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Santa Fe adds 14 officers to police force

December 7, 2018

Fourteen new Santa Fe police officers will soon hit the city’s streets in black patrol cars and crisp new uniforms.

Some sooner than others.

Three of the new hires are “lateral recruits” — meaning they transferred from another police department — and will likely be working on their own within the next month or two, Chief Andrew Padilla said.

Eleven of the new hires are cadets who will enter the law enforcement academy in January and complete extensive training before actually starting to patrol the city around September, Padilla said.

The new hires follow a very public discussion on the hemorrhaging of Santa Fe police officers to other higher-paying agencies, including the Albuquerque Police Department, which pays cadets $10 an hour more than the local force.

Santa Fe County’s Regional Emergency Communications Center told The New Mexican the officer shortage has contributed to higher emergency response times, creating public safety concerns.

In an effort to attract new officers to the local department, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber announced signing bonuses in early October, promising to pay $1,000 to new cadets and $3,000 to laterals. At the time, the department had 29 vacancies.

With the recent hires — including 11 recruits sworn in Tuesday — that vacancy rate has dropped to 20, Padilla said.

Asked why he thought the recruits are joining the Santa Fe department instead of going somewhere like Albuquerque that pays more, Padilla said part of the draw here is the small-town collegiality of the force.

“They know when they’re coming to us, they’re not just a number. We’re going to recognize them by name,” he said, adding, “The community still embraces us. The day in the life of a patrol officer, they still have time to get out there and be positive, engage with the community … going door to door, speaking to people. There is still time for that.”

At a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Padilla addressed the family and friends of some of those new officers. He reminded them that a police officer’s job comes with a fair share of anguish — and their loved ones will need support.

“They get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of the city of Santa Fe that many people do not need to see,” Padilla said. “They’re going to see it on a day-to-day basis, and it’s going to stay with them in their minds and in their hearts. But please, reach out and try to speak to them. … Just opening them up will go a long way.”

Santa Fe police recently launched a new website for recruitment purposes, Padilla said. People interested in applying can learn more at sfpdonline.com.

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