going to be very difficult,” Medina said. “We’re going to do our very best to get to 1,200 officers, and that is our goal, but the reality of it is, in this environment, we may not. And we’re going to take ownership if we don’t, but we’re not just going to talk about we can’t do this, we’re talking about how we’re going to get the job done still.”

The update comes as the state pours millions of dollars into a law enforcement recruitment fund, of which some of that funding is going to APD. In early September, New Mexico announced it would award $8.75 million to the Albuquerque Police Department for recruitment efforts. According to the Governor’s Office, that money is expected to fund roughly 67 new officers at APD.

Money for the program comes from a bill passed by New Mexico lawmakers during the 2022 regular session. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Governor’s Office said roughly $8.5 million remains available in the state fund. Law enforcement agencies who want the money need to apply.

APD has extended existing hiring bonuses for incoming police officers through January 6, 2023. Those include $10,000 extra for police cadets, $15,000 for lateral officers, and $1,500 for police service aides.

City employees also stand to earn some extra money if they recruit new officers. The city is paying a “finders fee” of $2,500 to people who bring a police cadet on board; $2,500 for those who find a successful lateral hire, and $1,000 for employees who help bring on a public service aide.