At Wednesday evening's city council meeting, Mayor Swisstack sprung a surprise item at the tail end of the agenda. The Mayor proposed a study be conducted on the fire and police departments as a means of determining whether or not those departments are properly staffed. His surprise meant leaving important data off the agenda disallowing the public access to the data that he was looking at.
The Mayor spoke about how the latest crime stats to come from the FBI on Rio Rancho was an impetus for his suggesting the study be considered, also citing Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe as examples of how their per capita staffing levels compared to Rio Rancho.
Councilor Mark Scott - District 4 - laid the smack down by showing the Mayor (and the public) that the governing body already has access to a great deal of information simply by communicating with city staff. Scott further pointed out that the International Association of Police Chiefs (IACP) recommends against determining police staffing based on population stating,
Ready made, universal patrol staffing standards do not exist ... Ratios such as officers-per-thousand population are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions. Staffing is a complex endeavor and requires consideration of extensive series of factors and a sizable body of reliable, current data.
The Patrol Staffing and Development Study that Councilor Scott cited goes into further detail as to what needs to be done in order to properly determine adequate staffing levels. Overall the message Councilor Scott, which was echoed by Councilors Wilkins, Crum, and Clayton, was that the city could potentially save upwards of $90,000 simply by doing some of the leg work themselves.
City resident Cheryl Everett spoke against the Mayor's proposed study during the public forum, stating that the rise in Rio Rancho's crime rate was due to the "neglect" of fire and police under the former governing body comprised of Mayor Swisstack, former councilors Mike Williams, Steven Shaw, Kathleen Colley, and former city manager James Jimenez, as well as current city councilors Patty Thomas and Tamara Gutierrez. Everett also alluded to the possibility that Rio Rancho's increase in crime might have been averted if the $1.7 million "wasted" on the failed Green2V Project had been appropriated towards the fire and police departments instead.
While the Mayor insisted at the onset that he "wasn't asking for money," the general consensus of the governing body was that the Mayor's request for a study, and thus indirectly asking for money, was premature and that opening up dialogue with city staff could potentially get the information they need thus saving city tax payers in the end.
The city of Rio Rancho, like most other cities across the nation, must be extra cautious in what money is spent since the economy has still not experienced a full recovery. Councilors Scott, Crum, Wilkins, and Clayton seem to be operating with this in mind.
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