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Police chief to step down

Rio Rancho Chief of Police Michael J. Geier

Rio Rancho Chief of Police Michael J. Geier

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Wanting more quality time with his family, Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael Geier will step down from his position in February to make that happen.

Geier’s last active day with RRPD will be Feb. 18. He will then utilize the rest of his remaining two months of allotted vacation time. Geier’s “final” day with the department will be in April.

Deputy Chief Paul Rogers will serve as the acting police chief, while a national search to replace Geier takes place; Geier will help conduct the search.

Geier joined RRPD in 2014, following a 20-year career with the Albuquerque Police Department, replacing retiring Bob Boone.

Geier’s decision to step away from the police force came at the beginning of the year, as he said he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who suffers from the rare skin disease scleroderma.

“I’ve been doing this for 43 years and, at some point, you’ve got to put something first. We’ve been together 42 years …right now, I need an extended sabbatical to help her and give that attention,” he said.

Although he’s not retiring, Geier said he would consider a job teaching criminal justice in the future.

Geier’s career began in 1974 as an officer in northern Chicago. Police forces were beginning to change, he said, as more college-educated recruits became officers and the Chicago Police Department hired its first-ever female police officer.

“In some ways, the job isn’t that much different from place to place,” Geier said. “We’re all human at heart – there’s going to be good people. That’s life, but that’s what makes this job interesting (is) you get to be out there dealing with that.”

Geier said his time in Rio Rancho has been positive, saying the community helped support the department through difficult times. In May 2015, officer Gregg Benner was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. The officer’s death shook the department hard, Geier said, and occurred nearly six months after the department lost officer Anthony Haase, who died in a motor vehicle crash while responding to an early morning call.

“At some point, the community never stopped supporting us,” Geier said. “The day of that funeral, when they lined the streets, or on the anniversary of his death – just for whatever reason, they’ll drop in and say, ‘Hey, here’s lunch,’ or ‘Here’s some treats for the officers’ or just thank-you cards that come in.”

One of Geier’s initial priorities with the department was providing crisis intervention training for officers, he said. Since starting three years ago, 100 percent of the department’s officers have received basic mental health first aid training and 40 percent of officers have received advanced training. In 2016, the International Association of Chiefs of Police awarded RRPD the “Excellence in Victim Services Award.” The department was also awarded accreditation by the state’s law enforcement professional standards council last year.

“I’m not one to look and take credit for that; that’s not me, that’s everyone else doing that work. I just planted the seeds, so to speak,” Geier said.