Charles Cunningham said joining the Hobbs Police Department turned out to be the “best decision” he ever made, as he reflected on his law enforcement career this week, ahead of his last day working for the department.
Cunningham, a department captain, finished his Hobbs police career Thursday after a crowded retirement reception the day before where droves of uniformed officers, retired former colleagues, friends, city employees and others turned out to celebrate his nearly 23-year law enforcement career with gifts and food. Practical jokes from long ago were regaled for the crowd’s amusement, while Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall listed words that “continually came up” in Cunningham’s notations, file entries and commendations like professionalism, ethical, motivated, knowledgeable and dedication.
“I guess truly, his professionalism and his ethics, are really the cornerstone of who he is and are the best descriptions of how he approached his career as a police officer from the time I’ve known him,” McCall said.
Growing up an “Army brat,” Cunningham lived throughout the United States and across the world before moving to Roswell following his father’s military retirement. He graduated from Roswell High School and explained his career path as wanting to help people. He started with the Hagerman Police Department in December 1994 and later joined to Hobbs in July 1998, after doing some pay comparisons.
“Doing a pay comparison compared to Hobbs, it was a no-brainer,” he explained. “It was easy and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”
Cunningham said Hobbs police is blessed to have what it does in terms of support and equipment. He’s worked for six police chiefs, several acting chiefs and saw his profession evolve as he climbed the ranks.
“We’re in a position where our community and our local government body, Hobbs City Commission, supports us and gives us all the tools and necessary equipment that we need to do this job effectively,” Cunningham said. “So, we’re definitely blessed and it’s been that way ever since I started here.”
What’s the biggest change since he started his police career? It’s arguably the same thing it is for most people as the years go by: technology. At the beginning, he had “antiquated” radio systems with computers few and far between.
“We had word processors and typewriters and you also had your hand when you wrote everything. We handwrote everything we did when I first started,” he said. “There was no computers, no nothing, no fancy gizmos in the police cars, none of the electronics that you see now.”
Cunningham, of course, began as a patrol officer and moved on to roles such as field training officer, patrol sergeant, internal affairs sergeant and sergeant of the community action team. He received a promotion to lieutenant in 2010, earned his last rank of captain in January 2015 and finished up commanding the support services division, which involves behind-the-scenes duties like professional standards, hiring and recruiting, school resource officer program, records department, the community relations team and accreditation.
“Charles is going to be truly missed. A big hole to fill,” Deputy Police Chief Brian Dunlap said. “He’s had his hand in a lot of different things in the department. A lot of knowledge goes with him out the door and he’s become a friend, a good confidante over the years. We’re really going to miss him.”
Cunningham hasn’t decided what’s next for him career wise, but he seems excited to find out. He’ll take some time off to decompress and “see what happens.”
“I know I’m going to miss this career. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. It’s the people I’m going to miss the most,” he said. “People that work here and sacrifice so much of themselves for the benefit of our community.”