FARMINGTON — City documents state that alcohol -- and its use by Navajos -- are among the biggest issues facing Farmington's next police chief, and tribal officials are calling those statements insensitive.
The city is accepting applications for the next chief of police until Nov. 15, according to a seven-page document on the city's website that describes the area, position, requirements and challenges facing the city.
Farmington Police Chief Kyle Westall has announced he will retire Dec. 31, after spending nearly 26 years with the department.
In the document, the city lists four challenges the next police chief will face. The first is alcohol abuse. Last year, 640 people were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and 2,105 were placed in protective custody, according to city documents.
"Much of the surrounding region is 'dry' -- including the nearby reservation -- and, as a result, people come to Farmington to purchase alcohol," the document states. "Hence, drunk driving and public intoxication occur fairly frequently."
Leonard Gorman, the executive director of the Navajo Human Rights Commission, said the language in the document is insensitive. The document mentions the problems that come from Navajos buying alcohol in Farmington and does not mention the positive effects Navajo spending brings to the community, he said.
"Not one border town, city has raised a complaint about how Navajos provide a substantial increase to a border town's retail economy," he said. "Based on the way the document is written ... they (Navajos) are the ones who are creating problems."
The city hired a consulting firm to find qualified candidates for the police chief position, said Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes. He said the firm wrote the document, which attempts to be transparent in describing the issues the next chief will face.
It isn't intended to be a complete description of the relationship between Farmington and the Navajo Nation, Mayes said.
"The influence of alcohol, by Anglos, Hispanics and Navajos, is a significant law enforcement challenge facing the next police chief," Mayes said. "The document ... expresses the crime statistics that we have."
Those crime statistics don't devalue the important role the Navajo Nation has in Farmington, Mayes said.
"The economic and cultural effects of the Navajo Nation are extremely important to the community," he said.
Westall agreed that alcohol abuse has been one of the biggest problems in Farmington for several decades.
"The chief of police deals with a lot of the politics of the police department and tries to bring resolution to the community's issues," Westall said. "I think alcohol, and how we deal with it, is one of the primary issues for law enforcement."
Gorman said the Navajo Human Rights Commission wants to be involved in selecting Farmington's next police chief.
Flagstaff, Ariz., signed a contract with the tribe in 2012 that allowed a Navajo Nation Human Rights commissioner to participate in the city's hiring process for its police chief, Gorman said.
The other challenges facing the next police chief, according to the city documents, are the area's isolation and that five of the nine highest-ranking Farmington police officers will retire by July because of retirement changes for state employees.
The fourth challenge is diversity within the department, according to the document.
The document states that the composition of the department would ideally better reflect the local demographics, and that the next chief will be tasked with maintaining and strengthening relationships with Hispanic and Navajo communities.
Mayes said the city paid a consulting firm $19,000 to find police chief candidates. The firm will present the city with a pool of qualified candidates in December, and the city will ask the firm to do background checks on some of those candidates for $750 apiece.
After that, the city will likely interview three to five candidates for the position. Candidates will be interviewed by a panel of community members, the Citizen Police Advisory Committee and a professional panel composed of Farmington police and officers from other agencies, city councilors and Mayes.
Mayes said the city will ask the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to have a representative on the community panel.
Mayes said he will listen to feedback from the city council and the other panels before he selects the next police chief.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.