After nearly 22 years of working at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Mike Herrington is retiring. However, the long-term Roswell resident isn’t planning to leave law enforcement anytime soon.
The 47-year-old lieutenant said one of the reasons he chose to retire was so he could start on his campaign for Chaves County sheriff in 2018.
“It’s a tough decision to retire, but it feels good to do so,” Herrington said Tuesday. “My adult life pretty much has been in law enforcement, and it’s something that I’m going to continue to do.”
Herrington said working for the Sheriff’s Office has been fulfilling and, at times, sad.
“Because of the things you have to deal with and see,” he said. “But, it has been a pleasure to work with the guys that I have worked with, which I do consider to be my family and — that’s the hard part.
“I know that I will be back, in a different capacity. So, I’m not leaving my family, I will just be back at a different time.”
Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder, 54, currently in the latter part of his first four-year term, said he fully intends to run for a second term in the June 5 Republican primary. Herrington said he too will run in the Republican primary next year.
“I am very proud of what we’ve done over the last two and a half years. … I (have spent) 28 years in this department, so I really have a lot of historical knowledge of where we are now, where we’ve been and I’m very proud of this department, and have intention of running again,” said Snyder, who won a four-man Republican primary race for sheriff in 2014 by 12 votes.
Challenger Herrington said one of his primary focuses is on further improving relationships with the Chaves County community.
“I believe in community policing,” Herrington said. “Community relations is very important, it’s one of the things that I do with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office now. I go out and I participate in every function that involves schools, the public, and even churches.
“It’s important for us to bring back the relationship between policemen and the community. The reason for that is because if one of them is missing, we don’t solve crime, because we expect people to be able to come and talk to us and tell us what’s going on in the community. If they don’t do that, crime goes unsolved.”
Snyder also said keeping a strong relationship with citizens is important.
“That’s what a lot of people don’t realize about the sheriff’s office specifically,” he said. “Everything we do is built on relationships. With our community, with our citizens, with our officers, with the other county agencies, with the schools. it’s just one relationship after the other. And we have worked really hard to build those relationships.
“Our patrol staff cannot begin to catch all the criminals that may be committing any number of acts on a day-to-day basis. We need our citizens’ help to do that. And we work really hard at educating our citizens and through crime prevention and Neighborhood Watch — getting them to help us. They know their neighborhood, they are there everyday, they live in it. We need them making those phone calls … we educate and prepare them and just meet with them and let them know that we can’t do this without you.”
Herrington said he will become personally involved in helping people feel safe.
“Not just Roswell, but that includes Dexter, Hagerman, Lake Arthur, Dunken — every area that we have,” he said. “I want to hear the concerns of every person in it, and see what we can do to make it better.”
The deputy also said he wants law enforcement officers to go back to interacting with the community.
“Going out and actually doing talks to the community and letting them know what it is that we do. What it is that we need from them to better this community,” Herrington said. “We do not have people who want to be police officers anymore, so whenever we put out for positions to apply for, the amount of people who now apply has dwindled.
“Right now, all they do is watch ‘Cops’ on TV, and no one wants to do that job anymore. They see all the negative things that are going on and to get our children interested in becoming police officers again is important, so community relations has to be there, and where that starts is with our children first.”
Snyder said there’s more duties he want to continue and others he wants to finish. He said he is most proud of the Chaves County Sheriff Office’s recruiting and retention.
“In this environment, it’s very difficult to find and retain deputies. We just don’t have the pools to draw from what we used to,” he said. “We’ve really raised the standard on the people that we’re going to hire, and we found some really good candidates.
“We’ve got the best of the best working for us, and we’ve managed to retain, not all, but most of them, and that’s important. I only have one opening currently. When Lt. Herrington retires at the end of this week, I’ll have two of them. We’ve already got a group of new deputies that we’re going to test to try to fill those openings.”
Averaging the last two years with the two years previous to that, burglaries and larcenies are down by about 40 percent, Snyder said.
“I don’t think there’s too many agencies that can report those good of numbers,” he said. “That has a lot to do with the quality of our staff, the quality of their work. The first thing I did when I took office was I assigned two deputies back into the drug task force to join forces with the police department, and it absolutely has been a great relationship. I think it’s had a positive impact on our overall crime numbers. Because drugs, drug addiction is a lot of what drives our crime numbers.”
When Snyder came into office in January 2015, he said he knew they needed to go back to the basics.
“Customer service is the number one thing we do,” he said. “We answer calls for service, we need to be prompt and professional, we need to do a good job following up with our cases, we need to show up in court — those thing are huge. I realize those things may not resonate good with the voters, but they certainly resonate with me. We need to be the best department that we can be.”
During his last campaign, Snyder said he took a very dim view of drunk drivers.
“My mother was killed by a drunk driver,” he said. “We have countless people endangered by people driving drunk, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. We, as a law enforcement agency, cannot turn a blind eye to that. We need to do our part. Because it protects the citizens of our county.
“We got five drunk drivers this last weekend. We did a sobriety checkpoint and got three drunk drivers at that checkpoint, east of town. Now we don’t get three drunk drivers at a sobriety checkpoint, that’s never happened before. So obviously we identified a bigger problem area than we may have originally thought. So that’s something I’m going to continue.”
Herrington said he’s taught over 400 classes on “how to survive an active killer” the past seven years to schools, churches and businesses. He said it’s important to interact with the community on a regular basis.
“Everything that we do, if it has something to do with the public, I try to make it a point to be there. And when I become sheriff, I will become personally involved,” Herrington said. “I believe as the sheriff, you should be at every public function because you are the elected official. You should be there, the people should be able to see you and say, ‘That’s the man we voted for.’ So that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Snyder raised $20,009 during his 2014 campaign. He said he has already made work on fundraising for the 2018 election.
“If Mike Herrington intends to run, which he says he is, it’s better that he retires now,” Snyder said. “It really makes for a bad working environment for the fellow employees when there’s people from within the department that are running against each other, it can make for all kinds of drama.
“I don’t have any problem with anyone running against me, we live in a democracy. That doesn’t bother me a bit. If people think I’ve done a good job, they will support me. If they don’t, then I would encourage them to support somebody else. That’s how the process works. I’m committed to Chaves County, I’m committed to having one of the best sheriff’s office in the state of New Mexico, and I plan on continuing that forward.
“My only grief with Mike Herrington is, he has never come and told me to my face that he intends to run against me. Quite the opposite. He sat right there where you’re sitting, and told me he has not made that decision, when apparently, he has. That hurts me personally.
“I have known him the entire time he has been at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, and — I just want him to treat me with respect, just like I would treat him. Simple as that. I think that’s important in any rivalry like that.
“I’m not going to focus on him, or anybody else that wants to run, I’m going to run on who I am, what I’ve done, what I intend to do and they’re on their own. It won’t be a dirty race as far as I’m concerned, I have seen that. I have seen that in too many situations, and I will not participate in that type of an election.
“That’s the way I ran the last campaign, and that’s the way I intend to run this campaign, and I would ask anybody else that runs against me to do the same. I think anything else is a disservice to our citizens.”
Snyder has been Herrington’s boss since he started at the sheriff’s office. Herrington said he simply has other ideas, goals and desires.
“It’s nothing personal against him in any way, me running as sheriff,” he said. “I’m not saying anything he has done has been inappropriate, or anything like that, it’s just my turn.
“I want to see this community flourish. I just don’t want Roswell to become like you see on TV where the people hate the police. I don’t want that. I want us to be a tight-knit group and when people see the police and they wave, I want the police to wave back. And when I mean police, I mean all law enforcement.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.