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Mora sheriff, state police at odds

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By David Giuliani

When Mora County residents dial 911, they reach dispatchers from the state police. That’s the way it’s been for years.

But Mora County Sheriff Roy Cordova contends that the state police have kept his deputies out of the loop when it comes to major crimes in his county.

“If there is a homicide or something big, they hesitate to call my office. But if it’s small like someone calling about a neighbor’s dog in their yard, the state police will call us,” Cordova said. “I would like a courtesy call about what’s going on.”

State police Capt. Toby Dolan said his agency has long been responsible for answering crime calls in all of the rural areas of northeastern New Mexico.

“We’re the only agency that runs a graveyard shift outside of the incorporated areas of San Miguel, Mora, Colfax, Union and the majority of Harding counties,” Dolan said.

Dolan said state police dispatchers would call Mora County deputies about crime calls if they knew their locations. If a deputy was closer than a state police officer, it would make sense to have the deputy go, he said. But the deputies don’t call the dispatchers about when they’re on shift and where they are, which makes it difficult for the dispatchers.

“We try to find the closest responding unit,” the captain said.

But if the dispatchers don’t have quick information on Mora County deputies’ whereabouts, they will send state police officers to crime scenes because public safety is the priority, Dolan said.

After hours, calls to the Sheriff’s Department’s non-emergency number, which is (575) 387-2222, are forwarded to the state police. Cordova said he has a deputy on duty until 2 a.m.

Dolan said the state police provide the after-hours service free of charge, even though other agencies would charge for that service. For instance, he notes that Raton charges the Colfax County Sheriff’s Department for providing dispatch services after hours.

Dolan encouraged Mora County deputies to call in to his agency, but Cordova said his deputies don’t answer to the state police; they have their own dispatcher during the day, he said.

Cordova said Dolan is “pretty much lying” when he says state police would like to involve deputies when responding to crimes in Mora County. Dolan declined to respond to that charge, only saying, “(Such statements) make it difficult to have a close working relationship. I’m open to working with him.”

Cordova said that when a murder occurred in Mora County earlier this year, he didn’t find out about it until he went to have a meal at a restaurant.

“The people knew about it before I even knew. That’s where I got kind of bugged. I don’t like to fight with state police. They don’t want to work with my office,” he said.

Relations between the two agencies have been tense for some time. Earlier this month, Cordova ran a column in the Optic in which he accused dispatchers of saying his deputies weren’t on duty when they actually were. He said that if residents get such a response, they should notify him. He noted that state police record all their calls, so the sheriff could provide proof of the dispatchers’ alleged deception.

“We are the Sheriff’s Department, and we should be the ones on scene to help you, the residents of Mora County. That is why I was elected as the Mora County sheriff,” Cordova stated in the column.

In response to the allegation against state police dispatchers, Dolan said, “I hold the dispatchers in high regard. They have to meet training requirements, and they are all certified. We have good employees, and they are not in the practice of lying.”