Now, the Albuquerque Police Officers Association is asking for those programs back at a cost of $4 million a year to taxpayers, and Mayor Richard Berry's administration is balking.
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
In the early-to-mid-2000s, Albuquerque police officers had a step increase pay scale that gave them more money the longer they worked for the police department. But the police officers’ union negotiated it away in return for the city picking up a greater share of officers’ pension contributions.
In 2011, the city had mortgage assistance and student loan forgiveness programs for cops. But again, the police union negotiated those benefits away, this time in return for letting some officers keep their take-home cars.
Now, though, the Albuquerque Police Officers Association is asking for those programs back at a cost of $4 million a year to taxpayers, and Mayor Richard Berry’s administration is balking. Berry is offering cops a 1.5 percent pay increase for the coming fiscal year, an amount that’s far below the $4 million the union wants.
‘The City of Albuquerque has issued a total of 20.1 percent in pay increases for police officers over the last six years’ – CAO Rob Perry
“The proposed recommendations given by the union are items that were negotiated away by the same union years ago,” Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said shortly after the union made its requests public in early April. “The City of Albuquerque has issued a total of 20.1 percent in pay increases for police officers over the last six years.”
Whatever additional money cops get will be up to the City Council, which may be wary of spending more money just after throwing $8.2 million at cops last year for raises, retention bonuses and a lawsuit settlement over a contract the city broke.
APOA President Shaun Willoughby said the programs he’s pushing for are necessary to make APD competitive with other police departments in the region. But he concedes that the union is asking for what it gave up years ago.
‘These were benefits we had at one time, and we need to get them back’ – Union President Shaun Willoughby
“There is some truth to the statement that the union negotiated [the programs] away,” Willoughby told ABQ Free Press. “These were benefits we had at one time, and we need to get them back.”
The biggest trade-off by the union came in the early 2000s when it gave up the step pay increases. At the time, cops were contributing 16.3 percent of their total pension payments, and the city was picking up the rest. But rank-and-file cops wanted more money in their pockets, and the union agreed to junk the step increases in return for the city agreeing to pick up a larger share of pension contributions. As a result, the pension payments for cops were reduced to 4.1 percent.
In 2011, Berry’s administration wanted to limit the take-home car program to officers who lived within an 11-mile radius of the interchange of Interstate 25 and Interstate 40. But the union wanted to grandfather in officers who lived outside the boundary. The city agreed to do so but at a price. The union gave up three programs: retention bonuses and the student loan and home ownership assistance programs.
Willoughby said he hears a lot that people are starting to ask when will cops stop asking for more money and benefits.
“When is it enough? When this police department is fully staffed,” Willoughby said.
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