ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Up to 200 Albuquerque Police Department officers may retire between now and 2016 to take advantage of more lucrative retirement benefits before it’s too late. Mayor R.J. Berry is now looking to state lawmakers in Santa Fe for a solution to stop the flood of potential retirements and to maintain current police levels. Berry hopes the New Mexico Legislature will make changes, allowing veteran officers who already retired to return to their jobs.
“If we can bring an officer back that’s already been trained, bring back the officers who have a proven track record of doing great things in the community, put them back in a police car taking calls for service with our newer officers, we save the cost of about $150,000 to train the new officer,” Berry said.
Berry said pension reforms that go into effect starting next year are driving some officers to turn in their badges. Many officers who plan to retire have told the city they want to take advantage of the better retirement benefits before they go away.
Berry has two solutions in the works. First, he wants to offer officers nearing retirement a financial reason to stay on the force by paying them more money, a move that will initially cost roughly a million dollars.
Second, Berry hopes the New Mexico Legislature will change state law, authorizing a return-to-work incentive for officers who already retired and are drawing a pension.
“We’re asking for folks to sit down with us, let’s have a conversation, let’s do the math, let’s see if we can get a return-to-work program statewide that can still keep the pension solvent,” Berry said.
“It helps us solve our problem here on Main Street,” he said.
The City of Albuquerque budgets for a police force totaling one thousand officers. As it stands, the APD force is 11 percent smaller than that targeted goal. In previous years, APD’s police force has been more than one thousand officers.
“We want to make sure that we can keep as close to that one thousand officer number that we budgeted as possible, or it’s going to be harder to to that with a mass exodus,” Berry said.
The Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association told News 13 that morale issues at the police department was also a factor in a surge in officer retirement.
A city spokesperson said the police department has seen strong interest in APD academies. A new class of 27 cadets started this week, and a class of 33 cadets will graduate in December.