BELEN — A unanimous vote by the Belen City Council on Jan. 14, confirmed Victor Rodriguez, who has 18 years of law enforcement experience, as the city’s new police chief.
Rodriguez will fill the position vacated by former chief Scott Conner, who resigned last year to become the police chief in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Currently a lieutenant with the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, overseeing the civil/court services and the criminal investigations divisions, the school resource program and the day-shift patrol officers, Rodriguez thanked the council and mayor on Monday for their vote of confidence.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the council and the mayor. I really appreciate your confidence in me to be the Belen Police Department chief,” Rodriguez said. “I look forward to it. The No. 1 goal is to serve the community, and provide quality services to the community, and that’s one thing I promise each one of you that the Belen Police Department will provide quality service, and will continue to protect and serve with excellence, integrity and professionalism.”
Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said the city received about 12 applications for the police chief position, and interviewed five.
“Chief Rodriguez brings years of dedicated law enforcement experience to Belen, having worked at all levels — city, county and state,” said Cordova, who nominated Rodriguez for the position. “He’s smart, energetic and an amazing communicator. I know he’ll represent Belen professionally, and I can’t wait to see the ideas and approaches he’ll bring to our great police department.”
Rodriguez, who is currently living in Rio Rancho, said he will give his two weeks notice with the SCSO and will begin his position in the Hub City in early February. He also said he is looking forward to moving to the Belen area with his family, including his wife, Eunice, and their four children — three girls and one boy.
A native of El Paso, Rodriguez said his career has been based on small-town law enforcement, which drew him to Belen.
“I know the New Mexico values that are instilled in our small communities, so Belen was very attractive to me,” he said. “I visited this area, and I think it has a very good economic development and population size. It’s perfect for me.”
Rodriguez said he has a lot of goals for the department, including community policing and trying to reduce crime-problem areas, such as drugs and white-collar crime.
“Most importantly, to provide quality service out there where we have a full law enforcement organization,” the new chief said.
Aware the former chief had been trying to add additional police officer positions to the force, Rodriguez said he would work with the city council on where in the budget funds could be found.
“Belen is no different than any other community in New Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody is trying to cut that same dollar and fund different projects. It’s important to have more law enforcement in the area — crime never sleeps. I will work in a cooperative effort with the city council to try and find areas in the budget to have the money reallocated, also try to get grants and trying to build the staff without further burdening the community.”
Rodriguez’s experience includes deputy director of administrative services at the Sandoval County Detention Center, a sergeant and special agent with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, a narcotics agent and deputy with the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, a police officer, detective and narcotics agent with the Artesia Police Department, and a deputy with both the Curry and Otero county sheriff’s offices.
After the appointment, the city councilors expressed their gratitude to BPD Lt. Joe Portio, who was one of the mayor’s top two candidates for the chief’s position, and who has served as acting chief since Conner’s resignation.
“We appreciate all the services you have done for the city,” Councilor Frank Ortega told Portio. “It was close, and I want to say thank you very much for stepping up.”
Councilor Wayne Gallegos also praised Portio for his work in the department, saying, “I want to thank you, and welcome our new chief.”
“I want to thank you also,” said Councilor Ronnie Torres. “You would have made an excellent chief … I hate decisions like this. We had two really good qualified people.”
Councilor David Carter told Portio, “You’re really good — you’re solid.”
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.