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DA County Sheriff Struggles To Retain Veteran Deputies, Asking For Better Pay

Dona Ana County sheriff’s deputies say they don’t make enough money and the county’s new study on deputy salaries is wrong.

“We need more people, we need our sub-stations opened, we need to be competitive,” said Detective Ken Roberts, the president of the sheriff’s deputies union. “If I can’t keep the staffing, if I can’t provide the sheriff with personnel who wants to stay here, we can’t answer enough calls. We can’t get to the public that needs us.”

Sheriff Kiki Vigil also told ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom his department struggles to retain deputies.

Vigil said he trains them only for other better paying departments to hire his deputies.

When the county’s new study concluded the salaries of its deputies are “comparable to regional departments,” Vigil decided to conduct his own study.

According to Vigil, the study conducted by his department and the union found there is a 16-to-40 percent gap between the salaries the county offers its deputies and what the Las Cruces and El Paso police departments offer their police officers.

For example, a five-year Dona Ana County deputy makes $18.45 an hour.

A five-year Las Cruces police officer makes just under $23 an hour.

An El Paso police officer makes about $24 an hour.

Vigil says his department spoke to regional law enforcement departments to gather the data, but the Dona Ana county manager has her doubts.

“We haven’t seen the descriptions for positions that were purportedly compared or analyzed by the sheriff’s office and so the question would be: are those the same duties the people in the sheriff’s office are analyzing,” said Julia Brown, Dona Ana County Manager. “If they’re not the same positions, then it’s truly comparing apples and oranges.”

Brown said the county plans to take a closer look at the study conducted by the sheriff’s office and union.

Vigil said the county paid Fox-Lawson $100,000 for its flawed study. The county manager disputes that figure, saying the county paid the reputable Fox-Lawson firm about $37,000 to conduct the study.

The county’s budget must be finalized before the next fiscal year begins July 1st.

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