BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI and DAN KLEIN The Albuquerque Police Department is poised to make major progress this year in its effort to get to its authorized level of 1,000 officers. The department will graduate a class of 33 cadets at the end of June, and it has already seated 26 cadets for a 26-week academy that would begin in July, APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza told ABQ Free Press. In addition, Chief Gorden Eden is planning to have an academy for 40 lateral hires — officers hired from other departments — in the fall. APD currently has 840 sworn officers. If all those cadets and lateral hires make it onto the force, the department would have 939 officers, or 94 percent of its authorized strength. Those calculations don't include officers who will retire this year, though. And how many will retire isn't known. So far this year, 12 officers have retired, and another 50 are eligible to retire in July. July is an important date because it marks a point at which retirees can get their cost-of-living increases sooner than later. Officers who retire before July will have to wait four years to get COLA increases under their retirement plans, while those who retire after July would have to wait seven years before getting their first COLA increases. “After July, things will stabilize a bit because this is when the last of the Cost of Living Incentive hits,” Espinoza said. APD has had major staffing problems for the past several years. In 2009, the department had about 1,100 officers, but, for various reasons, that has dropped to its current level of 840. The staffing problem has become a major issue because, as the number of officers available for patrol duty has declined, so have officers' response times to 911 emergency calls. Last year, the Albuquerque City Council threw more than $8 million at the police department for raises, retention bonuses and to settle a lawsuit over a labor contract the city broke. APD currently has 628 patrolmen 1st class, and 53 patrolmen 2nd class. In addition, there are 99 sergeants, 31 lieutenants and 18 command staff members.
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