NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Department of Justice is trying to improve community policing by giving money to law enforcement agencies across the nation. Two communities in New Mexico are going to see some of those funds.

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A chunk of money is going to the city of Espanola and the Ramah Navajo Chapter to hire law enforcement professionals and fill vacancies. “Which is huge for us because unfortunately last year we didn’t receive any funds from the legislative session and it’s been tight. It’s tight to work on a flat budget which we have been for several years,” said Roger Jimenez, Espanola Police chief.

The city of Espanola will receive $431,440 and the Ramah Navajo Chapter will receive $404,208. The Espanola Police Department will be able to hire two additional officers.

Right now, the department has 28 officers and filling these two vacancies will help the department become fully staffed. However, some law enforcement agencies are having a hard time recruiting and retaining employees. The Albuquerque Police Officer Association says there needs to be a stronger focus on paying competitive rates. 

“They really need to be focused on what the younger generation of officers needs, what they want. We need to make sure we’re competitive,” Shaun Willoughby President of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association said.

Willoughby says he’s seen a lot of police officers leave law enforcement agencies altogether due to not feeling supported or set up for success in their role. 

Espanola Chief Jimenez says if his department had more funding he would like to expand new technology in the city with license plate readers and add proactive resources like street crime units and community policing programs.

Nationally, the feds hope this leads to a thousand police officers being hired nationwide. More could also be coming as President Joe Biden has requested a $300 million increase in the program next year.