The Edgewood town council hired two police officers at its most recent meeting Feb. 10—the same day councilors got a letter from its officers saying that the department was so overworked that it’s “when, not if” someone is hurt or killed.
Edgewood Police Chief Darrell Sanchez brought two new officers to the town council, he said. Many recent meetings have been cancelled for various reasons, and the council did not approve a police department hire Jan. 13.
Sanchez said the council has final say in the hiring process, and the two new hires were just waiting for approval from the council to start working.
But officers were feeling worn out without the help of extra hands, Officer Amber Marez explained in a letter she wrote to council, which was signed by the rest of the police officers as well.
“I am writing this to notify you that, hopefully only due to ignorance rather than indifference or intention, our office has been without sufficient shift coverage for several months,” Marez wrote. “Since October, seven officers have been tasked with maintaining shift coverage for the entire Town of Edgewood, 24-hours a day, seven days-a-week as it is our duty to the citizens of Edgewood to provide law enforcement services. I myself have worked numerous sixteen-hour shifts without days off, and, in one case, seventeen days in a row.”
She added that because they have no time to rest, Edgewood’s police officers’ ability to perform the job is “diminished,” and the situation of someone getting hurt or killed has become a “when, not if” scenario.
Councilor Linda Holle said she spoke up in the council meeting because the letter from Marez was signed by all the officers at Edgewood PD.
“Our primary duty as elected officials is to provide for the safety and welfare of our citizens,” Holle said. “I wasn’t going to let this go by. I knew we were severely understaffed in the police department and I just thought it was important to get the word out there on public record.”
Holle said she thought Marez was “entirely right” in speaking out because [the lack of extra staff] has “affected not only the officers but also the community because I’m sure the officers can’t be at the top of their game when they’re just exhausted.”
At the meeting, Holle said there is “too much micromanaging of town staff by this body,” adding that she trusts the Chief’s judgment.
Sanchez said the hiring of the two new officers puts the department at 10 officers, including himself, with an 11th deployed in the military.
Sanchez is also a certified background investigator and checked each applicant to make sure their backgrounds looked good. “In today’s day and age, you’re looking for use of force complaints, any severe disciplinary action, any disciplinary action that was handed down by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board, those would be the things that would be a little bit different than just a civilian job,” he said.
While there were several applicants, some didn’t get through the background investigation process, and were not brought to the council, Sanchez said.
“It’s not like we hired somebody just to fill the position,” he said. “Somebody made the comment, ‘a warm body.’ That is not what happened because I would never ever sacrifice the department for just a warm body.”