A 1st Judicial District Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Santa Fe Police Chief Aric Wheeler, Santa Fe Police Department and Santa Fe City management from changing shift hours for members of the Santa Fe Police Officers' Association.
Judge Sarah Singleton issued the order Monday, and it effectively keeps SFPOA members' 10-hour shifts intact until at least March 21, the date of a hearing on the matter. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and the union provides that alleged violations of that contract be adjudicated by the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, but since all hearings before that body have been temporarily suspended, the union requested the court issue a restraining order until a more permanent solution can be found.
According to court documents, the CBA states that officers' hours can't be changed without "negotiations in good faith" between Wheeler and SFPOA members. Wheeler allegedly told the union late last year that hours would be changed to either five eight-hour days per week or three 12-hour days per week, and that he "didn't want [SFPOA's] input." Nevertheless, SFPOA submitted to former Deputy Police Chief Abram Anaya their request for the 12-hour schedule. Anaya, Wheeler and Deputy Chief Robin Contreras all got a vote of between 70 and 85 percent no confidence last week from the union.
Wheeler subsequently announced at a January 25 city council meeting that the eight-hour shifts would be adopted as a cost saving measure.
In an affidavit, SFPOA president Allen Lopez wrote that Wheeler later told him the cost benefit information presented at the meeting was inaccurate.
"Respondents have not presented a scintilla of evidence to support the requirement that the changed work schedule will benefit the community and/or provide greater availability of services to the public," the affidavit states.
Lopez tells SFR that if the shift change were to go through, the city would immediately lose up to 10 officers to nearby jurisdictions like Rio Rancho that still have the 10-hour shifts. The cost of recruiting and training replacements would negate any cost savings, he says. The benefit of a longer break between shifts that afforded by the 10-hour schedule seems to be overlooked by city management, Lopez says.
" A lot of people say 'We want to save money,' but I say, 'What about the morale and mental state of officers?' The four 10-hour shifts gives us the time to recuperate...We go to murders, suicides, fatalities, domestics. How do we cope with them?"
Lopez tells SFR he will meet with City Manager Robert Romero at 3:30 today to discuss the proposed shift change.
Wheeler and City Attorney Geno Zamora didn't immediately return calls for comment.