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New Mexico Mounted Patrol serves and protects

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Submitted Photo All New Mexico Mounted Patrol troopers are volunteers and purchase their own equipment.

In 1937, two years after the newly organized New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Mounted Patrol (NMMP) originated. With few police officers at the time, a group of ranchers banded together to assist them.

In 1941, when Governor John Miles took an interest in these volunteers, he introduced, passed and signed legislation (NMSA 29-6-1 through 29-6-6), making the NMMP an all-volunteer law enforcement agency that assists any law enforcement agency or regulatory body in the state. Among the members are 1st Lt. Ryan Lewis and 2nd Lt. NMMP/Troop 13 Eddie Ellis. Joining with Chief Jason Holloway, they discuss the NMMP for both citizens and future applicants to understand the organization better.

When it comes to the training required (and enough applicants from the region apply), the NMMP holds an academy to have a class. In southeastern New Mexico, the academy is typically held in Roswell. Lt. Eddie Ellis clarified by saying, “Currently, we have 12 troops around the state and an average of 85 troopers; locations are Roswell, Artesia, Lovington, Clovis, Las Cruces, Silver City, Albuquerque Metro, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Raton, Roy and Española.”

Utilizing the same course outlines, handouts and presentations as the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, applicants must meet the same entrance physical fitness requirements, shoot the same firearms qualification courses and pass a thorough background check, including a psychological screening.

Unlike the full-time academy, totaling 674 hours, this process typically takes 16 weekends — 300 hours of class time and 100 hours of field training with a full-time officer from a local agency. Upon completion, applicants are commissioned and certified. Once a trooper, completing an additional 22 hours of in-service training annually — including firearms qualification training — must be done to stay in good-standing.

It’s important to note that being an NMMP trooper is not the same as a certified police officer. According to Holloway, “There has been a long misconception that we are a division of the New Mexico State Police. Although originally created to assist them, our statutes clearly state that we are governed by our own board of directors, and our authority to enforce the law comes from the agency we’re assisting at the time, giving us full jurisdiction and authority of that specific agency.”

From 1941 until 2020, NMMP was an unfunded state agency. However, Lewis adds: “During the 2020 legislative session, Rep. Phelps Anderson and Sen. Cliff Pirtle (with help from Sen. Steve Neville, District 2, San Juan County) successfully lobbied on our behalf for funding for worker’s compensation and liability insurance. This is crucial in today’s litigious society; the coverage ensures we can work with the smallest of agencies who often times struggle to add us to their insurance coverage.”

All troopers are volunteers and purchase their own equipment. Until the recent legislation, each would have to pay an annual due to buy the insurance required; thus, the funding now relieves some of the financial burden. An important point, seeing as that they are sorely needed.

Holloway spoke about the assistance given for the current crisis: “NMMP troopers are assisting full-time agencies statewide. Locally, we were called upon by the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office to aid the New Mexico Department of Health to facilitate traffic and security during the drive-thru COVID-19 testing at the Wool Bowl.”

Ellis added that although the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis in its own right, law enforcement has been in somewhat of a nationwide crisis for several years.

“Not very many people want to be a law enforcement officer in today’s world, and this has led to officer shortages in almost every agency that I know of. This is where NMMP makes a huge difference.”

Among the agencies requesting NMMP assistance are the state police, county sheriff offices, local police departments, New Mexico Game and Fish, and New Mexico State Parks. Locally, they primarily work with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the RPD. With their role being to assist the officer/agency in whatever capacity they need, often this is done during regular patrol when a NMMP trooper rides with a full-time officer allowing that unit to have an extra officer in the vehicle to respond to calls.

NMMP also works special events, such as Hike-It & Spike-It, the Taos Fiesta and the New Mexico State Fair. Troopers, through authority of a local or state agency, have assisted the FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshals, Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service during visits made by the president and vice-president. Some around the state have even taken specialized training, allowing them to serve on the New Mexico State Police Dive Team, and as members of local SWAT teams.

“We receive donations from different community partners,” Lewis said. “Locally, we have received equipment from the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the RPD. In 2018, Sheriff (Mike) Herrington worked with Sen. Pirtle to secure funding for body armor for any officer serving Chaves County; this included the local NMMP here in Roswell. While the vests are the property of the Sheriff’s Office, they’re used by troopers who serve and assist local agencies so they can remain safe.”

When it comes to the troopers’ view, Lewis said, “The best part about this organization is knowing that we are serving our community, and providing the officers and agencies we work with an extra person who’s trained and ready to respond.”

NMMP is unique and unlike any law enforcement agency in the world due to how they were created and how they operate.

“And being that we are all-volunteer,” Ellis said, “it’s all about service and making a difference in our community. By assisting our full-time brothers and sisters, and giving back to New Mexico, we can continue to ensure the safety and security of the citizens who live here. For 79 years, we have served this great state, and have done so with pride, commitment and dedication. God willing, we’ll serve for many years to come.”

“I have made friends who are considered family and have had the opportunity to do things that I would never have been able to otherwise,” Ellis said.

If interested in becoming a NMMP trooper, contact Lewis at ryan.lewis@nmmp.us, or Ellis (NMMP, Troop 13) at eddie.ellis@nmmp.us. or visit www.NMMP.US to learn more about the organization and their true dedication to serve and protect.