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LAS CRUCES POLICE DEPARTMENT

New police chief: Focus is on community engagement, accountability, transparency

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Las Cruces Police Chief Miguel Dominguez remembers seeing a prowler in his back yard when he was 6 years old and living in Silver City. He never forgot “the safe feeling” he got when a police officer showed up at his house and told him everything was going to be alright.

Dominguez, 52, graduated from the 34th Las Cruces Police Academy in October 2002, served as a patrol officer, field training officer, patrol sergeant, lieutenant in patrol and special services and LCPD’s west are commander before becoming deputy chief of field operations in 2016 and deputy chief of investigations and administrative support services before being named interim chief when Chief Patrick Gallagher retired last August.

City Manager Ifo Pili named Dominguez permanent chief in December.

“I’m humbled and honored to have been selected to be 20th chief of LCPD,” Dominguez said. “It’s a huge honor for me. I don’t take the responsibility lightly.”

“I told our officers we are going to focus on community engagement,” Dominguez said.

Along with “accountability to the citizens” and transparency, it will be one of three areas he will “key in” on as chief.

The new chief said another important change for law enforcement will be how it deals with behavioral health issues in the community.

The city is putting together a mobile crisis intervention team to deal with emergency calls that involve individuals with mental health issues. A plain-clothes police officer, along with a paramedic and a licensed social worker, will be part of the team. It’s an outgrowth of the Las Cruces Fire Department’s mobile integrated health program and LCPD’s crisis intervention training program.

The combined unit “is a huge plus for us,” Dominguez said. The new unit will allow responders to “proactively reach out to super users of the 911 system specifically because of behavioral health issues.” That will not only allow LCPD to be part of a unified response to people who are not criminals but are dealing with serious and chronic mental and behavioral health issues, it will also free up police officers and community resources to focus on other issues, he said.

Dominguez said a few of his officers have come down with COVID-19, but the department has largely been successful in limiting exposure to the virus through reduced public contact, use of PPEs and a cleaning and disinfecting protocol.

Officers have been “really successful” in staying proactive, handing out masks to anyone who doesn’t have one and educating people about public health orders related to the pandemic, he said. 

COVID-19 and a lack of community trust have impacted LCPD recruitment, the chief said. The department usually gets 700-800 applications for each police academy class, but those numbers are 350-400 currently. LCPD has an authorized strength of 202 officers, and was at 181 in early December, Dominguez said. A police academy in January will graduate 15-20 cadets, he said.

During his more than 18 years with LCPD, Dominguez said he has had “very few negative interactions with the public,” which has always been welcoming to LCPD officers.

“We need to get that back, and that’s my goal, to build that community relationship again,” he said. “I am confident in our ability and our service.”

Daines appointed deputy police chief

From a Las Cruces Police Department news release

Kiri Daines, appointed in September as the Las Cruces Police Department’s acting deputy chief in charge of investigations and support services, was named to the permanent position in December.

Daines’ announcement came two weeks after Miguel Dominguez was appointed chief of police. Dominguez had overseen investigations and support services as an LCPD deputy chief since 2016.

Investigations and support services includes LCPD’s criminal investigations section, intelligence unit, community outreach, administration programs, Metro Narcotics and the Law Enforcement Academy.

Daines is a 2000 graduate of LCPD’s academy. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University and graduated from the 261st session of the FBI National Academy.

LCPD has two deputy chiefs, with Daines serving alongside Paul Brock, deputy chief in charge of field operations services since 2018. Brock oversees the department’s three patrol shifts, along with the traffic unit, SWAT and police service aides.