New Mexico has established a new fund dedicated to helping small law enforcement agencies across the state provide training and education to new officers.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham made the announcement on August 2 in Albuquerque.
According to Grisham, an initial investment of $800,000 was appropriated from federal dollars under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which the governor’s office has discretion over. The funds are intended to help cover costs for the training of 80 recruits.
Officials hope that the funding will boost interest in potential law enforcement candidates and increase hiring by shouldering the financial burden for recruits obtaining law enforcement certifications.
Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie acknowledged that the state is struggling to recruit and retain officers and that this fund may alleviate some of the financial obstacles.
“This effort to incentivize the recruitment of police officers aims to address head-on the shortfall in police officers and will serve to decrease crime in many cities across New Mexico, in turn, increasing the quality of life for New Mexicans,” he said in a statement.
Public safety is a pressing issue in the state — especially as the midterm elections come around. New Mexico’s violent crime rates have consistently outpaced the national average for years.
According to The Center Square, New Mexico recorded a total of 778 violent crimes per every 100,000 people in 2020, compared to the nationwide average of 399 per 100,000.
In terms of murders in 2020, New Mexico ranked 13th in the nation.
Lawmakers also reported that the state has fewer officers per capita than the national average, which could be a contributing factor to high crime rates.
In order to reach the national average at the beginning of the year, the state would need to hire an additional 400 officers.
In addition, research shows that over a 10-year period ending in 2021, officer growth among state and local agencies reached just 1.8%.
“We don’t have enough men and women who are first responders in this country,” Grisham stated.
Grisham, who is up for re-election, hopes that the funding will bring in more officers by covering their training costs.
The Democrat governor has passed legislation supporting law enforcement this year by raising the pay for state police officers by 16% and establishing a fund to provide periodic retention bonuses.
She also celebrated the beginning of the construction plan for a $9.8 million emergency operations center and sheriff’s office in Sandoval County.
Grisham’s Republican opponent, Mark Ronchetti, has said law enforcement continues to need more support and is suffering from low morale. He pointed to Grisham’s inability to stiffen criminal penalties and stop the revolving door of offenders who are awaiting trial as part of the reason behind the rise in violent crime and low morale.
“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’s spokesman said in a statement.