BOSQUE FARMS—After receiving resumes from across the country, the mayor of Bosque Farms selected the hometown candidate to be the village’s next chief of police.
At the Sept. 17 village council meeting, Bosque Farms Mayor Russ Walkup announced the appointment of Andrew Owen as the new chief.
In his 15th year with the department, Owen, a village resident, said he was excited and nervous to take the position permanently after more than two months as interim chief.
“I was very surprised for the interim position. It was very sudden,” Owen said. “I’m excited that (the mayor) had the faith in me to continue with the department.”
Walkup named Owen interim chief in June after the council terminated former chief Paul Linson.
“When they opened up (the job search) I felt that was the best thing the village could do — look for the best person possible,” he said. “The governing body we have is very intelligent. (The councilors) do their own research and they make well-informed decisions.”
Owen said if he hadn’t been selected to lead the department, he would have had no problem going back to his old position of patrol officer.
“They were going to do what’s best for this village, and if it were not to be me, so be it,” he said.
Owen began his career with the department in February 2006 as a patrol officer. He worked his way up to sergeant and then lieutenant. In June 2016, he was asked to return to a patrol position by then chief Greg Jones.
“There was some restructuring within the department and it was mutually agreed I’d be of better service in a patrol position,” the new chief said.
Looking for crime is the primary duty of a police officer, but for Owen being a patrolman gave him the opportunity to interact and directly help people in his community.
“You become not just friends with them, they look to you to be a confident. They look to you as a source of information and assistance,” he said. “I mean, I’ve responded to calls for widows in their late 80s who found a snake in their bathroom. When you’re in a larger agency, the answer is ‘call animal control.’
“Well, now you get to change that persona, that idea that law enforcement is just ‘oh they go chase bad guys, they run and gun,’ and that’s all they do.”
While a sophomore in high school in South Dakota, Owen said he had some very positive interactions with law enforcement, which motivated him to pursue the career.
“I was looking for a direction in life and that was the direction I wanted,” he said.
Before becoming a police officer, Owen spent a decade in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I did a couple of different missions out at Kirtland (Air Force Base) and really did like the area. I made some friends down here in Bosque Farms. It’s a wonderful place to live,” he said. “You travel around the community, everybody waves at you, everybody stops and says ‘hi.’ It’s just such a warm, family-oriented community.”
As Owen steps into his new position, he said he won’t be making changes for the sake of change.
“The officers are continuing to do the excellent jobs that they’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve got a good core officers. The biggest thing that I’m concentrating on right now is the interaction with the community.”
Owen said he’s looking at holding quarterly, townhall-type meetings next year that will allow officers to talk about and present information on issues they are seeing out on the streets.
“We’re going to continue to train our officers with the best training we can find. We want to advance our officers as much as possible,” Owen said. “This department is not ever about one person. It’s about the core we have as a team and all the efforts they make on a daily basis providing the valued service they do to both communities.”
The department is budgeted for 14 sworn law enforcement officers, including the chief. The council approved the hiring of a new officer last week and Owen said there are two more very qualified applicants going through the background review, which will hopefully get the department back to full capacity.
Retaining and recruiting officers has always been a challenge for Bosque Farms, Owen said, due to the lower pay.
“They understand the pay is what it is and it’s a continuous fight between me and the council,” he said. “That’s my position — to fight for my officers and I will do it every single day. The mayor and the council know that.”
Owen said he’s learned over the years is people rarely leave a job; they leave a boss.
“To me, there’s a huge difference between being a leader and being a boss. A leader looks after his people, sets the example and the standard,” he said.
To be a good leader for the department, Owen said officers will have a say in as much as they can and have a voice within the department.
“Treating them with the respect they deserve,” he said. “I don’t ever promise anything to anyone if I can’t follow through on it.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.