RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) - They protect and serve, but officers within the Rio Rancho Police Department say it's hard to feel motivated to do their often dangerous job when the city isn't paying them a competitive salary.
"We did a survey, and over 90% of them say they're actively seeking employment elsewhere," says Cpl. Richard Martinez.
Cpl. Martinez is the president of the Rio Rancho Police Union. He says in the last few months, five officers have quit because of low pay.
"With their aggressive posture towards recruiting, they've taken at least three of our officers already," he says.
'They' is Albuquerque Police, he says. APD officers start off at about $20/hr. their first year after graduating from the academy. Then, officers move up to $29/hr.
Cpl. Martinez says it takes a lot longer for Rio Rancho officers to even match APD's pay.
"Here, our officers top out at $29 and that takes 14 years to get there. 14 years to get to $29," he says.
Because of that, Martinez says not only is Rio Rancho losing officers, it's having a hard time filling those empty positions.
"We're talking about significant money here to where I can keep my officers here and I can recruit to make this department better," he says.
During a governing body meeting last month, Martinez persisted on the department getting a raise to no avail.
"I appreciate every man and woman in this room tonight that has stood the line for this city," says Mayor Gregg Hull.
A spokesperson for the city tells KRQE News 13 officers have been getting yearly raises for the past four years, and they're currently negotiating with the union for another raise.
Martinez says that raise has only been about a 1% increase each year.
"You pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to these officers to train them, to get them where they need to be to serve this community. Then they're just going to go down the hill, to take a spot there, and rightly so if they're going to get $8-$9 more," he says.
Rio Rancho Police currently has 130 officers with just 60 of them actually patrolling the streets.
Martinez has requested the city to hire more, but says he's been declined because there's not enough money in the budget.
Martinez says the salary negotiations between the union and city should be done by September.