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FARMINGTON — A Farmington police officer has been selected as the new chief of police for the Navajo Police Department.

Phillip Francisco, 40, is the first person named to the position since it became vacant in 2008, according to a press release issued today from the tribe’s Office of the President and Vice President. He is scheduled to assume his duties in early August.

Francisco, who has worked as a police officer for 18 years, is a patrol and training officer with the Farmington Police Department. He previously worked with the Aztec Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, the release states.

"The first thing I want to do is review policies to make sure they fit the needs of the citizens on the Navajo Nation. This way we can have our officers serve the citizens more effectively and efficiently," Francisco said in the release.

Francisco is Bilagáana (Anglo), born for Hashtl’ishnii (Mud Clan). His maternal grandfather clan is Bilagáana (Anglo), and his paternal grandfather clan is Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water).

"Bringing on a new chief will provide stability to our police force while reinforcing to the public that we are serious about protecting them," Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in the release.

Both Francisco and Begaye said filling the position is the first step toward filling vacancies in other districts across the reservation, which covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said the department is "very proud" of Francisco and excited for him and his family.

"This is a very important step for him and the Navajo Police Department. FPD looks forward to continuing our relationship with NPD and ensuring all the citizens of our community are well served,” Hebbe said.

The Navajo Police Department includes 225 sworn police officers, plus support staff, who work in districts in Shiprock and Crownpoint and in Chinle, Dilkon, Kayenta, Tuba City and Window Rock in Arizona, a spokesman with the president's office said today.

The tribe's Department of Personnel Management vetted two applicants for the position, said Jesse Delmar, executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, in a phone interview today.

A panel that consisted of regional police chiefs, sheriff's office personnel and a staff member from the tribe's police department conducted interviews with both candidates on June 22

"We're pretty excited to have him," Delmar said.

Last month, the tribal council’s Law and Order Committee passed a bill that called for the hiring of a police chief by July 13.

Delegate Edmund Yazzie, who serves as the committee chairman, said today that the bill was a “helping tool” for the agency.

"It is good news what NPD has done," Yazzie said, adding committee members look forward to meeting Francisco and working with him to address issues such as officer salaries, recruitment and re-establishing a police academy.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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