Santa Fe Police Chief Patrick Gallagher is looking to fill 19 vacancies in the city's police force. 

At a July community gathering at the Harvey Cornell Rose Park, Gallagher told an audience of South Capitol residents that the police department only had 158 active officers on duty. But the number of authorized positions is 177, he said. The chief was responding to residents asking why the police department could not send foot patrols to the affluent neighborhood after multiple women reported a serial sexual predator on the loose.

Gallagher told SFR in a phone interview Tuesday that while he doesn’t believe foot patrols in South Capitol would be the best deployment of resources, the SFPD does hope to increase patrolling there and the rest of the city with new hires.

“Calls for service have increased a little bit, and because of calls for service increasing, we’re not able to do our proactive patrol as much as we want to, and that’s city-wide,” the chief says. “We want the ability to do more proactive patrolling and be here as an omnipresent deterrent to crime, rather than responding after the fact.”

He suggests that calls for services may be higher this year due to a population bump following the city's annexation of several thousand acres of county land that expanded Santa Fe's southwestern city limits. Gallagher says he doesn't have hard data about the number of calls for service over time, however, because the records management system "is antiquated and doesn't let us do a thorough analysis."

The department is accepting both new cadets as well as lateral transfers from elsewhere. Cadets start at $19.11 per hour, according to a city press release, while lateral transfers are given 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of annual leave. Cadets are easier to acclimate to the culture of Santa Fe police, Gallagher explains, but their retention rate is much lower than those who’ve been recruited from other departments.

“We don’t want to be seen as poaching other departments, so to speak; we don’t actively recruit from other departments,” says Gallagher, who himself worked as an officer with the New York City Police Department for two decades until presiding as a chief in Truth or Consequences and then Santa Fe.

By the end of last week, five officers who had been involved in a fatal confrontation with a mentally distressed man had returned to duty after taking administrative leave. They included Officer Jeremy Bisagna and Officer Luke Wakefield, who together fired 17 shots at the man. 

Gallagher tells SFR the cop shortage isn't related to the officers’ quick return to work.

“That’s just standard procedure,” he says. “They were psychologically cleared as fit for duty as a result of that, and the investigation by state police is still ongoing, and our internal investigation will follow that in due course.”