In a race to hire more officers, KRQE News 13 has learned the Albuquerque Police Department does not have enough patrol cars for all of them.
The union said if the goal is to have more police presence out on the streets, the city has to live up to the promise it made to these officers when they joined the academy.
Mayor Tim Keller made it known on the campaign trail that his goal was to increase the number of officers on the streets.
He’s done that.
“We’ve got a positive number for the first time than we have in a decade,” President of the Police Union, Shaun Willoughby, said. “The mayor deserves a pat on the back for that one.”
Right now, APD is sitting at nearly 950 officers.
“We do have to deal with realities related to that, such as training and outfitting these officers,” APD spokesperson, Gilbert Gallegos said.
One of the perks they’re promised? A take-home unit that after it’s fully equipped costs around $50,000 each. But there’s a problem: there are not enough patrol cars for those officers.
“This is a symptom of a very, very successful program that wasn’t appropriately budgeted or planned for,” Willoughby said.
The program Willoughby is referring to is the incentive program. It helped recruit new officers and brought other officers over from different departments.
The last two academy classes produced 60 officers who are now training in the field: 27 officers graduated from the lateral academy, and the remaining 33 were part of the 120th Albuquerque Police Academy.
Those 60 officers are now training in the field, known as “on the job training.” This means they’re out with a Field Training Officer (FTO) certified to train incoming recruits.
“If they’re on the job training they don’t need their own car right now,” Gallegos said.
However, if training ended tomorrow, those new officers wouldn’t have their own car.
“We don’t need them in two-man vehicles. We need the biggest policeman presence on Albuquerque streets,” Willoughby said.
APD said it ordered 35 new cars that it hopes are here by the time the new officers are ready to be out on their own in April. However, right now that still leaves a potential 25 officers without a unit.
“We can fix this problem. Get out in front of it,” Willoughby said. “We’ve done good so far. Let’s fix the problem.”
“It takes investment,” Gallegos said. “I think we’ve proven that, and I think everyone is on board to make that happen.”
APD said it plans to ask state lawmakers for funds to help fill that gap, along with a potential increase in its capital budget.
KRQE News 13 also asked the department if it would consider getting rid of the “take-home car” incentive for all officers. It said right now its focus is on finding funding for additional units.