Message from the chief

Moment of silence for Baton Rouge law enforcement

Greetings community,

As everyone is already aware, another horrific act of violence transpired over the weekend. Six more officers were targeted and shot; three of those officers were killed and a fourth is still fighting for his life. Such attacks on law enforcement are destructive to our communities and our country as a whole. While we all pray this does not become the “new normal,” Baton Rouge and Dallas have reminded us of the danger faced by officers every day.

The Farmington Police Department will be honoring the fallen officers by wearing badge bands until Thursday morning. Additionally, we have been contacted by many citizens who share our feelings of sadness and anger over events from the past two weeks. There is only so much we can do as individuals. Together, however, we can make a statement. Today, FPD will line up at 4:00 p.m. outside the Farmington Museum located at 3041 E. Main St. for a moment of silence in honor of the fallen/injured Baton Rouge officers and deputies. Dispatch will only send officers to emergency calls at this time. Our employees will activate their overheads and stand along Main Street, silently, for five minutes paying their respects to the men and women of Baton Rouge law enforcement and their community.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Aztec, Bloomfield, and Navajo Police Departments, and New Mexico State Police are invited to join us at the museum or in their respective communities. To any citizens who wish to participate, you may come to the museum and stand alongside our employees. If you can’t make it, we invite everyone to step outside their home or business at 4:00 and simply stand in unison until 4:05.

Alone or in small groups, watching these events unfold can feel overwhelming and hopeless. However, together, taking a few minutes to pause and stand as one, reminds each of us and everyone around the world, that we can make a difference. We can stand against hate and anarchy – against all those who see only the dark side of our nation. The three officers, and all our men and women in blue, stand for what is right in our country.

God bless the U.S.A. and protect all of us during these difficult times.

Chief Steve Hebbe

Message from the chief – Dallas police funerals

Members of the Farmington Police Department Honor Guard began their trip to Dallas this morning. They represent the men and women of FPD, as well as the support of our entire community, for the friends and family of the murdered Dallas police officers. Over the next four days, they will attend funerals for all five officers killed last week.

The FPD has received many messages of support from our community, including notes and balloons left on officers’ cars. Last week, events may have us all thinking and feeling the worst about where we are as a country. However, there are so many positive examples of citizens helping each other, working with the police and celebrating both our diversity and our freedom, that don’t make the news cycle or go viral on social media. We can’t let events and people who seek to tear us apart prevail. We must believe in the power of good people working together for a better community. We can disagree perhaps, but we can do so with respect and civility.

There will be tough times ahead. There will be events that can pull us apart. There will be mistakes and things we don’t understand and can’t control. However, we all control our emotions and reactions; building the type of community we all want begins with this. As our honor guard makes its way to Dallas, they carry the best wishes of Farmington with them. We will provide updates over the next several days.

On behalf of the men and women of the Farmington Police Department and all the citizens of our community, we keep the families and friends of these officers in our thoughts and prayers.

Thank you,

Chief Hebbe

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Taking notice of the good – A message from the chief

Recent threats to officers handled well…need acknowledgement

Police in the United States today are the subject of intense scrutiny. From Albuquerque to Ferguson, the way officers and departments perform their duties is cause for discussion, argument and investigation. How police departments continue to ensure the safety of a community while protecting the constitutional rights of every citizen will continue to be the focus of discussion and debate. I am a strong supporter of this debate, as I know policing has become more professional in many ways as the result. However, I also believe our country has become so used to focusing on mistakes and misconduct, that good performance rates little notice at all. This is neither an accurate view of the job police officers do every day nor a healthy way to discuss how we want our police to perform.

Within the past two weeks, Farmington and San Juan County law enforcement have faced three serious incidents in which suspects took aggressive action toward police while in possession of a weapon. All three occurred while suspects were in the commission of felony crimes and officers attempted to arrest them. All three represented serious threats to the community and the police. All three ended without the use of deadly force by officers. All three ended without serious injury to anyone involved.

The first case was a burglary of a gun shop. Two officers made entry, observed a suspect jump up and begin running and ordered him to stop. The suspect, in a dark building, turned and fired a shot at the officers. Later investigation showed the shot nearly struck one of the officers. Neither officer returned fire. The suspect escaped and is still being sought…and we are asking for the public’s help in catching him.

The second case began when two cars were racing down Main Street during afternoon traffic. When an officer pulled them over, both fled. Officers pursued one of the drivers before breaking off due to the danger to the public. When the driver continued at a high rate of speed and head on into the wrong lane of travel, FPD again tried to stop them. This time, despite the suspect’s very dangerous driving, the driver was stopped. He fled on foot and officers chased him. Despite repeated warnings, the suspect refused to drop a knife. Officers successfully deployed a Taser and safely arrested the suspect. In addition to other charges, the driver was charged with DUI. Less than lethal force was successful in this case, though the first deployment did not work. A second deployment did allow officers to subdue the driver. However, if this had not been successful, the outcome could have been far more tragic.

The third case began as an effort by FPD to stop a reckless vehicle, again during day shift traffic. The suspect again refused to stop, nearly striking a patrol car in his effort to get away. After another pursuit, involving FPD, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police, the suspect stopped at his residence. When ordered to surrender, he produced a baseball bat and began moving toward police. Officers successfully deployed a Taser and the suspect was taken into custody. Among many other charges, the driver was charged with DUI…for the 9th time.

Any one of these three could have resulted in the death of an officer. Law enforcement may well have been justified in using lethal force. However, in each case and under extreme pressure, officers made the decision not to use deadly force. Despite clear threats, despite confronting suspects who were making significant efforts to avoid arrest and, in at least two cases were intoxicated and refusing to comply with directions, officers handled the situation the best they could and resolved the incidents safely.

Not every situation will necessarily have the same outcome. I am not suggesting FPD does not make mistakes or that some calls could not have been handled better. What does need to be said, though, is that in many situations, when most citizens are not even aware of the danger around them, FPD officers do their very best to keep our community safe: despite facing serious threats from desperate, intoxicated, armed suspects, despite great risk to themselves, despite no big parades or public tributes. Any fair discussion of the job police officers do must pay more than a brief mention of the outstanding work that is done and shouldn’t be the beginning of a sentence attacking police (i.e. “Yes, sometimes the police do a good job, but…..”). When the police do a difficult job well, it really should be acceptable to say, “Good job” to our men and women who have volunteered to help keep us safe.

In these three incidents, any one of which could have gone very differently, I am saying, “Good Job!” I hope many of you feel the same way.