LOS LUNAS — In his first few months as the Los Lunas chief of police, Frank Lucero has seen a lot of change in the force, from five new hires yet to attend police academy, to several retirements and promotions.

“I’ve realized that throughout every different rank that I’ve held throughout the department, obviously my services to the community have changed,” Lucero said. “It’s interesting now to see that my service to the community isn’t necessarily to me being on the street everyday, but my service to the community is ensuring that their police department is adequately staffed — not only adequately staffed but that it’s staffed with people who are of good moral character that are going to bring positive light to not only the department but the community.”

The change in the department began with the former chief Naithan Gurule, who retired early on in the year. Shortly before Gurule’s retirement, former deputy chief Vince Torres announced his retirement at the end of 2021, tasking Lucero with not only taking on the chief position, but also choosing a deputy chief.

The retirement of Lucero’s deputy chief, Charlie Files, followed a few months later after he accepted a new position with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as officer Kevin Harvey.

“It’s a position that’s always been on his bucket list, but it never seemed achievable,” Chief Lucero said of Files’ move to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Apparently, after some conversations took place, it was very achievable and it was something that I was happy to see that he was doing something that he had always aspired to do.”

Cassandra Kanyuck

Cassandra Kanyuck was promoted to deputy chief in June after working with the department since 2011, and within law enforcement since 2006.

“She comes with a lot of training and experience that she is able to bring to the position,” Lucero said.

Kanyuck came to New Mexico from South Dakota, getting her start at the Laguna Police Department in 2007, and moving onto the Isleta Police Department before being hired in Los Lunas.

“Lucero prepared me very well for the job and no  hiccups yet,” Kanyuck told the News-Bulletin. “It’s been an adjustment because just a year ago I was a sergeant, so I was promoted very fast because of retirements and whatnot. So, it’s been a different experience.”

As officers were promoted to fill the vacant, higher-level positions, the department also hired five new officers — one who attended the police academy in July and four who started at the academy in August.

“I go back at times and I reflect on when I did that same thing. It’s an incredible life event that you will never forget,” Lucero said. “It’s an exciting time of their lives and we are happy to be part of it. We do all that we can here to provide them with the best training, support and structure to help ensure that they are successful for their entire career.”

Lucero said the department’s focus at the present is to set the new officers up for success by going over critical department policies, getting them the correct equipment and ensuring they maintain their athletic abilities prior to the police academy.

“It’s always exciting to see these new cadets come in and they’re ambitious and they are excited to serve their community and to learn,” the chief said. “For us and all of our field training officers, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s really motivating, you could say, to see people coming in that have that level of drive. They want to learn and serve their communities.”

In the near future, Lucero said two new public safety aide positions will be added to the department, which he hopes will fast track younger people to becoming police officers.

“We hope to use it as a stepping stone for perhaps even high school students interested in becoming a police officer.” Lucero said. “They can start their career at the age of 18, and they can start their retirement clock at the age of 18. When they reach the right age, they can lateral right over into a police officer position and we can send them to the academy.”

Lucero said any interested individuals must be 18 to apply to be a public safety aide. While they have yet to advertise the open positions, the chief said they would begin that process in the near future since the village of Los Lunas accounted for those positions in their 2022-23 fiscal budget.

“It’s going to afford a great opportunity for our youth, at least two for now and in the future. If the program is successful  we’ll visit the possibility of expanding it,” he said.

Public safety aides will handle duties that don’t necessarily require a certified officer, such as directing traffic, simple crash investigations or reports with no charges filed. Lucero said adding these positions will also take some responsibility away from sworn officers so they can focus on other duties.

“To be able to serve this community in this role has been incredibly enjoyable to me,” Lucero said. “And it’s been stressful, it comes with its challenges, but I have a great team here just to help me through that. As a team, we’ve been able to navigate through these challenges and it just made us stronger.”

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.