The public safety director of Laguna Pueblo, a captain for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and a deputy chief/major with the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Public Schools Police Department with ties to Hobbs are the three finalists for Hobbs police chief.
Jesus “Jesse” Francisco Orozco, public safety director for the Laguna Pueblo; John Joseph Ortolano, a captain for the Arizona Department of Public Safety where he’s worked since June 1998; and Virgil Lee Green Sr., deputy chief/major with the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Public Schools Police Department who graduated from Hobbs High School in 1982, will come to Hobbs for a final interview in July, said city communications director Meghan Mooney.
The three men are the finalists chosen by an advisory committee from a pool of 26 applicants that included a detective with the Chicago Police Department, an ATF agent, a former Lea County sheriff, a current Lea County magistrate judge, and police chiefs from around the nation, including Roswell.
Mooney said the last interviews with the finalists will take place July 16-18 in Hobbs.
“They’re going to tour the city and HPD,” Mooney said. “And then they will also meet the department heads and they’ll end the day with a final interview with the hiring advisory committee.”
The Police Chief Hiring Advisory Committee is comprised of acting city manager Manny Gomez; human resources director Nicholas Goulet; deputy city attorney Erik Scramlin; RP Hopper, president of Hobbs Local Union 701; Gene Strickland, director of operations for Hobbs Municipal Schools; Joe Cotton, president of the NAACP Hobbs branch; Becca Titus, business owner and instructor at New Mexico Junior College; Lemma White, a retired judge and educator; and Angela Martinez, director of the Lea County Communications Authority.
The committee did not chose for finalists any of the six applicants with former or current experience with the Hobbs Police Department. Those applicants were Brian C. Belyeu, who was employed by the HPD from June 1996 through June 2015, reaching the rank of lieutenant before retiring; Shane Blevins, a current captain at the Hobbs Police Department, who has been with HPD since June 2005; Danny Garrett Sr., a current police lieutenant who’s been with the HPD since October 2006; Mark C. Hargrove, a former Lea County sheriff who was a field training officer for the HPD from 1989 to 1994; James “Jimmie” Jones, currently the Eunice magistrate judge who was a Hobbs police officer for five months in 2011 before becoming police chief in Eunice; and Michael Stone, who worked for the HPD from December 1999 through December 2018 as a grant writer, public information officer and crime analyst.
HPD interim chief and deputy chief Brian Dunlap did not apply for the police chief position. Dunlap was appointed interim police chief following the retirement of former Police Chief Chris McCall on Feb. 28.
McCall, who worked his way up the HPD ranks after starting as a patrolman in February 1999, had been police chief for 6 1/2 years. He was the 24th police chief in the police department’s 90-year history.
Mooney said 12 of the 26 applicants were initially interviewed via the internet, with nine of those later interviewed in-person. She said there are no plans at this time for the three finalists to meet with the public during the final round of interviews. Mooney said the plan is to choose a new police chief after the final round of interviews.
The city has been soliciting input from the public about qualities community members would like the next police chief to have. Mooney said 85 people responded to the bilingual online survey on the city’s website that gathered feedback regarding the characteristics, accomplishments, and abilities people preferred the next police chief to possess.
“Integrity was high up on the list,” Mooney said. “They did want experience, specifically in public safety and military. They are interested in community policing and new ideas for community policing, for crime-fighting strategies, all of those things.
“We focused on that and shared that information with the hiring advisory committee.”
Mooney said the three finalists have been notified of the dates of their last interviews.
“Each of these three candidates has the professional training, experience and ability that we hope for in the new chief of police as well as from the survey responses and before that,” Mooney said. “Out of several highly-qualified candidates, we’re looking forward to continuing the tradition and a merit-based approach helps ensure a fair selection process.”
The position leading the department of 151 current staff members with 107 certified officers has an advertised annual salary of $96,018 to $161,169. Mooney said the salary to be offered the next police chief will be merit-based.
“That will be discussed then at that point with whoever the selected chief of police is,” she said.
McCall retired with an annual salary of $144,996.80, or an hourly rate of $69.71. He was the third-highest paid city employee among the city’s 550-person workforce. The Hobbs Police Department has among the highest starting pay rates among law enforcement agencies in the state, offering certified officers $26.02 an hour, or about $54,122 annually.
