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Santa Fe adds incentives for police recruits

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe city government announced new incentives Thursday to try to boost the police department’s falling staff numbers.

New Santa Fe Police Department recruits will get $1,000 after completing the police training academy and “lateral” recruits – officers who transfer from other departments – will get $3,000 over three installments after reaching certain milestones.

The department is also looking for public safety aides “for a three-year term designed to assist young applicants to become police cadets,” a press release says.

The department has 29 vacancies, and that number is expected to grow in the coming months as more officers are expected to retire, SFPD Lt. Michele Williams said. Four new officers will be hired next week and will attend the state Law Enforcement Academy in January, Williams said, but she doesn’t expect the department will be able to hire people as fast as it’s losing them. It takes roughly six months to go from recruit to police officer.

Vacancies have been an issue for the department, which is budgeted for 177 officers, for the past few years as unfilled positions have ranged from 17 to around 30. The city’s annexation of county land in recent years has exacerbated the problem.

“We’ve never been able to account for the staffing in the annexed areas, and that affects response times,” Williams said. “That means people have to wait a little longer.”

Williams said the majority of officers who left have joined the Albuquerque Police Department, which itself has increased recruiting incentives to address growing crime in Albuquerque. Both SFPD and APD start recruits at roughly the same pay, but the salary for a first class officer (POI) at APD is $29 an hour compared with $19.11 at SFPD.

Williams said she is hopeful the new incentives will help SFPD compete with APD and other departments for potential officers.

“I think that we are certainly optimistic, but it remains to be seen if this will be effective,” she said.