Petition seeks police chief’s removal

William Thompson

George Aragon, who stood before city commissioners July 8 with complaints about the behavior of Tucumcari Police Chief Dennis Townsend, is circulating a petition calling for the chief’s dismissal.

Aragon alleges that Townsend spoke to him in a rude and obnoxious manner when Aragon asked Townsend for a copy of an officer’s radar gun certification. Aragon’s petition states, “We, the undersigned Citizens of Tucumcari are petitioning the City Commissioners to request the dismissal of Police Chief Dennis Townsend because of his unprofessional and aggressive tactics toward local citizenry,…” Aragon said he believes Townsend’s officers have been harassing members of the community and that Townsend does not have adequate control over his officers.
Aragon had in his possession Thursday copies of the petition containing over 100 names and addresses of Tucumcari residents. He said other residents have contacted him and he will circulate the petition indefinitely.
“I’ve received about 15 calls from people saying they wanted to sign the petition,” Aragon said. “I put copies of the petition in four local businesses and I’ve given copies to about a dozen individuals. I don’t want to say which businesses for fear they would be targeted by Tucumcari Police.”
Townsend said he is aware of Aragon’s petition.
“I’ve heard of the petition but I have to refer all questions about the matter to the city manager,” Townsend said. “I can’t comment on it because it is a personnel matter.”
City Manager Richard Primrose said Aragon told him about the petition. “I have no earthly idea right now how city commissioners will respond to the petition,” Primrose said. “I really can’t comment on it because it is a personnel matter.”

Lt. Nathan Wallace of the New Mexico State Police is among Townsend’s supporters. “In working with Chief Townsend I can say that I don’t think there is any way that Chief Townsend would tolerate harassment on the part of his officers,” Wallace said. Aragon said he hopes and expects that city commissioners will seek Townsend’s dismissal once they receive copies of the petition. “I’m hoping that Chief Townsend will be terminated and a new chief will be hired who acts in a professional manner,” Aragon said, “and hopefully the officers will no longer harass people.”
Aragon said his 18-year-old son has been cited twice for speeding since Aragon spoke at the meeting of city commissioners July 8.

“One night my son pulled into our driveway and a Tucumcari officer came out of nowhere and approached him,” Aragon said. “Soon there were three officers in three separate cars in front of our house. When my wife approached my son to tell him not to sign the speeding ticket one of the officers told her to step back or he would take her to jail. That seems like a lot of trouble to go through over a speeding ticket.”
Aragon said he will present copies of the petition to city commissioners at the next scheduled meeting on July 22.
“I will give the commissioners the signatures I have collected,” Aragon said, “but even after that date, I will continue to collect signatures.”