$800K fund to help N.M. PDs cover cost of training, hiring new LEOs

The federal money can be used to supplement officers' pay or cover the cost of law enforcement certifications and other efforts to expand the police force


By Dan McKay
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is launching a new $800,000 fund intended to help smaller law enforcement agencies cover the cost of training and hiring new officers.

The federal money will be made available through regional workforce boards throughout the state, which will work with cities and other local governments on how best to put the funding to use.

It could be used to supplement officers' pay or cover the cost of law enforcement certifications and other efforts to expand the police force.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the new training assistance fund during a visit to the West Side campus of the Central New Mexico Community College, the site of a satellite law enforcement training academy. The funding comes from federal workforce dollars that the Governor's Office has discretion over.

Lujan Grisham described the new fund as a way to pick up some of the costs that agencies or applicants face for training and certification, making it easier for people to enter law enforcement as a profession.

"We don't have enough men and women who are first responders in this country," she said.

It will complement other efforts — approved in the 2022 legislative session — to boost the salaries of State Police officers by 16%, offer retention incentives and pay for public safety capital projects, the governor said. She also celebrated Tuesday the start of construction on a $9.8 million emergency operations center and sheriff's office in Sandoval County, paid for partly with state funding.

The new spending comes as New Mexico has struggled with high crime rates and little growth in the number of law enforcement officers.

In 2020, the state's violent crime rate improved but still ranked second-highest in the nation.

[RELATED: Survey finds crisis in police recruitment and retention]

Citing academic research, lawmakers have repeatedly tried to expand the state's police force as part of a strategy to reduce violent crime. But growth in the number of officers in city, state and county agencies reached just 1.8% over the 10-year period that ended in June 2021, according to analysts for the Legislative Finance Committee.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking reelection this year to a second term, has touted new spending authorized in the state budget to support law enforcement recruitment, retention and training.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti has made anti-crime measures a focus of his campaign, vowing to stiffen criminal penalties and deploy the National Guard to boost border security.

"Law enforcement officers are leaving New Mexico because this governor has made it easier to be a criminal than a cop by being soft on crime and making it easier for police officers to be sued for doing their jobs," Ronchetti spokesman Enrique Knell said in a written statement Tuesday.

Lujan Grisham last year signed into law a state Civil Rights Act, which allow lawsuits to be filed in state court to recover financial damages for violations of the New Mexico Bill of Rights.

Libertarian Karen Bedonie is also on the ballot.

NEXT: Why law enforcement is facing unprecedented challenges in hiring and keeping recruits

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(c)2022 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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