Amidst pay increases for officers across the state, Taos Police Chief David Trujillo said he is not worried about his officers leaving his …
Amidst pay increases for officers across the state, Taos Police Chief David Trujillo said he is not worried about his officers leaving his department.
Recent pay raises in Albuquerque have had police across New Mexico eyeing the state for a bigger paycheck, but Taos is one department seemingly immune from the temptations of higher compensation. Santa Fe Police and University of New Mexico Police Departments have reported a loss of officers to the Albuquerque Police Department following the department's recent raise.
The departments have increased their own salaries to try and remain competitive with higher paying outlets, something Taos has yet to jump on for their officers.
"You'll never pay them what their life is worth," said Trujillo.
Trujillo's officers start at $18.85 per hour and are bumped to $19.85 the moment they graduate from the New Mexico Police Training Academy. While this hourly rate is a competitive salary for Taos, in the police realm, Taos is behind some of the other agencies in the area. New hires to the Taos County Sheriff's Office are also behind several in the state with new recruits starting at $15.85 and moving up to $17.85 once they graduate the academy.
Officers in Albuquerque recently received a massive increase in their compensation in April, bringing the hourly rate for lateral hires at APD to $28 per hour, the highest paid agency in the state. Lateral officers are those who are hired on from other agencies and have a one-year probation period after which they are raised to $29 per hour.
Recruits begin at an officer second class and for one year are paid at $20.85 per hour, according to APD's website. APD's raise puts them higher than Los Alamos, one of the higher paid agencies in the area, according to Trujillo.
"I believe we are in a good situation in terms of recruitment," said Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone. "We generally get a lot of applicants when we open positions. Certainly, I think pay is part of that, but there are other factors that fall into play."
Los Alamos pay ranges for their new officers start at $23.98 and increase with experience and education. Experienced lateral officers can make over $26.43 per hour depending on their qualifications.
APD's raise has been attractive to officers in the metro area as well as some across the state who have been leaving to work in New Mexico's biggest city.
"It's definitely not getting any safer to live here," said Lt. Trace Peck, University of New Mexico Police public information officer.
According to Peck, the UNM Police force is mostly comprised of former APD officers who were looking at the department's tempting raise as a reason to go back.
"We were probably the lowest paid in the state," Peck said.
In order to retain their officers, UNM gave their police department a 13 percent raise. Officers at UNM now begin at $23.41 per hour. Before the hourly rates were increased, Peck said officials in the department took a wage hike proposition to university officials and boards, saying it was crucial to raise officer pay to keep the campus safe.
Peck said the raise was possibly the first increase he had seen in his nine years at the department.
Other outlets have also tried to stay competitive with APD's recent raise, including Santa Fe, which has been losing officers to higher paying outlets. Santa Fe Police were recently given a signing bonus for new officers who either sign up first time with the department or transfer from another. New recruits are given a $1,000 bonus and transfers get a $3,000 bonus.
"It's the domino effect," Trujillo said. "You have one agency that (gives a raise) and then another agency does it."
Despite the increases across the state, Trujillo said he was not worried about losing any officers at this time. With a department nearly fully staffed, Trujillo said the officers at the Taos Police Department are usually rooted in the area.
Trujillo also said officers take into account the various perks and challenges each agency has and said many officers are not looking at dealing with the amount of crime and workload associated with APD. Peck agreed and said many officers at UNM are looking for a slower pace position than they would receive at APD.
"We all have a shelf life and is it worth it for us to go put our lives on the line for APD?," Peck said.
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