By Chelle Delaney: Freedom Newspapers
New Mexico State Police Capt. Daniel Lopez has been offered the city’s top law enforcement position in Tucumcari, according to City Manager John Sutherland.
However, the city may not be able to hire Lopez as chief of police until mid-December because of requirements Lopez must meet to keep his retirement intact, Sutherland said.
“The city is willing to wait for the requirement to be met,” Sutherland said.
Lopez said he has to officially retire from the state police and meet a “sit out” requirement of 90 days or put his retirement pay and benefits from the Public Employees Retirement Association in jeopardy.
Lopez was picked from eight candidates for the position.
According to the association’s guidelines, Lopez said he is required to have a 90-day separation period “before I can accept the position and go on salary with the city of Tucumcari. … or any similar position with a governmental agency in a municipality, county or state.”
The city’s attorney is looking into if there is some way to hire Lopez without waiting the 90 days, Sutherland said.
The city has been without a police chief since mid-July when Larry Ham resigned to spend more time with his family.
Lopez has worked 17 years for the state police and 4 1/2 years for Tucumcari and Quay County law enforcement, Lopez said.
Lopez is the commander of State Police District Nine with headquarters in Clovis. The district covers the five-county area of Curry, Quay, Roosevelt, Guadalupe and De Baca counties. Small portions of San Miguel and Colfax counties also are included in the district.
As district commander, Lopez supervises 43 commissioned officers and 12 civilian employees, he said.
Lopez said he was attracted to the chief’s position because of his strong ties to this community.
“I have a desire to improve the quality of life for its citizens, most of whom I’ve known my entire life,” he said.
Lopez said he has professional relationship with police officers in Tucumcari. “The department,” Lopez said, “has a great core of people who are dedicated, committed officers and who share similar interests as far as promoting the quality of life for citizens in Tucumcari.”
The decision to offer Lopez the job was made by a competitive hire committee comprised of Sutherland, Fire Chief Mike Cherry, who is the city’s acting manager of the police department, and Clara Rey, who handles certain human resources matters for the city, Sutherland said.