Las Cruces – Las Cruces Police Chief Harry Romero has announced his retirement effective Nov. 30, 2009.
Romero has been chief since 2004 and has served more than 30 years with the Las Cruces Police Department.
"I think it's time to finally call it quits and hang up my badge," Romero said today. "My wife and family have been by my side all these years and now it's time for me to tackle that list of honey-dos that's been growing before it gets any longer. I want to be able to spend as much quality time with my family and, quite frankly, being chief doesn't always afford those possibilities."
LCPD deputy chiefs Richard Parra and Pete Bradley both have fond words on the news of Romero's impending retirement.
"I will miss working for Chief Romero," Bradley said. "We may not have always agreed but I know his motivation was always for the good of the city and the department. Above all, I appreciate his unwavering honesty."
Parra said, "The department will be losing a valuable asset and many years of experience with Chief Romero's retirement. All of us draw from his leadership so his daily presence will be deeply missed."
Romero's tenure as chief has included the implementation of several policies and procedures that have greatly benefited the department, and has led to better policing and the improved safety and well-being of the citizens of Las Cruces.
Since Romero's tenure as chief began LCPD instituted or expanded several community policing teams within the department to better serve the citizens of Las Cruces. Romero was instrumental in starting LCPD's Street Crimes Unit, or commonly known as the Gang Unit, that monitors and deals with issues related to gang violence; the Targeting Neighborhood Threats unit which addresses specific problems in residential areas; the Neighborhood Enforcement Team, another community policing project that deals with traffic-related problems; and the Domestic Violence Unit that investigates spousal abuse and other acts of violence within a home.
Romero was active in increasing the department's nationally acclaimed Victims' Assistance unit to better serve those who have suffered as a result of a crime. And under Romero's direction, the department's internal review office, the Professional Standards Unit, increased to include a sergeant and two internal investigators.
Romero's tenure also saw the Las Cruces Police Department begin use of its Mobile Operations Center that is used in various neighborhood policing and investigative functions. And the department began a partnership with HIDTA - the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area - run by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy that coordinates drug-enforcement efforts among local, state and federal agencies.
Romero's tenure as chief has coincided with the population of Las Cruces steadily increasing. But even with the increased populace the rate of violent crime in Las Cruces has either remained relatively fixed or, in some cases, has seen a steady decline.
The number of robberies and rapes has dropped from 2004 to 2009 while the number of homicides per year has remained fairly unchanged. During that same time span the city's population increased from roughly 77,000 residents in 2004 to more than 90,000 today.
The number of calls for service the department has handled, or responded to, has increased as well. In 2004 LCPD responded to 133,889 calls while this past year the call volume increased to 157,422 or an average of more than 430 calls per day.
Maybe the most significant accomplishment during Romero's tenure is the professional training officers have received and the discipline in the field they have demonstrated. During the past several years the number of complaints against officers has steadily decreased and, in 2008, only 43 formal complaints were leveled against the department. The 43 complaints against LCPD in 2008 are in contrast to the 157,422 calls for service. That means that 99.97 percent of all public contacts - whether they are traffic stops, interviews, investigations, arrests, etc. - resulted in no complaints against LCPD in 2008.
Romero began his career in law enforcement in 1974 as radio dispatcher when calls were handled by the Las Cruces Police Department. He became an officer later that same year and made sergeant in 1990. In 1992 Romero was promoted to lieutenant and then served four years as a deputy chief under former chief William "Bill" Baker. Romero also served as a detective for 12 years from 1978 to 1990.
"I'm leaving the department in good shape and in very capable hands," said Romero. I would like to thank the law-abiding citizens of Las Cruces who have been supportive of our efforts and especially to those who have come forward and offered their assistance in reporting and solving crimes, and in our time of need. Those people have made our department better and our city a safer place to be.
"And, most importantly, I would like to thank all the officers and staff from our department and the other local agencies who have been supportive of our efforts and are dedicated to serving their community. A career in law enforcement isn't done alone," Romero said. "We have been through a lot over the years and I am proud to say that the men and women I have worked with are some of the best trained, the best prepared and some of the most dedicated to their profession that you will ever find. It has been a pleasure to work along side them and that daily interaction is what I will miss the most in my retirement."
Romero is a native of Las Cruces and plans to remain in his hometown following his retirement.