Española Police Department Deputy Chief Roger Jimenez was none too happy about Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan speaking publicly in opposition to him being promoted to chief of police.
Jimenez sent an email in the days following the meeting to the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association, asking them to consider whether or not Lujan had violated any of the organization’s bylaws, or acted unethically.
He also said he plans to file a formal complaint with the New Mexico Law Enforcement Board.
“I was recently involved in an incident where a New Mexico County Sheriff not only spoke against me acquiring a promotion, but he also admitted to contacting city councilors in his official capacity to slander my reputation and name,” Jimenez wrote. “Not only is the (sic) troubling on his end, but it’s also troubling to me because he made these comments in a local newspaper and in an open meeting.”
A previous Rio Grande SUN article quoted Lujan’s statements at a May 14 city council meeting. During the meeting Lujan said he had made several calls both as a constituent and as a law enforcement officer in opposition to Jimenez’s proposed appointment.
Lujan said he did not believe Jimenez had the experience needed to do the job. He also called for Mayor Javier Sanchez to open the position to applicants to get the “best qualified person to work with the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department together.”
New Mexico Sheriff’s Association Board Chairman Tony Mace, who is also the Cibola County Sheriff, responded to Jimenez’s email on behalf of the Association, and told him there was nothing in the Association bylaws that conflicted with the behavior Jimenez had described.
"The Sheriff is the Chief Executive Law Enforcement Officer for his respected county, and the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the county,” Mace wrote in his response to Jimenez. “And only answers to the people of the county that elect him into office.”
Mace also wrote that Lujan had a First Amendment right to freedom of speech that was protected “under the letter of the law.”
In a phone interview May 17, Mace said he was impressed with Lujan’s integrity and willingness to speak out publicly.
“He’s responsible for the public safety of the whole county,” Mace said. “And a lot of times you’ll have municipalities that contact the sheriff (when looking for a new police chief to ask them to) be on the board or the review panel or different things like that.”
Mace said he has experienced that multiple times during his tenure as Cibola County Sheriff. He was contacted by the mayor of Grants and the Village of Milan.
“I think it’s a good practice,” Mace said. “Because essentially you want to have the right people in the right places. I mean, if you have your law enforcement cooperating, say you have ten officers at the (police department) and ten officers at the sheriff’s office, now you have 20 law enforcement officers accomplishing the same goal and worried about public safety.”
Mace said when the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department are not in agreement, there is not the same “totality” of law enforcement presence.
Neither Lujan, Jimenez nor Sanchez answered requests for comment as of press time.