Seven, or 41 percent, of those 17 commanders who originally got the retention bonuses have left APD, or will leave by the end of the month, according to city and state records. When you consider that APD Chief Gorden Eden voluntarily gave up his retention bonus shortly after getting it, the percentage of commanders who have left rises to 44 percent.
Forty-Four Percent of APD’s Commanders Have Left
BY DAN KLEIN AND DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
In October 2014, Mayor Richard Berry’s administration lobbied the City Council for retention bonuses for the Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff. The $6,000 to $12,000-a-year bonuses were needed, the administration said, to keep veteran commanders with vast amounts of institutional knowledge from retiring so they could help lead APD’s federally mandated reform effort.
So how have those bonuses worked to keep those commanders and their institutional knowledge from walking out the door?
Seven, or 41 percent, of the 17 commanders who originally got the retention bonuses have left APD, or will leave by the end of the month, according to city and state records. When you consider that APD Chief Gorden Eden voluntarily gave up his retention bonus shortly after getting it, the percentage of commanders who have left rises to 44 percent.
So have the bonuses worked?
Councilor Diane Gibson, who has railed against the bonuses, doesn’t think so. “This proves the point that I have made all along, it’s [retention bonuses] not an effective tool for retaining officers or command staff the current way it is administered,” Gibson said.
City Council President Dan Lewis said he was never a supporter of the retention bonuses for the command staff and that they haven’t worked. “I don’t believe it was effective and I don’ believe that strategies like that will ever be effective,” Lewis said. “I don’t think we need the type of retention bonuses e gave them a year ago. I was vocal about it back then and I suggested alternatives.”
Lewis also said that any monetary retention incentives should go to rank-and-file cops. On Monday, the council approved $2.2 million for rank-and-file longevity pay. “I believe hat longevity pay should go to the rank-and-file; that will make a difference,” Lewis said.
Councilor Ken Sanchez has a different opinion about the effectiveness of the command staff retention bonuses.
“It did work. APD would have lost more of the command staff had there not been the retention bonus,” Sanchez said. “The retention bonus has helped APD retain command officers with institutional knowledge that is needed to move APD forward in the DOJ [U.S. Department of Justice] process.”
The bonuses and the idea that the command APD’s staff had to be retained as part of the DOJ reform process has been widely criticized. Opponents of the bonuses have said that APD’s current commanders were the ones that got the department into the trouble it’s now in with the DOJ, and that they should be fired, not kept on the job.
And, those commanders who have been tasked with writing new policing policies to conform with the DOJ’s guidelines have done a miserable job at it. James Ginger, the independent monitor who is overseeing the department’s settlement agreement with the DOJ, has repeatedly blasted APD for being unable to write acceptable policy.
In March, Ginger told the federal court judge who is overseeing the settlement agreement that APD has engaged in a policy of “do little, delay and deflect” when it comes to complying with the terms of the agreement.
Gibson said the bonus program should be changed. Instead of giving commanders a slice of the yearly bonus in every paycheck, as is currently done, they should be given a lump-sum bonus only after they have stayed on the job a certain amount of time.
Lewis added that it was a mistake for the command staff to have taken the bonuses in the first place. “I was very critical of the command staff for demanding it [the bonuses] when they needed to be setting the example,” he said. “What we need more than anything else at APD is true leadership. And sometimes that means putting resources to the rank-and-file, and sometimes that means for the command staff to make sacrifices and to show that they are not just out for themselves.”
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