Readers may recall we were leery in summer 2019 of Española Mayor Javier Sanchez’s appointment of Roger Jimenez to be the city police department chief. We felt he lacked the experience to be such a strong leader.
Jimenez did nothing to impress us as he trudged the road of “interim chiefdom” over the past eight months. He has now worked himself into the uncomfortable position of defending the indefensible in some of his officers.
We speak of the most recent excessive force encounters some of his officers have had with the public, whom they should serve. Gabriel Wadt’s arrest of Isidorio Padilla should be a lesson in what not to do when de-escalating a situation. In a matter of two short minutes Wadt managed to confront, swear at, threaten, belittle and eventually physically assault Padilla, while the 67-year-old was in handcuffs.
This came shortly after the Rio Grande SUN reported on Wadt's October slamming of Chris Payne to the ground, while he was also in handcuffs.
Sanchez’s argument for Jimenez’s appointment was the large swath of training Jimenez left in his wake at New Mexico State Police. That department’s continued dysfunction has been chronicled in New Mexico newspapers often and we’ll leave that for another editorial. Suffice to state that having State Police on your resume stopped being an attribute decades ago.
He also felt at the time Jimenez would “grow into the position.”
Being a city police chief anywhere demands implementing years of experience, using a big tool box of skills, maturity and wisdom. Wisdom comes from learning as you go, sometimes we must learn the same lesson a few times before we’re wise enough to avoid it.
Jimenez’s resume is so thin, his experience is not what a chief should possess. His tool box of skills does not seem to go too far past creating and performing training sessions. His maturity must be questioned by his thin skin and random remarks he’s made in public and private. Without the experience and his light skill set, wisdom doesn’t yet enter into his leadership style.
His initial reaction to the assault on Padilla was that Wadt showed great courage by coming forward and telling the chief what happened. The best thing a teen can do when he wrecks the family car is report it to dad immediately. It doesn’t make you right, it makes you first.
Deputy Chief Jack Jones (also former State Police material) said of Wadt's assault on Payne that Wadt knew he messed up. But Wadt clearly didn't learn anything, other than to cover himself next time, which apparently worked with Jimenez.
We don’t know why Wadt left Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan’s employ. We’re waiting to receive his personnel file. We do know Wadt handled this situation poorly and we know it was not the first time.
The mayor should take this opportunity to educate Jimenez on what’s expected of him when one of his officers behaves so wrongly, in such a public way. Jimenez won’t teach himself, he’s in denial right now and immediately kicked kitty litter around the box.
The city’s liability grows if it continues to ignore Wadt’s behavior and Jimenez’s lack of leadership by correcting Wadt and holding him responsible. As it stands now, once again taxpayers will open their wallet and Padilla and his lawyer will benefit.