By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Stationed in Clovis for seven years as a narcotics agent in the 1990s, veteran State Police Officer Daniel Lopez is returning to the area he considers home.
Lopez, who got into law enforcement shortly after graduating from Tucumcari High School, will take over Monday as commander of District 9, which includes Curry, Roosevelt and Quay among its eight counties.
There are 39 officers in the district, Lopez said.
“The Clovis district is my home, so the last couple years I’ve been trying and hoping to get back,” the Tucumcari native said.
For the last three years, Lopez, 38, headed the Criminal Investigations Division in Santa Fe, which primarily enforced narcotics violations, he said.
He was stationed in Clovis as a narcotics agent from 1992 to 1999, which will facilitate his transition back, he said.
“I am familiar with the area and the problems it faces. I think that familiarity will give me a head start on combating new problems,” he said.
Capt. Oscar Gonzales, the District 9 commander for 3 1/2 years, is transferring to a similar post in Roswell.
“My family is still in Roswell, and I originally joined the state police in Roswell,” Gonzales said.
Lopez is acquainted with Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher, 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler, and Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey, and looks forward to working with them, he said.
“Two good things happened: Capt. Gonzales wanted to go back to Roswell and he got that, and we got Daniel Lopez,” Hatcher said. “I worked with him (Lopez) when I was a deputy and he was a patrolman and I’m really happy he was able to come back here. He’s top notch.”
Lopez and Hatcher intend to work closely together to combat crime.
“I have a positive history with agency heads from that area (Clovis). That relationship has been established. I have every intention of working hand-in-hand with other agencies,” Lopez said.
At the top of Lopez’ to-do list is tackling the problem of illegal drugs, he said.
Many people arrested for crimes, such as assaults and burglaries, test positive for drugs and alcohol at booking, Lopez said.
“Meth is a big concern, and the associated crimes that go along with abuse,” he said.
Also at the top of Lopez’ agenda is arresting drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol, he said.
Lopez is apartment hunting in Clovis, and plans to divide his time between Clovis, Portales and Tucumcari, he said.