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Mayor’s Metro Crime Initiative Concludes Final Session, “Calling in backup: Career Pipelines” as Communities Grapple with Staffing and Morale Issues

In the weeks to come, partners will roll out agenda of action Items from five sessions targeted at fixing criminal justice system to make communities safer

Sept. 9, 2021

Today, the City of Albuquerque and leaders from throughout the criminal justice system, education system, and state and local government concluded the final session of the Metro Crime Initiative (MCI). The Keller Administration is now working with partners to finalize the MCI crime agenda that will be pursued in the legislature and between agencies and organizations. The City expects to roll out the action items in the coming weeks.

“Violent crime demands that we break the mold and bring bold, collaborative leadership to close the gaps in a broken criminal justice system,” said Mayor Keller. “The number one thing that you can do if you want to improve our City is to step up into a public safety job that fits your talents, whether that is as a police officer, a social worker, or a paramedic.”

Throughout the MCI series, stakeholders from across the criminal justice system have identified priorities and built consensus on concrete action items that can make an immediate impact on crime. While the final recommendations are being prepared, key policy proposals from the Initiative are already impacting legislative packages and interagency collaborations.

Today’s session, “Calling in Backup,” focused on strengthening career pipelines to support public safety – including law enforcement, civilian staff who support police, social workers, peer support workers, drug and alcohol treatment providers, case managers and others - and provide needed services to prevent, address, and respond to crime. Elected officials, behavioral health education experts, recruiting specialists, and community advocates proposed programs and investments that will help retain existing employees, recruit new ones, and prepare the next generation of public safety professionals.

“The Keller administration increased funding every year for APD to include an aggressive campaign to recruit new officers, hire officers from other agencies and keep experienced officers on the force. We successfully added 100 new officers a year at APD, a significant step up from recent history. Between 2010 and 2015, nearly twice as many officers left APD as were hired,” said Cecily Barker, Commander and Chief of Staff, APD. “That trend has been reversed, preventing what would have been a staffing crisis in the department. We also got creative by partnering with Central New Mexico College to help train new police recruits for APD and for other departments across the state. Still, we see that it’s not enough because many officers who stayed at APD for higher salaries are now retiring. We look forward to a partnership with the state to build on our recruiting successes and invest in a new generation of officers.”

Participants discussed action items including legislative funding requests for advertising of law enforcement careers, early career development programs in schools for first responders, expansion of peer support organizations, funding for programs training licensed behavioral health and social work professionals, and adequate pay and retirement packages to keep people in public safety careers.

“We need to explore and scale programs to develop pathways to public safety and behavioral health careers through high school experience that prepares them for the workforce,” said Yvonne Garcia, Chief of Schools, APS. “These programs already exist for some careers and are proven to be effective. It’s time to expand the scope and get younger generations on track for these jobs that serve a great need in our community.”

“Social workers are ideally positioned to work across disciplines to address internal and external factors that contribute to crime. With a focus on cultural competence, our graduates are prepared to serve vulnerable populations that are historically neglected for services,” said Dr. Cristina Duran, Dean, New Mexico Highlands University Facundo Valdez School of Social Work. “Supporting social work programs such as the one at Highlands, and incentivizing people to pursue these careers, will help us expand education access and prepare more professionals to do this critical work.”

Today’s panel discussion can be viewed online here. Panelists included:

  • Patrick Arguelles, Principal, Career Enrichment Center and Early College Academy
  • Cecily Barker, Commander/Chief of Staff, APD
  • Stacy Burleson, Women in Leadership
  • Cristina Duran, New Mexico Highlands University
  • Raymond Fritts, Academic Affairs Director, CNM
  • Yvonne Garcia, Chief of Schools, APS

All sessions of the Metro Crime Initiative are available for viewing on One Albuquerque Media, GOV-TV 16 YouTube.