Nestled in the very center of the Southwest lies Albuquerque, N.M., a city of contrasts with many cultures, old-world tradition and new-city tech. With nearly 500,000 people, Albuquerque is the largest city in the state and covers nearly 190 square miles.
Policing this rapidly growing community is the responsibility of the men and women of the Albuquerque police department a progressive agency with quality personnel and a wealth of opportunities for its officers.
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is authorized to field 1,100 officers as a result of the city's commitment to expand the department using a public-safety sales tax. The number of sworn employees currently tops 900, and an aggressive campaign is underway to hire and train new officers. The agency now runs three academies a year in an effort to increase staffing.
The agency's downtown headquarters shares a large building with the county sheriff's department. A police captain heads each of five substations, each representing one of the area commands. Each station is staffed with 80 120 field officers, as well as a bike team composed of three to eight officers. Bike officers are assigned a car with a specialized bike rack, enabling them to switch from mobile to bike and back again without impacting other units. The city uses a centralized dispatch, but any of the area commands can handle walk-in complaints.
New hires attend a 23-week academy followed by 12 weeks of on-the-job field training. Probation lasts one year following academy graduation. Something relatively unique to Albuquerque is its take-home vehicle program. Officers who complete training and live within city limits are assigned a patrol vehicle, which they may use for personal use with some limitations. This program gives the agency a greater response capability during times of major disaster, provides increased visibility and acts as a significant recruitment tool.
Equipment includes the current issue weapon, either a Glock model 17 or 19. Officers who have received the required training may carry an issued Taser (the APD is transitioning to the new X26) and/or a beanbag shotgun. Patrol cars are equipped with a Remington 870 shotgun; trained officers may also carry a self-purchased patrol carbine. Officers receive body armor; a traditional blue uniform is the standard patrol attire. Some details, such as the bike unit, receive specialized uniforms and patches. Average patrol response times to priority-one calls run six to eight minutes, depending on the area. Patrol officers work a 4/10 shift; staggered start times maximize in-field staffing.
The patrol division recently placed renewed emphasis on quality-of-life violations, recognizing small negatives can affect the overall life quality of the citizens. For example, during the last fiscal year, officers issued almost 1,800 littering violations and nearly 2,500 noise-enforcement citations. Nuisance ordinances allowed the department to close some problematic liquor stores and nightclubs. One of the more aggressive department units is the Violent Crimes Impact Team, a multi-agency effort composed of the Southeast Area Command, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Probation and Parole. The team targets any crime with a gun nexus and uses federal prosecution whenever possible. The team arrested nearly 400 offenders of gun-related crimes during fiscal year 2005.
Opportunities are numerous, and the time in patrol required to apply for them varies; at a minimum, officers need two years post-probation. Some, like K-9, require a higher level of patrol proficiency, and five years of experience is desired. While some special assignments remain subject to rotation, officers often retain assignments with critical needs and extensive training requirements until promotion or retirement. Officers can work what's generally referred to as "chief's overtime," a program in which businesses can hire off-duty officers. With this program, officers wear their department uniform and their actions are backed with the full authority and protection of the department.
The department includes 21 motor officers who each ride a BMW motorcycle and handle targeted enforcement, accident investigation and escort responsibilities. The unit maintains a highly trained accident reconstruction team known as the Fatal Team, which responds to all vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries, fatalities or potential liability issues, as well as officer-involved accidents. Albuquerque runs a very aggressive DWI enforcement program and actively pursues vehicle seizure and forfeiture on repeat offenders. Hundreds of vehicles are auctioned every year, the proceeds of which help fund more enforcement efforts.
The police department maintains eight K-9 teams, each operating out of an SUV. At the end of each shift, the SUVs and dogs go home with the officers. The dogs complete specialized tactical training in order to work effectively with the SWAT unit. Although they work patrol, most of the dogs cross-train for either drug or bomb capability. The K-9 units work primarily evenings and weekends, and are available for call-out as needed.
Although still a uniformed detail, one of the most popular special assignments is the mounted unit, which currently consists of 10 horses and six full-time and three temporary officers. (More are planned as soon as staffing permits.) The unit, which has adopted a western riding style, works out of stables located in the northwest section of the city and trailers its horses where they need them. Mounted officers undergo extensive training; many have attended out of state schools. Although unit members can do just about anything a foot-patrol officer does, their strength lies in public relations and crowd control. Their Percheron draft horses boast exceptional size (up to 1,800 lbs.), making them particularly effective at convincing crowds to move. The unit has specially designed Lexan riot shields.
