Estancia Police Chief on Administrative Leave

Estancia Police Chief on Administrative Leave

According to claims by members of Estancia Police, Torrance County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) no longer has the personnel to cover late-night law enforcement matters. Mountainair’s incoming police chief, expected before the end of May 2024, has not yet arrived.

Now, Estancia’s police force is down to two officers.

Estancia Mayor Nathan Dial officially confirmed what had been the subject of rumors over the past month: interim police chief Jason Downing had been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation in the Estancia Police Department. Dial declined to discuss the internal investigation, saying it would be addressed after completion. Currently, the Estancia Police Department is under the command of SGT Thomas Carter. Carter commands one other officer. (Edited to note that, while on administrative leave with pay, Mayor Dial noted that Downing is still considered on the Estancia Police force.)

The Estancia Board of Trustees discussed raising the Estancia Police Department's salaries to rates comparable to those offered by TCSO and the Edgewood Police Department during their June 3, 2024, meeting. SGT Carter and Mayor Dial advocated for a rate increase from $29/hour to $31/hour for officers, $35/hour for sergeants, and $25/hour for the police department's executive assistant.

During the discussion of Estancia's EMT operations since the last meeting of the Board of Trustees, Mayor Dial referred to the fact that the town was providing more services to the county emergency medical program than he believed was fair under the mutual aid agreement between the town and the county.

The Board of Trustees considered three proposed plans for increasing traffic violations. The board voted to adopt the plan with the highest fines, with Trustee Morrow Hall opposing the measure. During the discussion of the three plans, Trustee Amy Lynn May stated she was opposed to the lower fines because, if it were her son being pulled over for a motor vehicle infraction under the lower penalties, it would only be a few hours of work for him to pay his fine. She stated she believed that the fines needed to be higher to create a greater deterrent for motor vehicle infractions.

The Board of Trustees reviewed whether the town would use a software application known as TextMyGov. TextMyGov is a text message-based service that automates citizen reports of potholes and other damage issues and also provides information regarding municipal services, such as library programs. The board decided to continue its research into the program.

The board next addressed a proposed utility ordinance change request. Town clerk Michelle Jones stated that the town would need to hold a public hearing on this proposed change, which she said she would schedule for 5:30 PM before the next board meeting on June 24, 2024. Roy Hubbard, from the town clerk's office, said that one issue that needed to be changed would be reducing the delay following delinquent bills before a lien is imposed from 60 days to 14 days. Added to this change in addressing delinquent payments, Hubbard said he wanted to impose a $15 utility disconnection fee (or termination fee in the case of sanitation services), a $25 fee for reconnection of services, and fees of 12% of the delinquent billing assessed on a customer. Jones said that no action could be taken during the June 3, 2024, meeting, but the board's recommendations would be turned into a resolution for the board's vote. After deliberation, Trustee Albert Lovato motioned that the reconnection fee be raised to $50 and that liens be imposed after a 30-day period of delinquency. The rest of the board accepted this motion, and Jones will present to the board a resolution at the next meeting of the Board of Trustees regarding these fines and liens.

Related to the earlier discussion of the limited personnel in the Estancia Police Department, the mayor recommended paying on-call officers $50.00 for not being off during on-call hours. The trustees unanimously approved this measure.

The board tabled for discussion at the next meeting a proposal to increase municipal employee salaries. The board did so because it did not arrive at an amount all members agreed was a fair amount for salary increases.

The board closed the meeting by moving into executive session to discuss threatened or pending litigation.

Due to scheduling issues, the next meeting of the Estancia Board of Trustees will be held on Monday, June 24, instead of June 17, 2024. As previously noted, there will be a public hearing at 5:30 PM before the board meeting.

Update: While on administrative leave with pay, Interim Police Chief Jason Downing is still on the roster for the Estancia Police Department, meaning that, technically, there are still three police officers on the force. - June 5, 2024, at 17:15.

Update 2: Edited the first paragraph to attribute the claims that the Torrance County Sheriff’s Office lacks the personnel to support late night calls to those who made them. Currently, the following individuals have made claims that they were told TCSO was unable to support late night calls: Interim Chief Jason Downing, SGT Thomas Carter, and Mayor Nathan Dial.

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