Randy Foster
Randy Foster (Courtesy of City of Bloomfield)

BLOOMFIELD — The City of Bloomfield has chosen Randy Foster to serve as the police department's new chief. He is a 20-year veteran of law enforcement and native New Mexican whose career has been defined by public highs and lows.

Foster, 38, currently serves as a deputy in the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, a department he joined in 2013 after being fired by the Los Alamos County Police Department. Foster's firing came as a result of a highly-publicized federal lawsuit filed by a former corporal in the department, who alleged that Foster and Scott Mills committed him to a mental institution against his will. Foster and Mills served as acting chief and acting deputy chief for the department during the December 2012 incident.

Cpl. Brian Schamber, who was receiving treatment for bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders at the time, said in the lawsuit that the commanders acted against him out of jealousy.

The Los Alamos County Police Department and the County Council of Los Alamos were named as defendants in the lawsuit. The county eventually paid Schamber $600,000 to settle the lawsuit and fired Foster for his role in the incident.

Foster, Mills and Schamber's former partner, Paige Early, sued Los Alamos County in January. Foster alleges that his firing violated several state and federal laws, including the New Mexico Fraud against Taxpayer Act and the Whistleblowers Protection Act.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Alamos District Court, depicts Schamber as an emotionally disturbed individual who had expressed a desire to harm himself, fellow officers and community members before his commitment. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Bloomfield Human Resources Director Donna Clifton said the city received 26 applications for police chief. Six candidates, including Bloomfield acting Police Chief Marlin Wyatt and Farmington police Lt. Neil Haws, were selected as final candidates.

"A lot of them were very qualified," Clifton said. "We were originally only going to bring in four (candidates), but we brought in six."

Each of the six candidates were interviewed by three committees, made up of law enforcement leaders, community members and city department heads. Each of the groups asked their own set of questions and scored each applicant based on their performance.

City Manager David Fuqua said Foster overall scored highest among the candidates, ranked first, second or third by each of the three committees.

"They were all pretty close to each other, but he definitely scored highest overall," Fuqua said.

Fuqua said the second-highest-scoring candidate was Stephen Hasler, "an Englishman who used to work in Scotland Yard."

According to The Pueblo Chieftain, Hasler twice served as police chief in Northern Colorado, for a combined total of 18 years. He worked as an investigator at New Scotland Yard in the 1980s before moving to the United States in 1991.

Foster served from 1995 to 1998 as a reserve police officer for the Portales Police Department. During that same period, he worked as a deputy for the Los Alamos County Sheriff's Office, where he was responsible for all civil processes in the county.

In 1998, Foster began his 15-year career with the Los Alamos County Police Department, working his way up through the ranks before being named acting chief in November 2012.

Foster earned a bachelor's degree in sociology with a criminal justice focus from Eastern New Mexico University in 1998. In 2010, he earned a master's in criminal justice from New Mexico State University in 2010. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and was recently a finalist for the position of Santa Fe police chief.

Wyatt said he was disappointed he was not chosen for the Bloomfield chief position, but he believed the hiring process was fair.

Wyatt will return to his position as deputy chief when Foster begins on Aug. 4.

"I know Randy's quality," Wyatt said. "I think he will come in here and I think the direction we both have is the same direction. At the end of the day, I think he will be a great fit."

Fuqua said he was initially concerned about Foster's firing in Los Alamos. He said after speaking to Foster, he had no concerns about the man's honesty and integrity.

"It is not always a bad thing to get fired, especially in today's political climate," he said.

Foster told The Daily Times that he wanted to be a police officer since he was 2 or 3 years old.

"I don't know how a 3 year old decides they are going to be a policeman," he said.

He said he applied because the Bloomfield area had a lot to offer and the police department had a good relationship with the community, a strength he would like to build upon.

About the lawsuit, he said he told the committees that he was wrongfully terminated and he believed his court filings supported that fact.

"I encouraged them to do a background check and look into the documents," he said. "I think they would see a different side of the story."

Foster has two children, 3-year-old twin boys, with his wife Shayna Whitaker.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and sgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.