LAS CRUCES – Sunland Park has a new police chief, but it might take him a while to get fully into the good graces of the District Attorney’s Office.
Following the arrest last week of acting Police Chief Luis Monarez and Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas in a bribery case, the Sunland Park City Council agreed Tuesday to hire Sgt. Jaime Reyes, 34, as police chief. Reyes was selected over two higher-ranking lieutenants.
District Attorney Amy Orlando said Wednesday that, following Monarez’s arrest, she has declined to accept referrals of criminal cases directly from Sunland Park because of concerns about the integrity of the police agency. “I don’t know that I can vouch for anybody down there,” Orlando said.
Orlando said she has told Sunland Park officials that her department will not take felony cases from the city unless State Police or the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office handle the investigation or are consulted first.
Monarez, 43, and Salinas, 28, were arrested March 19 on charges of bribery and conspiracy.
Investigators alleged Salinas offered Monarez a job as police captain in early January in exchange for Monarez’s help in talking his sister out of running for a City Council post on an opposition slate.
In a separate case, Salinas and other city officials face criminal charges in an extortion case for allegedly trying to force a rival mayoral candidate from the race with the threat that an embarrassing sex video would be released to the press.
The City Council had fired Monarez in December 2009 as State Police investigated allegations he provided alcohol to three minors. No charges were filed against him in that case. But in January, authorities allege, as Salinas sought a way to improve the odds that one member of his City Council slate would win, he offered Monarez the police job.
Reyes, a veteran of 14 years in law enforcement, the past three in Sunland Park, gets a raise with his promotion from $49,000 per year as sergeant to $58,000 as chief. He oversees a department with 23 uniformed officers.
Orlando said she will not revise her policy about the beleaguered city until she reviews Reyes’ background while a multipronged investigation of Sunland Park affairs continues.
“There might be a time where we say, ‘OK, we’ll accept cases from him (Reyes)’ … but I can tell you right now, that’s not going to happen for a while. There’s way too much going on.”
Reyes said he understood Orlando’s position and wants to regain her trust and return to a solid partnership with prosecutors.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal