RATON, New Mexico (STPNS) -- Springer's police chief is leaving the top post of the small department as of Friday after deciding to resign because of "differences" with the town council.
The department's lone remaining police officer also has resigned, effective next month, meaning the town will be getting most or all of its law enforcement services from the Colfax County Sheriff's Office and the New Mexico State Police in the near future.
Police Chief Rick Sinclair submitted his resignation early last week. Officer Mitch Sutton submitted his resignation a day after Sinclair tendered his. Both men cited "differences" with the town council as the reason for their departures. While Sinclair's last day on the job that he has held for almost four and a half years will be Friday, Sutton's last day is to be Nov. 14.
Neither Sinclair nor Sutton would discuss any specific differences with the council that led to their resignations. Sinclair said he did not want to talk about specifics because he would be "stooping to (the council's) level" by doing that. Sutton, a three-year veteran of the Springer department, indicated he did not think it would be professional to comment on the specifics.
Sinclair did say that although both he and Sutton have maintained a busy schedule as the only two members of the police force, the resignations were not a result of a workload issue.
That workload increased in July when Paul Mares left the Springer force to take a deputy position with the county sheriff's department. Mares on Friday said in his three years working as a Springer officer, he noticed that the members of the town council "don't let the chief do his job," but instead try to micromanage the police department. Mares said there has been "a lot of stuff going on" regarding how the council interferes with the police department, but he declined to give specifics. On a separate matter, he claimed that numerous requests for pay increases for officers had been turned down. Mares called Sinclair a "good supervisor to work for."
Springer Mayor Johnny Chavez said he believes Sinclair's resignation was sparked by "frustration" of not being able to track down - with a small department and amid community pressure - who committeed recent vandalism in town, as well as being asked this summer to do more enforcement regarding animal control and ordinances that require people to keep their yards clean to a certain degree. Chavez said he hopes Sinclair might change his mind about resigning.
Colfax County Sheriff Pat Casias said Chavez called him Thursday to request law enforcement help until the town can hire more officers. Casias said he will work with the state police to arrange a schedule to enable sheriff's deputies and state police officers to patrol in or near Springer to provide law enforcement coverage for the town.
Sinclair is an 18-year police veteran who took over the Springer department in June 2004, replacing Eric Gonzales, who resigned in January that year to move to Albuquerque after a little more than four and a half years on the job in Springer. In the months between Gonzales' exit and Sinclair's arrival, Springer received patrol coverage from the sheriff's office and state police.
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