By William Thompson
Vivian Martinez, the former exotic dancer who won an $80,000 lawsuit settlement against the Tucumcari Police Department in August, has graduated from the Southeastern New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy in Hobbs.
Martinez, now a sheriff’s deputy with the Lea County Sheriff’s Department, was previously denied employment by the Tucumcari Police Department. She claimed in her lawsuit she was denied employment because of her former job as an exotic dancer in Albuquerque.
A federal jury decided in August that the decision not to hire Martinez was based on her former employment as a dancer and the Tucumcari Police Department violated Martinez’ freedom of speech. The judge in the case ruled that exotic dancing was a protected form of speech.
Martinez’ lawsuit made national headlines. In the days following the jury’s decision, Martinez said her lawsuit was not about money.
“What it is all about for me is setting a foundation for women to stand on when they apply for an $8.50 per hour job,” she said.
More recently, Martinez emphasized her lack of animosity toward the Tucumcari Police Department.
“The purpose of my lawsuit was to right a wrong,” she said. “I have nothing against the Tucumcari Police Department.”
Martinez said that being denied the opportunity to become a police officer fueled her drive to succeed at the law enforcement academy where she graduated Wednesday.
“I passed my law enforcement certification exam and I was presented with the academy’s physical fitness award. I was the only graduate to receive that award.” Martinez said.
Martinez said she looks forward to getting back on the streets as a sheriff’s deputy.
Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose declined to comment.