Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

County to increase pay for MDC correctional officers

In an effort to address a staffing crisis, Bernalillo County will be giving correctional officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center a 13% raise.

That means that correctional officers who have been there for two to four years will now be making $22.43 an hour — up from $19.85. Officers who have been there for more than five years will make $24.67 — up from $21.83 — sergeants will make $27.49 — up from $24.33 — and lieutenants will make $33.28 — up from $29.45.

Officers who come from other detention facilities will receive a $10,000 hiring bonus and new hires will receive a $5,000 bonus.

Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca and the MDC Correctional Officers’ Union signed the memorandum of understanding to address the staffing issues on July 7.

“The MOU demonstrates the county’s good faith and commitment to address the challenges and stated concerns of our corrections officers,” said Morgas Baca. “The increase is well deserved. Increased retention and successful recruitment efforts will result in more boots on the ground and less demand for overtime. Our employees should have the opportunity to plan and enjoy quality time with their family and friends.”

The correctional officer vacancy rate at the jail has topped 50%. The county had to call a state of emergency twice in June after eight essential positions were empty during some shifts, meaning officers were forced to continue working overtime. People who are behind bars at the jail are on lockdown in their cells for days at a time because there is not enough staff to watch everyone.

The funding for the raises come from past and current budgets, the county said, since positions had been funded but not filled in the past.

MDC interim Chief Rosanne Otero Gonzales, who replaced Chief Greg Richardson when he retired at the end of last month, said the MOU changed the way involuntary mandatory overtime is handled so that the administration has to take into account the number of hours an employee has worked rather than seniority when they are being ordered to continue working.

“Changing this provision is an effort to better distribute the workload between new and senior employees and to improve the work/home life balance of correctional officers,” Otero Gonzales said.

The staffing crisis led the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the McClendon settlement agreement and the county to draft an order setting staffing benchmarks for the jail to hit every six months. The order mandates that they increase the staff by 111 over two years.

Joseph Trujeque, the union president, said he hopes the MOU will help the jail get more new people in the door so they can relieve officers from overtime and the workload they have been under.

“Hopefully this will also get us some more staff so we can get the inmates out of their cells more often,” Trujeque said. “The things we’ve done here should attract more experienced officers for our lateral program. These are really significant hiring bonuses and now that our pay is on par or surpassing most of the other facilities around us, along with a good marketing campaign, they should make a difference.”

Pay increases will be reflected in the Aug. 5 paychecks and also include increased pay for certain shifts, including weekday swing and graveyard shifts and all weekend shifts.

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