Letter to the Editor: Should Los Alamos Police Department Unionize?

By John Smith
Concerned Citizen for Los Alamos

What is going on at the Los Alamos Police Department? I have read recent articles that state that officers are suing their own department for an “unsafe working environment.”

Now obviously our officers wouldn’t claim that the risk of being shot at, or the risk of being hit while in the roadway, or any other on the job hazard would be unusually unsafe – so what do they mean?

Just last October Randy Foster and Brian Schamber joined Chief (Wayne) Torpy in briefing our County Council on the Master Career Plan. The Master Career Plan was designed to achieve goals such as a clear pay for performance model, a pay structure that is equal or exceeding other area departments, and to provide clear guidance to officers how they can advance within the department.

The County even released its own pay study that showed what our local officers should be making, then fell short of providing the salary shown within the study when they went through the entire County payroll and attempting to modernize it. The Master Career Plan was heard, then nothing more was said. Within nine months of that Council meeting, the County is suing Det. Schamber, Schamber is suing the County, Acting Deputy Chief Foster (commander) was terminated, and Foster is suing the County. Something clearly went awry.

There is obviously some reason Schamber is suing the County because of something Foster did while he was acting chief during Torpy’s unfortunate absence. There is also some reason Foster went from being the local boy who appeared to be in line to be the next Chief of Police to being terminated and working as a patrolman for the Santa Fe County Sherriff’s Office. If either reason is due to a failure to follow human resource procedures or department policy, something is wrong.

But it didn’t end there. Someone in the department said that “hardly anyone’s showing up for work anymore” and “morale is at an all time low.” Where were the supervisors when this happened? Sure, Foster was terminated, Commander Scott Mills was being sued and later reported as to being on leave, and Acting Chief Phil Taylor isn’t a sworn law enforcement officer. But where were the other commanders – Preston Ballew and Jason Wardlow Herrera? They received their $6,882 raise on top of their $67,151 salaries just in November. These two probationary employees are employed in the same position and grade as Phil Taylor but are sworn police officers, why are neither of them acting chief? Why have they allowed department personnel to not come to work? What have they done to address the all time low morale? If they are not to be in the position of acting chief, are they also not to be trusted in their current positions? If not, why do they remain in command positions receiving high salaries?

If these issues are what we can see from reading what the media knows, is there more that the public is unaware of?

Do our officers need protection from improper responses such as those claimed against Foster? Do our officers need a union to protect their rights? Do our officers need a union to get the salary the county salary study recommended and yet did not approve?

What is going on at the LAPD that we don’t know about?

CSTsiteisloaded