Immensely beneficial to the department is the air-support unit, which uses a Eurocopter 120 specially suited for urban policing because of its quiet, enclosed tail rotor. Two flight-certified police officers typically spend about five hours in the air Monday through Saturday evenings. The unit also includes a Cessna 182 that has been extensively modified to make it faster and capable of longer flights. The Cessna is frequently used to transport investigators around the state to conduct follow-ups or aid other agencies, and is effective for rolling surveillances (it once was involved in an effort that ended in Dallas). Due to the agency's size, Albuquerque's air unit frequently assists other departments with major incidents.
Tactical Teams & Support
Because no large agency exists nearby, the APD must be ready to handle major situations on its own. The department shares resources with adjoining agencies during long deployments, but the bulk of the region's tactical ability comes from Albuquerque. The department maintains a full-time SWAT capability with two eight-person teams, each headed by a sergeant. Although the teams assist other department units with special operations and work heavy activity periods, their primary mission is tactical. The unit can field two fully armored vehicles and a full SWAT command post with complete interoperable communication capability.
The department's bomb team is equipped with an extensively outfitted bomb truck and two bomb robots. The unit's four full-time bomb technicians work closely with Sandia National Laboratories, a relationship that gives the team keen insight into the latest techniques used in making and defeating explosive devices.
A deputy chief oversees the Criminal Investigations bureau; one captain each commands the Special Investigations and Criminal Investigations divisions. The Special Investigations division handles drugs, vice, gangs and fugitives. The Criminal Investigations division features three major sections: violent, property and juvenile crime. The department gained national attention for its 2004 homicide clearance rate, an astounding 94 percent (the national average is approximately 60 percent). This accomplishment caught the eye of federal agencies and prompted them to take a closer look at the APD to determine what aspects of its program could be applied to other agencies.
Unfortunately, 2005 proved a very challenging year in regard to crime, particularly homicide, which saw significantly higher stats than 2004. In one day, the city witnessed five people killed, two of whom were police officers, by a mentally ill subject who had gone off his medications. The two officers sent to pick up the subject on a mental health hold were unaware he had already killed three people. Officers Richard Smith and Michael King had both returned to work from retirement, and the department was devastated by their deaths. The suspect, John Hyde, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.
One of the keys to the APD's clearance rate is its effective crime lab. The department has demonstrated great success in processing trace evidence and maintains a very aggressive DNA program capable of full DNA workup. The lab is one of few in the state with the ability to access CODIS and other national databases for DNA comparison. Using grants, the agency has procured a great deal of highly specialized training for its criminalists, and, as a result, has resolved some very challenging cases. Most of the criminalists are highly trained civilians, but a few detectives also work the unit. For small to moderate crime scenes, the department uses a group of field-evidence technicians (who are non-sworn) to support patrol officers and investigators by doing the bulk of field evidence processing.
The Albuquerque Police Department, where the commitment level is high and the opportunities are great, is a highly capable agency that delivers a wide variety of law enforcement services to a very diverse community.
Albuquerque 190 square miles
Elevation: 5,314 feet
Weather: Average high temp in July: 92 degrees F
Average minimum temp in January: 23 degrees F
Annual rainfall: 8.88 inches
Albuquerque Police Department
Number of officers:
Civilians: Approximately 600+ (includes part-time)
Female officers: Roughly 11 percent of department
Annual service calls: 500,000+
Annual budget: $120 million
Demographics City* DEPT.
Anglo 71.5% 60%
Hispanic 39.9% 36%
Native American 3.9% 1%
African-American 3.1% 2%
Asian 2.2% 1%
* Figures are derived from federal the government's 2000 census and do not equal 100 percent due to cross reporting.
Annual salary: $30,920 (cadet)
$43,825 (officer, after first year)
12.5 days for 1 5 years service
15 for 5 10 years service
Sick leave: Accrued at 8 hours/month
Retirement: No minimum age. Seventy percent of last three years' average salary after 20 years; 80 percent after 22 years, 10 months. Employee pays 16 percent of salary toward retirement; no Social Security deduction.
Probation: one year from academy graduation
Miscellaneous: Benefits include take-home car program, educational incentive, shift differential, specialty assignment pay and bilingual pay. Longevity pay (up to $300 per pay period for 20 years), vacation earned at 12.5 days a year for first five years, 15 days a year for five to 10 years' experience. City pays 80 percent of medical and dental insurance premiums.
Recruiting information: 800/776-5423
Dale Stockton is the editor of Law Officer.