At Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting in City Hall, interim Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael announced his office’s intention of cutting back on the department’s generous vehicle take-home policy.
The current policy allows officers to drive the company car home up to 60 miles outside the city limits (obviously that adds up to 120 miles of commuting a day on the city’s dime) where housing costs are much more manageable.
As I reported earlier this month, the result of the policy, which was expanded to 60 miles in 2003 when recruiting and retention were at crisis levels, is that only 34 of the department’s 154 sworn officers are now living in the city limits. In fact, 69 of those 154 sworn officers live not only outside the city they are paid to police, but also outside of Santa Fe County.
That lack of police (or at least police car) presence in the city has many city big wigs up in arms.
The policy is not only drawing criticism for it’s unintended consequence of having so few cops actually living in town anymore, but also because a recent shift change from four 10-hour shifts to five 8-hour shifts for the department adds one commute per week for all the officers who were on the four-day work weeks (most of the department).
With fuel costs being so high, the added mileage is simply going to cost the department a lot of money.
So, the chief’s office is pushing to have that policy scaled back to 20 miles outside the city limits for future hires while existing cops can keep the benefit. He also wants to work with the city to get some possible housing allowances for in-city cops, some stipend benefits, possible waiver of city utility bills and other incentives for cops to live in the city.
Nothing is set in stone on this proposed change, and we’ll see how much of it actually happens without plenty of butting of heads between City Hall and the police union.
Here are some recent articles/blog posts I’ve had on the subject:
- Wednesday, June 22 in The New Mexican: SFPD plans to cut distance of take-home cars for new officers
- Sunday, June 12 in The New Mexican: Taken for a ride? Police department’s squad car take-home policy raises questions
- Monday, June 13 on this blog: Just 34 of 154 sworn officers at Santa Fe PD live in the city limits