Complaints against city police dominated Thursday’s Tucumcari City Commission for the third session in a row. And a former Quay County Sheriff’s Department Deputy offered to take citizens’ complaints against police and forward them to the city commission.
“I have a bunch of people who are scared of the police,” said Wayne “Charlie” Thibideaux. “I have a lot of people tell me stories. A lot of people are scared about these sorts of things.” For that reason Thibideaux offered to be the avenue for people to take if they wanted to complain but were afraid to speak out. He said they could contact him at the sheriff’s department and he would take the complaints to the city commission.
Following the meeting, Tucumcari Police Chief Dennis Townsend said he stood by his officers in each case brought up by people complaining. “Every one of our cars is equipped with video. I’ve given all of the tapes to them (the city commission).” Townsend said. “When I get them back,” he told a reporter, “you’re welcome to look at them and just see who is using bad language and screaming and yelling and calling names.”
Seven area residents told commissioners about problems they’ve had with city police. Chandra Peterson said her son stopped by a soft-drink machine to purchase a soft drink and he was questioned by police. She said the police asked him why he hadn’t gone to Allsup’s (convenience store) instead. “I think the cops are out of control,” Peterson said.
George Aragon, who first complained to commissioners about police six weeks ago, read a letter he received from Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose. The letter stated the complaints he had brought up were being addressed internally.
Aragon said he would like more elaboration on the subject.
Mayor Mary Mayfield said that since it was a personnel matter, city officials could not talk about it. “I understand your frustration,” Mayfield said, “but we are forbidden to discuss it.” Danny Ellis said police sometimes overreact to minor problems. He said one time he was driving a golf cart between two of his properties for a distance of a block. He said he was pulled over by an officer using his siren and flashing lights. “I was in a golf cart for heaven’s sake!” Ellis said.
Ellis said he was wrong for driving his golf cart on a residential street, but he said the officer was “belligerent and rude” while writing the ticket. “He was completely out of the bucket,” Ellis said. Commissioners took no action on the complaints, but argued among themselves.
Commissioner Chris Maestas said he was not so upset with the police as he was with the city commissioners.
“Again we’ve heard a lot of complaints. I blame the commission,” said Commissioner Chris Maestas. “They’re to blame. “What are we doing? We listen and listen, but we don’t do anything. We should do something. We know we have a problem. We should do something.”
Commissioner Bettie Ditto said she didn’t agree with Maestas’ interpretation of the situation. “We do care. We all care,” Ditto said. Ditto said she felt that since the disaster of Sept. 11, 2001, police officers have received specialized training and they are highly alert, thus the least little thing might tip them over the edge of politeness. “Still, I have full confidence in our city manager and police chief to handle this,” Ditto said.