NMSP chief fears for retention, recruitment in wake of officer shootings

Posted at: 10/25/2013 6:25 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico's top cop said he's concerned that current and prospective officers could look for different jobs after two separate shootings left two state police officers injured this week.

"As a matter of fact, I believe it caused one [recruit] to quit today," Chief Pete Kassetas said in an interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4 on Friday.

Kassetas said he's visited with the injured officers and their families.  He said the officer injured in the Espanola shooting underwent surgery and will remain in the hospital for another two weeks.  He declined to identify the officer, but said the man is a 10-year veteran of the department.

The Chief said Sgt. Lawrence Murray, the officer injured in the Roswell shooting on Monday, was released from the hospital not long after he was admitted.

Kassetas said he spoke with NMSP's recruit class of 35 members Friday morning to try to clear up any concerns they have about the line of work they are seeking.

"We don't paint any false picture, we tell them how it is," he said.

"But we also too back that up with the fact that we're going to provide them with the best training out there, and equipment, that will increase their survivability rate."

Additionally, Kassetas touted the department's contracted psychologist who's worked with New Mexico state police officers since 1999.

"It's extremely important," Dr. Lori Martinez said.

She said officers all across the state may have concerns about their careers even though they did not witness or were not involved in the two shootings.  She said the shooting may have caused them to relive other traumatic experiences in their careers.

"I would tell them: don't make any major decisions, life decisions with regard to your career, with regard to your family life in light of a critical incident," Martinez said

Chief Kassetas said he's authorized to have 567 state police officers.

 Currently, he said he has 498.

"Not too many professions go to work and sit at their desk and worry about if they're going to get shot and be able to go home at the end of the day," he said.