Report: ABQ residents wait more than 10 minutes for APD in 911 calls; Just 451 officers on payroll to answer calls

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If you live in Albuquerque and wake up in the middle of the night to find someone strange in your home, you could wait more than 10 minutes for police to arrive, according to new numbers released by the City of Albuquerque.

Two different city documents point to different average response times to “priority one” calls – those calls that involve imminent threats to live or property – but both show that police response times are increasing in Albuquerque at a time when many residents are concerned about increasing crime.

KRQE‘s Alex Goldsmith first reported on the increasing response times:

According to a chart published on the ABQ Dashboard, in 2010, the average time it took from when an officer was dispatched on a priority one call to when that officer got there was 5:42. In 2014, that number jumped up to 6:45. On the other hand, the priority one response time reported in budget documents puts the FY 10 number at about 8:26, while the FY 14 number was estimated at 10:34.

And the city apparently has fewer officers on patrol than it has in decades.  KOAT brings us that:

Maj. Anthony Montano, who has been a member of the Albuquerque Police Department for 26 years, is concerned.

“When I came in 26 years ago, we probably had these numbers close to this, back 26 years ago,” Montano said.

There are currently 884 police officers on the force, with 126 seasoned veterans eligible to retire within the next year.

That works out to just 1 officer per 7,700 citizens, according to KOAT.  The highly-regarded International Association of Chiefs of Police recently reported that the national average is 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents for a city the size of Albuquerque’s – meaning APD should have 19 officers per 7,700 citizens, not 1. reports that Denver reported 22 officers per 10,000 residents in 2012.  Albuquerque reported 18 per 10,000 that same year but has lost more than 150 officers since that report.

And not all of those officers are on the street to respond when we call.

KRQE’s Tina Jensen noted that just 451 officers on the city’s payroll – about half – are assigned to patrol jobs answering 911 calls.  The rest of the city’s 884 officers are assigned to administrative or specialty units.

“This department has over-specialized itself to death … whether it’s pawn shop, whether it’s the night detectives,” [former APD officer Thomas Grover] said. “All that’s well and good when you have a full-staffed department, but when you have a department like this, and you start removing units like bicycle patrol units at the expense of keep these specialized units, it makes absolutely no sense.”

Albuquerque has struggled to recruit and retain officers after more than 60 officer-involved shootings brought the US Department of Justice to declare that the agency had engaged in a “pattern and practice” of excessive force against residents.

At least 160 senior officers are slated for retirement this year and the city does not have a sufficient number of applicants to replace those positions, much less fill vacant positions.  The department is authorized for 1,100 full-time officers but currently has less than 900 on payroll citywide.

City Councilor Diane Gibson is currently conducting a survey of recently retired officers to get their perspective on the department’s challenges.