Albuquerque faces shrinking police force

Updated: 12/30/2013 9:05 AM | Created: 12/29/2013 10:47 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4 and Staff

The leader of New Mexico's largest police union is speaking out.

APD Union President Stephanie Lopez tells KOB Eyewitness News 4 that the Albuquerque police force is so thin, they are foregoing some regular patrols.

This comes as an unusually high number of officers plan to retire.

"We have so few officers patrolling that they are limited to responding to calls for service," Lopez said.

Lopez says year after year, APD used to have a steady 50 new recruits each year.

"We haven't had a class of 50 in 5 years," Lopez said.

Just under one hundred of APD's cops are retiring and only about 20 to 30 academy recruits are nearing graduation.

Take APD's current 900-strong force.

Do the math, and APD faces the New Year with at least 70 fewer officers.

"We have become a reactive police department," Lopez said.

Lopez says APD officers are spread so thin that police work is limited to response.

"Whenever you're short staffed it always affects everybody," Alisha Turtletaub, owner of Nosh deli said. "It's a domino effect."

News of APD's staffing nightmare hits Turtletaub especially hard.

Just two weeks ago, she showed KOB where burglars smashed into her Nob Hill business twice this month.

Then, she asked APD to heighten patrols in the area.

But that does not seem possible.

"There are just not the officers to do it," Lopez said.

Lopez says beat patrols are getting thin, and until a recruitment campaign finds new officers or something is done to keep the old ones at work, that likely will not change.  

KOB Eyewitness News 4 reached out to APD about the staffing shortage, but a spokesman said all questions would best be answered by acting Police Chief Allen Banks.

Banks was not at his office on Sunday.

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