He favors hiring retirees to beef up staffingAfter two years on the job, Robert Shilling was confirmed Monday as state police chief.
The vote by the New Mexico Senate was 40-0.
Shilling has been running the 500-member police department since Gorden Eden, state secretary of public safety, chose him for the job in early 2011.
Shilling faced plenty of questions Monday about department staffing and pay scales, but nobody on the Senate Rules Committee had any criticism of his performance. The committee screens nominees for high-level state jobs.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, asked Shilling to name his department’s biggest problem.
“At the end of the day, it’s boots on the ground,” Shilling said.
He said his department has 567 authorized positions. Thanks to recent police academy classes it had finally reached a level of about 500 employees, Shilling said.
Of those, 300 are patrol officers and sergeants on the road, Shilling said.
Retaining officers is a challenge for the state police department. Certain city departments and federal agencies pay better and hire officers with greater frequency.
Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, recently said that the U.S. Border Patrol had more officers in his home county of Luna than the state police had all across New Mexico.
To help increase and then stabilize staffing levels of the state police, Shilling told the committee he would support hiring retired officers.
Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, has introduced a bill that would make it possible for police departments to put retirees on their payroll. Their pensions would be suspended if they went back to work as active officers with the state police or a city department.
Eden said Shilling early on made a strategic move to improve staffing. Shilling reduced the number of command officers to increase the number of officers on patrol.
Shilling graduated from Cliff High School in southwestern New Mexico in 1989. He became a Silver City policeman in 1991 and took a job as a state policeman the following year.
In his 20 years with the state police, Shilling has worked in Deming on the Mexican border, Raton on the Colorado border and numerous cities in between.
Before becoming chief, Shilling had significant administrative experience. He was budget director of law enforcement operations and commander of investigations.
As chief, Shilling makes about $102,200 a year.