Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose announced Thursday evening at a Tucumcari City Commission meeting that Tucumcari City Police Chief Dennis Townsend had resigned effective Nov. 29 as the city’s police chief.
Townsend was unavailable for comment. He is apparently on vacation. Despite rumors of the upcoming resignation and questions from the media about it for over a month, Primrose, said the resignation came as a complete surprise to him. “It was totally unexpected. I had no idea he was going to resign,” said Primrose about his receiving the resignation on Tuesday. “I think he’s been a good chief. I’m sorry to see him leave.”
Tucumcari Mayor Mary Mayfield said she had heard the rumors for a number of weeks of the impending resignation, but she said she had heard them for so long she had written them off as merely rumors and nothing more. “So when Richard (Primrose) told us, I was just stunned,” said Mayfield.
Mayfield said she was “surprised and a little disappointed” that Townsend had left before the Thursday evening meeting when the consultants presented their report on the city police department. “I wanted him to hear what the consultants said and have the opportunity to work on the recommendations,” said Mayfield.
The city manager said that Townsend is currently on vacation in Nebraska until Nov. 23 at which time Townsend will return and finish up his duties. “That’s when he will be back,” said Primrose “to help with the details.” Primrose said a search will begin immediately for a new chief. “We will be looking, and it will be an extensive search,” said Primrose. “We’ll be advertising the set of qualifications.”
He said in the meantime, Det. Sgt. Albert Baca will be the acting chief until a replacement was found.
Primrose later amended that statement saying Baca would only be acting chief until Lt. Charles “Chuck” Newman returned from his own vacation which ended Nov. 30.
Townsend had been with the department for almost 20 years and rose through the ranks of the Tucumcari Police Department to the police chief position. Primrose said Townsend left the department in the early 1990s and then returned in 1994. He was elevated to the acting chief position in 1997 and then officially became chief in 1998, a position he has served in ever since.
The long-time law enforcement officer had come under a great deal of fire in the last ten months with calls and then petitions for his resignation from the force. As recently as Oct. 13, however, Townsend said he had “no intention of resigning in the foreseeable future.”
Mayfield said even after reading the resignation letter she was unclear as to just why Townsend decided to leave his position with the department. “It (the letter of resignation) went straight to the point and didn’t deal with reasons,” said Mayfield “I’m sure he has mixed feelings about resigning. I think we all have mixed feelings about this.”