By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff
On Oct. 6, Ron Haley joined the Tucumcari Police Department as Deputy Chief of Police.
A Tucumcari native, Haley is the department’s second in command under Police Chief Larry Ham.
Ham was named chief in June 2005 and had previously served with the Silver City Police Department.
Where did you serve in law enforcement before coming to Tucumcari?
I was the chief of police in Cuba for a little over two years. I’ve also served as chief of police in Moutainaire and Elida. I’m also currently the president of the New Mexico Chiefs of Police Association.
What other law enforcement groups are you a member of?
I’m also a member of the Property and Evidence Custodian Association, the Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, which is sponsored by the FBI, and I’m a member o f the Executive Board of the New Mexico Municipal League.
How did you become involved in law enforcement?
After I completed my Graduate Equivalency Degree in 1987 here in Tucumcari, I worked in construction for about a year. Then I joined the city as an animal control officer, then I became a dispatcher, and then I attended the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe. I graduated in 1990. I worked for a while here in Tucumcari.
In the early 1990s, I was an officer with the Clovis Police Department. While I was there, I helped start the police officer on bicycles patrol, and, at the same time, I was heavily involved in the city’s little league, scouting programs and in supporting youth programs. I’ve got three grown boys and they all live in Amarillo now; and I’ve got an 18-year-old who’s finishing up his senior year in Elida.
How long were you in Clovis?
I was there for almost three years. I decided I wanted to work in the private sector and own my own business. So, I tried various things and owned a trucking company. That ended when the price of fuel got so high. I then joined the Mountainair Police Department.
What are the challenges you see here in Tucumcari?
We currently have a consolidated dispatch center and we’re working out any bugs that are left over. We’re making sure that it stays up and running especially while construction is going on.
Chief Ham and I are working on the continued service to the community who are clients.
We’re also working to recruit officers and dispatchers.
How many positions are open for officers and dispatchers?
We’d like to hire three more officers, as soon as we could. Chief Ham has us budgeted for 16 officers and we have 12 right now.
We’re also short four dispatchers. It’s tough recruiting these days. We’re expecting more and more out of our men and women. The requirements and challenges are very tough.
And the other challenge is competing with other cities’ law enforcement departments’ wages.
When I got coffee the other morning, the waitress said that, in a day, she can make $100 in tips and salary. My police officers and dispatchers don’t make that.
Chief Ham has been talking with the City Commission and the city manager. But the city’s also down on gross receipts. They understand the problem and they’re bending over backwards to address this.
We’re going to look at this again in January. They understand the need.
Right now, we have to work with what we have. We can’t put the city in debt. We have to learn to address it in other ways, through grants and other outside money sources to fill these voids. If we get a grant for equipment, we can put that money toward salaries. We just have to more resourceful, less wasteful and more appreciative as things come about.
But even with that being said, and the fact that we offer health insurance and retirement, our dispatchers earn about $7.25 an hour. It’s hard for them to pay the hospital deductible, buy groceries and feed their families. If there are daycare costs, that’s $2 to $3 per hour. It really puts them at the bare minimum. We’d like to increase those wages.
Do you have specific areas of crime that you are focusing on?
We’re diligently seeking to stop narcotics. We could use the help of the community who can be our eyes and ears. We can’t be every where at once. We’d like them to help. They can call us at 461-2160; they can also call Crimestoppers at 461-3507.
Also, if people have concerns, they should come by and see us. We’re more than happy to discuss any problems they have. We want people to be able to go about their daily lives in a safe community.
Isn’t coming back to Tucumcari a sort of homecoming?
Yes, I started my law enforcement career here. And my wife, Angela Barreras, is also from here. We’re glad to be back here.