The application process for police chief was extensive. Applicants were asked to list every job they have held in their adult lives, every address at which they’ve lived for the past 10 years, to provide a copy of their current motor vehicle record and education transcripts, and to disclose any form of illegal drug use throughout their lives.
Among the requirements, the next Hobbs police chief must have a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement, criminal justice, public administration or a related field, and a minimum of five years at a command-level position “in a progressive law enforcement agency,” according to the city’s job posting. The job posting said the city also preferred those who have completed advanced law enforcement leadership training, such as the FBI’s National Academy. The next Hobbs police chief must live within a 5-mile radius of the city.
• VIRGIL LEE GREEN SR. is a 1982 Hobbs High School graduate and 2019 graduate of American Military University in Charles Town, West Virginia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He served as chief of police in Boley, Okla. from November 1999 through July 2011, leaving the Boley Police Department to become the chief of police for the Spencer Police Department in Spencer, Okla., where he served as chief from August 2011 through March 2015. Green was the chief of police for the West Helena Police Department in Helena, Ark. from July 2015 through May 2017. Green then joined the Tulsa Public Schools Police Department in Tulsa, Okla. where he has been deputy chief since November 2018.
“As the Deputy Chief for the Tulsa Public Schools Police Department, the agency is responsible for the safety of over 41,000 students and over 100 schools,” Green wrote in his application. “Tulsa Public Schools is the second-largest school district in the State of Oklahoma. The deputy chief is a part of the administrative support staff for the school district where he represents the police department with the City of Tulsa Police Department. The deputy chief provides administrative support to the police chief, supervise a staff of 20 commissioned campus police officers and 20 campus security officers.”
Green’s monthly salary in Tulsa is $3,500. He listed a minimum compensation of $30 an hour on his application.
Green said in his cover letter that becoming the chief of police in Hobbs has been a lifelong dream and professional goal.
“My journey into law enforcement started at the young age of 12 years old, when (redacted) Edward Coleman joined me up with the Hobbs Police Department junior explore program under the guidance of several great guys like Raoul McPeters, Dan Cheatham and others who helped influence me as a youth to one day have a career in law enforcement,” Green wrote in his cover letter.
Green said as a police chief, he has established a foundation of integrity, respect for others, and humility toward co-workers and the community.
“Not only do I hold my employees accountable I challenge them daily to hold me to a higher level of accountability,” he wrote. “My ability to effectively listen to others before responding to questions provides me the ability to lead and mentor.”
Green said transparency is important for a police chief.
“One of the most important skills a police chief must have is being open and honest with the public and gaining the entire community trust and being someone who is open and transparent with the community,” he wrote. “I would be so honored and humbled to be elected as the leader of such a great organization, coming back to (redacted) wearing that HPD patch with that eagle PRIDE would mean that my law enforcement career has come full circle.”
• JESUS “JESSE” FRANCISCO OROZCO was a state police officer for 23 years before becoming public safety director for the Laguna Pueblo.
Orozco has been the public safety director at the pueblo since July 2012, where his monthly salary is $8,021. Orozco listed a minimum compensation of $76 an hour on his application.
Orozco earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Eastern New Mexico University in May 1986. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University while stationed at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Orozco was deputy director at New Mexico Tech from November 2010 through July 2012. He was a New Mexico State Police officer from December 1987 through October 2010, reaching the rank of major. Orozco was a detention officer/sergeant at the Curry County Detention Facility from May 1986 through December 1987. During college, he worked for a carpet cleaning company in Clovis.
Orozco began his state police career stationed in Hobbs and said he is aware of the city’s diversity.
“Procedural, community and constitutional policing is finding a fine balance between proactive enforcement, and gaining the buy-in of less fortunate communities to address crime problems,” Orozco wrote in his cover letter. “During my tenure at the Pueblo of Laguna, there have been four separate officer-involved shooting incidents, which would normally bring scrutiny to a police department. But due to the effective community and constitutional policing strategies implemented, the police department has been embraced and supported during these sensitive times. Ultimately, the key is to be transparent, in order to gain the trust of the community.”
