- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - State police, motor transportation officers and special investigators will be part of a new streamlined New Mexico State Police Division starting in July.

It will mark the department’s first statutory reorganization in its 28-year history.

The merger is the result of legislation passed during the regular session and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez. The measure gained widespread support despite strong opposition by state police officers and others in past years.

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told the Las Cruces Sun-News (https://bit.ly/1N6b0CI ) that over time he and other officers became more open to merging the agencies. Now, Kassetas is one of the merger’s biggest proponents.

Kassetas and Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt said the merger will streamline personnel management, create equality among officers and standardize training for future officers.

Another benefit is it will save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

“We have three different groups of commissioned personnel under somewhat different chain of command and different rules that made it difficult, but not impossible, to manage,” Kassetas said.

Under the merger, an estimated 150 commissioned officers assigned to the Motor Transportation Police Department and Special Investigations Division will be transferred out of the classified personnel system. They’ll be moved into the New Mexico State Police exempt personnel system, effectively becoming state police officers in the process.

With officers from the three branches under the same umbrella, Fouratt said the chief will be able to treat them equally when it comes to things like assignments, transfers, pay, promotion and discipline.

The department will equalize pay among all officers, meaning some officers would be given pay increases, Fouratt said. Pay levels would be kept in line with the salaries of the better-paid state police officers, and the increases would largely affect motor transportation officers, he said.

There also will be no demotions or changes in rank among the officers, and no officers will lose their jobs, Fouratt said.

Public safety officials say the change, which takes effect July 1, is expected to improve response time.

“My goal as chief is to make sure that cross-training continues,” Kassetas said. “We don’t want an officer responding from 50 miles away when there’s an officer 10 miles closer. That saves time, that saves resources, and that gets a better response.”

By next month, those who apply to become officers in the department will have to go through the same standardized training no matter which division they may eventually join. Before the merger, each agency had its own recruitment programs and training academies, as well as its own standards that trainees were required to meet.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com

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