RIO COMMUNITIES — The Rio Communities City Council will soon be considering creating a new police department by ordinance.

City officials have been discussing and planning on establishing a police department for about a year. During the Monday meeting, the council unanimously approved a 14-day review of an ordinance which would create a police department.

The council will consider the ordinance at its April 24 meeting.

If approved, the council would then move forward in hiring a police chief, a police officer and a law enforcement office clerk.

The proposed ordinance creates the appointed office of police chief, and prescribes the powers, duties and salaries of the appointed officials.

“The Police Chief shall be appointed by the Mayor upon approval of the City Council. The Police Chief shall be appointed solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications,” the proposed ordinance reads in part.

The ordinance reads that the chief doesn’t have to live in the city, but should reside within a 15-minute response time.

The proposed ordinance also states the police chief reports directly to the city manager, but serves at the pleasure of the governing body. He or she would be subject to the terms of an employment contract, and can be dismissed by the governing body at any time with or without cause.

According to the ordinance, the chief’s powers would include:

  • Execute and return all writs and processes as directed by the municipal judge; and
  • Serve criminal summons and process in any part of the county wherein the city is situated; and
  • Suppress all riots, disturbances, and breaches of the peace;
  • Apprehend all disorderly persons;
  • Pursue and arrest any person fleeing from justice; and
  • Apprehend any person in the act of violating the laws of the state or the ordinances of the city and bring him or her before competent authority for examination and trial; and
  • Render mutual aid and assistance as needed and as authorized by either the chief of police or the city manager.

The chief would also manage the overall administration and operations of the department, as well as establishing goals, direction and activities, while developing an annual budget.

Other duties include interacting with other criminal justice agencies and public presentation to the community.

During its first 10 years of incorporation, Rio Communities has contracted with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

Last year, Valencia County Sheriff Denise Romero told city officials her office would no longer be able to continue the contract after this current fiscal year, beginning in July 2023. That’s when Rio Communities City Manager Martin Moore and the council began researching how to pay for and form its own police department.

As of March 27, a total of 26 people have applied to be the first Rio Communities police chief.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.