SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Police Officers Association on Thursday accepted a “good faith” offer by city government that would pay officers a $4,700 retention bonus if they stay with the police department for another six months.
The offer came in advance of negotiations between the city and the police union on a new collective bargaining agreement, with the current agreement set to expire at the end of June, and amid increased pay competition from Albuquerque, which has hired away 10 or 11 Santa Fe officers since bumping up police salaries.
Detective Tony Trujillo, who heads the Santa Fe police union, said Thursday night that he didn’t have vote totals, but he could confirm that police union members voted for ratification of the retention bonus.
Trujillo previously called the city’s offer a “slap in the face” to officers, who were asking for a $15,000 per officer retention bonus.
Trujillo also said he was glad the vote was over, and that now both the union and city can turn their attention to negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement.
“I would like to put this behind us and focus on working with Mayor (Alan) Webber and city Hall in negotiating our contract starting July 1 this year,” Trujillo said. “The mayor’s words were that he wants to make this the best police department in the country, and so do we. We really want the same thing here.”
Trujillo said last week that police wanted bigger retention bonuses in part because rank and file officers haven’t had a raise in 12 years.
The city disputes that. Spokesman Matt Ross told the Journal earlier this week that all city employees, including police officers, received 2 percent raises in both 2017 and 2018 as “cost of living raises.” He said the current union contract that lays out raises each officer automatically receives with each added year of experience.
Officer retention has become an issue in Santa Fe partly due to aggressive police officer recruitment efforts by the Albuquerque Police Department. The Journal reported in November that APD has hired 59 officers away from other agencies, including 11 from Santa Fe.
Webber said last week that Santa Fe has 26 vacancies in its police department, which is budgeted for 177 law enforcement positions. He said Albuquerque hired away 10 officers.
The city said in 2018 a total of 23 officers resigned from the department, some of them to take other jobs inside and outside law enforcement. Another 10 officers retired and five were fired, as many in one year as had been terminated in the previous five years.
Webber said the good faith offer the city made to police officers was meant to hold them over until the next bargaining agreement was signed. While police officers accepted the offer, the City Council still has to sign off on the deal.