Orozco is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
“I have instructed at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, Clovis Community College, and presented at various methamphetamine awareness conferences in New Mexico and Arizona,” he wrote. “My extensive experience, education and training have well-prepared me for the challenges this position would face on a daily basis. I believe my personality and leadership styles are an excellent fit for the principals, citizens, and employees of the city of Hobbs.”
• JOHN JOSEPH ORTOLANO is a captain for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, where his current monthly salary is $8,800. He listed a minimum compensation of $57.69 an hour.
Ortolano graduated from Empire State College in Buffalo with an associate’s degree in science, math and technology in October 1994, and with a bachelor’s degree in science, math and technology in 1996. He obtained a master’s degree in criminal justice/disaster & emergency management from American Military University in July 2015.
Ortolano has worked for the Arizona Department of Public Safety since June 1998, serving as a captain since September 2014.
“I currently serve as the District Commander for the State Gang Task Force in Phoenix,” he wrote in his application. “This unit is comprised of Phoenix area gang suppression squads as well as a specialized criminal targeting unit. This multi-agency Task Force is comprised of State Troopers, local Phoenix area municipal police officers, and Federal Agents.”
Ortolano has been an Arizona trustee on the national board of directors for the Fraternal Order of Police since June 2011.
“I frequently meet with the heads of police and sheriff agencies, elected officials, and members of the public concerning police issues, legislative developments and other assorted issues,” he continued. “I am well-versed with police labor and employee issues and fair resolutions of grievances.”
Prior to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Ortolano was an education supervisor for ITT Technical Institute in Getzville, N.Y. from May 1996 through June 1998. Ortolano was also a petty officer in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Va., from February 1987 through February 1993., and a combat medic in the New York Army National Guard from August 1983 through December 1986.
“As a law enforcement professional with a proven background in leading criminal investigation and patrol districts as well as serving in administrative and tactical operations positions, it is with confidence that I submit my resume for consideration to become a member of your team,” he wrote in his cover letter. “Throughout my career, I have been successful in producing positive results and I have a consistent history of advancing shared departmental and program goals.”
The application window for police chief was mid-April through May 10. The others who applied were:
• Alan O’Brian Ballew, most recently the chief of police in Windcrest Police Department in Windcrest, Texas, who has over 35 years of law enforcement experience.
• Conny Dwain Clay, chief of police since 2018 for the city of Olney, Texas, who has 18-plus years in law enforcement.
• Robin Golden Daniels, most recently the chief of police for the Seldovia Police Department in Seldovia, Alaska.
• Kevin Frederick Denney, chief of police for the Red Oak ISD Police Department in Red Oak, Texas.
• Glen Ray Fowler, global security operations chief for Bell Helicopter-Textron of Fort Worth, Texas.
• Rodolphe Francois Sr., squad leader for the New Mexico National Guard in Las Cruces, and an officer for the Carlsbad Police Department from January 2018 to September 2018.
• Kevin LaWayne Gillian, chief of police of the University of North Alabama in Florence, Ala.
• Scott Lawrence Heagney, a supervisory special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Dallas.
• Eric M. Herrera, most recently the chief of police for the Uvalde Police Department in Uvalde, Texas.
• Casey S. Malone, a lieutenant for the Farmington Police Department. He’s worked for the FPD since June 2002.
• Michael Gene McConnell Sr., chief of police for the Horizon City Police Department in Horizon City, Texas.
• Michael Edward Pelfrey, most recently the assistant chief of police for the North Port Police Department in North Port, Florida.
• Bruce Lain Phipps, a detective with the Chicago Police Department, and member of the Chicago Police Department since January 1995.
• Ty R. Sharpe, chief of police for Dilworth, Minnesota, and a 12-year employee of the Roswell Police Department.
• Phillip A. Smith, chief of police in Roswell since October 2013, who has been with the RPD since September 2011.
• Stewart Alan Steele, chief of police for the Rio Rancho Police Department since August 2017.
• Steve Taylor, assistant police chief for the Searcy Police Department in Searcy, Ark., where he’s worked since October 2004.
Jeff Tucker can be reached at managingeditor@hobbsnews.