A drug-sniffing dog now is the only certified member of the police force in the small eastern New Mexico town of Vaughn.
Police Chief Ernest “Chris” Armijo decided to step down Wednesday after news stories reported that he wasn’t allowed to carry a gun because of his criminal background.
“He decided the attention was distracting,” said Dave Romero, an attorney for the town.
State officials said Armijo couldn’t carry a gun since acknowledging that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments in Texas. Armijo also faces new felony charges after being accused of selling a town-owned rifle and pocketing the cash.
According to records, the only qualified member of the Vaughn Police Department is Nikka, a drug-sniffing dog. Nikka currently has no criminal record. Her tail wagging and sloppy kisses are so far her commendable actions.
Vaughn’s other officer isn’t certified and pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery last year. Noncertified officers can’t make arrests and can’t carry firearms.
While Nikka is the only member of the small police department that is loyal … to the law and has proper qualifications, she still needs a human to help fill out any paperwork.
Romero said not having an officer qualified to carry a gun didn’t put Vaughn at risk. “England doesn’t allow police officers to carry guns,” he said. “Sometime the strongest weapon in law enforcement is communication.”
Vaughn, a town of about 450 located 104 miles east of Albuquerque, is a quiet town. And while residents say there is no crime problem, the town is set deep in what U.S. Homeland Security Investigations officials say is an isolated region of the state popular with drug traffickers.
Guadalupe County Sheriff Michael Lucero said his department has helped patrol Vaughn. But he said those efforts have put a slight strain on his already short-staffed department.
“I visit the town at least once a month,” said Lucero. “The important thing is to keep a presence so residents know we’re there to help if we’re needed.”
When approached by a reporter from The Associated Press at his Vaughn home, Armijo said he had no comment.
The dog’s kennel could be seen in Armijo’s backyard, and a police truck marked “K-9” was parked in his driveway.
Romero said it’s unclear whether the town will keep the police dog, which had been in Armijo’s care.
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