The city of Socorro will be getting a new police chief as the current police chief is retiring. Who will fill the position has not been decided yet.

Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker announced at Monday’s city council meeting that Police Chief Mike Winders will be retiring at the end of September after 24 years and nine months. He’s been chief for more than eight years and in administration for 18.

Dave Finley with Socorro’s Civil Air Patrol presents Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker with a certificate recognizing the city’s long-standing support for the youth program.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Bhasker has interviewed two candidates who could fill the position. Bhasker said Winders has dealt with the changes in policing, including the current challenge of trying to staff a police department.

“The salary structure’s going straight through the roof,” said Bhasker. “I’ve heard that the State Police is offering anywhere from $30 to $40 per hour. How are you going to compete with that?”

Socorro’s entry level certified officers usually start at $20, said Winders. The Socorro Police Department has been a training agency for a while, but “the scary part’s the lack of applicants,” said Winders.

In a separate matter, the Socorro Civil Air Patrol thanked the city for its 15 years of support for the youth program. There are two Civil Air Patrol squadrons in Socorro with 43 members. Statewide, there are 20 squadrons with 685 members.

Dave Finley explains the benefits of the Civil Air Patrol and shares the accomplishments of Socorro’s CAP members during a presentation to Socorro’s City Council.

One of the adult squadron members, Lt. Col. Hunter will receive the CAP’s national award as Safety Officer of the Year this year, said Public Information Officer Dave Finley. Last year, Finley himself won Public Affairs Officer of the Year.

“Those awards don’t just recognize us, they recognize every member of the Civil Air Patrol participating in the mission,” said Finley.

Finley said that the squadron is looking to see Socorro as a staging and mission base for more search and rescue missions. The location would work well because of the local airport and the proximity to the Gila wilderness.

In other business:

—The City Council heard an update that the animal shelter is full and has been for the last several months. They have monthly transports and one is scheduled this week.

—The Council approved changes to the city’s vacation and accrued leave policy. Auditors told the city administration last year that the city does not allow enough leave to carry over, explained City Administrator Donald Monette. The change will allow employees to go from carrying over 120 hours to 160 hours, with a max of 320 hours.

The next Council meeting will be the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 6 at 6 p.m.