NM public safety official says patrol should drive less to save money

| 6/22/2005

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety is under attack after announcing a new program encouraging its state police officers to cut back on the miles they drive.

The Free New Mexican reported that Public Safety Secretary John Denko said officers are being asked to “voluntarily” limit the number of miles they drive to 3,000 a month.

Peter Olson , a Public Safety spokesman, told the New Mexican that the department was underfunded by about $1 million a year, but Denko – who said 58 officer positions in the state are currently empty – insists officers will not be punished for going beyond the suggested cutbacks.

“We have to reduce (gasoline costs), but not at the expense of public safety,” Denko told the New Mexican.

But lawmakers in the state are unhappy about the advice DPS is dishing out. Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, questioned how the department was spending its budget.

“The priority at DPS needs to be protecting our citizens,” Rawson told the New Mexican. “We need to spend our money on keeping our officers on the roads, not on more copy machines and re-striping parking lots.”