BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Here’s a plan that takes the idea of a citizen’s arrest to another level, an understaffed New Mexico Police Department is hoping armed civilians can help fill in the gaps.
At Rey Dar’s barbershop in downtown Belen, patrons are hopeful, their community is about to get safer. “There’s lots of people that I think could be good candidates for it,” says Kenneth Luna.
This comes after Belen Police Chief James Harris announced on Facebook he’s hoping to restart the department’s reserve officer program.
“That was our primary goal was to get our manpower back up,” says Belen Police Chief James Harris.
The reserve force is made up of civilian volunteers, working side by side with officers. “They would have to have use of force training defensive tactics training and firearms training,” says Lt. Jose Natividad.
Keeping officers has been a longtime struggle for the department. Last November, State Police had to step in to pick up the slack.
“When you have a small department such as Belen being short 5 officers is pretty significant,” Harris says.
Some locals feel an armed volunteer unit is only a temporary solution. “I really believe that we need more officers but in the meanwhile, it’s good that more people get involved,” says Cece Aragon.
Chief Harris believes it could lead to a fully staffed department. “If we get more people that apply for those positions, those positions can move into full-time positions as well so it’s a recruiting tool that is outstanding for us,” Harris says.
Not just anyone can go through the program, you have to be at least 21-years-old and go through an extensive background check. The department ended its last program back in 2007. Right now, they have 16 officers and eight open positions.