By William Thompson
Tucumcari has a new police chief. Lawrence Ham, a 13-year veteran of the Silver City Police Department, was hired Tuesday. He last worked as lieutenant and operations commander for Silver City police.
Ham, who said he wants people in the community to call him “Larry,” said he is tough on crime and will hold his officers to a high standard.
“Police officers are held to a higher standard than the general public and I believe with all my heart that is appropriate,” Ham said. “We need to conduct ourselves in a manner that is above and beyond reproach.”
Ham said he has met with officers in a group meeting and told them that he wasn’t going to turn the police department upside down.
“I told them we’re going to take things slow and easy,” he said. “I’m going to talk to every officer individually and find out what their concerns are.”
Ham said the police department is supposed to serve the community.
“We’re here to provide a service. We’re here to protect people’s property,” he said. “We’ll be getting out and communicating with the people and finding out what their needs are.”
Ham said the Silver City Police Department dealt with more cases of violent crime than Tucumcari, but said less instances of serious crime will not mean less activity for he and his officers.
“I keep motivated by ensuring my officers are properly trained and equipped,” he said. “I’m going to concentrate on training and proper equipment. I keep myself motivated by keeping my employees motivated. I want people who are capable of taking over my position when the time comes.”
City Manager Richard Primrose said a six-member panel including himself unanimously approved Ham for the job as police chief. Primrose said there was only one other candidate under serious consideration.
“He (Ham) is the future of our police department and I look forward to working with him,” Primrose said. “I think he’s got the education, the training and the experience. I feel he will do a really good job.”
Ham holds bachelor degrees in criminal justice and psychology from Western New Mexico University. He also is a graduate of a three-month Police Staff and Command class at Northwestern University.
“I was at the point in my career when I felt that the Tucumcari Police Department and myself were a good match.” Ham said.
Ham said investigating illegal drug use in the community will be a focus of the Tucumcari Police Department.
“At the Silver City Police Department we estimated that 80 to 90 percent of burglaries, larcenies, forgeries, frauds and identity thefts were all tied back to drugs,” he said.
Primrose said no department head in city government has a contract with the city but hopes Ham will remain as chief for a long time to come.
Primrose said Ham’s salary will be about $45,300 per year.
He succeeds Dennis Townsend, who resigned last year. Interim chief Mark Radosevich said he spent the week with Ham, but will retire as of Monday and move to Santa Fe.