NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Just about every police department in New Mexico is facing an officer shortage. Now the Department of Public Safety is asking for a huge budget hike to find more officers and to find new ways to attack the crime problem. “We’re losing a lot of officers and we’re hoping to incentivize staying with us a little longer,” said Jason Bowie, Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

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People leaving for other jobs is one big reason why the Department of Public Safety is asking for a $31 million budget increase this year. “We’re hoping to incentivize the position not only through compensation but also through a retention package so that we can look at longevity pay and get our people to stay on board,” said Bowie.

If approved $14 million will go towards recruitment and retention. The current New Mexico State officer pay plan, according to a chart on the department’s website, shows state patrol officers make about $55,000 in their first year. That’s compared to starting salaries of $45,000 to $60,000 at departments in larger cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, which also officer $10,000 to $15,000 hiring bonuses.

Bowie hopes higher pay and retention bonuses will attract recruits and keep current officers here. They are also looking to use some of that additional funding to reduce officers’ workloads. To do that, they’ll be adding positions like hiring civilians to work as crime scene investigators and technicians. In the Cold Case Unit, they are looking to hire forensic scientists working in the state lab which processed more than $21,000 items of evidence this year.

If approved, some of the funding will also pay for four training classes and to start a statewide Public Service Aid program. PSA’s would be in district offices, responding to non-emergency calls.