Top cop wants new policing approach

New Mexico State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado, left, talks with Hank Baskett after Maldonado met with local law enforcement officers during Tuesday’s Clovis Community College Criminal Justice Advisory Board Luncheon at the college. Photo:Eric Kluth

By Darrell Todd Maurina

State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado told area law enforcement officials and criminal justice students at Clovis Community College Tuesday that he wants the State Police to change the way they do business.
The state’s top law enforcement agency should move from a reactive approach to specific police calls toward solving underlying problems, Maldonado said.
“If we get involved in the schools at a very, very early age, not as a law enforcement officer but as a friend, as a confidant, as a coach, we can have a very, very strong effect on our young people as they grow up,” he said.
Maldonado recounted his own experience when he joined the State Police and was assigned to a rural area north of Santa Fe.
“I was the only officer assigned to the Chimayo area, and the same people who were causing us problems 20 years ago are still causing problems today. The cycle continues,” Maldonado said.
“If you look at law enforcement from a traditional perspective, it is very, very reactive. We run from call to call and really aren’t getting anywhere,” he said.
Maldonado said an underlying problem is that parents and families often do not have as much influence on their children as peer groups.
“One of the school officials was talking with a gang member who had changed his life,” Maldonado said. “He said there was one important element (the gangs) have that (parents) don’t, and that is that the gangs are with them all the time.”
“When (children) leave the house in the morning, they are there. When they go out for recess, they are there. When they go home after school, they are still right there with them. Gangs are relentless in their recruitment efforts,” he said.
Maldonado said he is asking the captains of each of his 12 districts to produce a plan that will address their own local law enforcement needs, with an emphasis on trying to make a difference in reducing crime.
In some cases, Maldonado said, that may involve realigning law enforcement efforts to work more closely with rural communities and smaller cities like Clovis and its surrounding regions, possibly through contract policing arrangements where local communities and the State Police would share the cost of bringing an officer to live in a community.
“We’ve kind of gravitated over the years away from the rural communities, but I see that we have been moving away from an area where we have a real role to fill, and I hope to reevaluate some of that as we review our work on a statewide basis,” Maldonado said. “I want to provide services to the communities that cannot afford to do so.”
Ruthie Hefner, director of the college’s criminal justice program, said she was glad to have Maldonado visit her classes and meet both current and future police officers.
“It was a privilege to have him here as a role model for our students so they can see something concrete of what they can become. I think they heard how difficult it is to do policing in 2003. It’s more than a preventive model; it requires a commitment and a desire and belief that you can make a difference,” Hefner said.