Phillip Francisco was sworn in as chief of the Navajo Police Department during a ceremony today at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Police Department has a new chief.

Phillip Francisco was sworn in as chief during a ceremony today at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz.

Francisco, who served as an officer with the Farmington Police Department prior to being selected as chief last month, was administered the oath of office by Navajo Nation Supreme Court Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley.

In a speech afterward, Francisco spoke about his outlook for the tribal department, which has seven police districts that cover the approximately 27,000-square-mile reservation.

With 18 years of law enforcement experience and six years of military service, Francisco said he looks forward to applying those leadership skills he has learned to his capacity as police chief.

"It takes a team working together to accomplish a mission. The Navajo Police Department will not only have to work well within itself, but will also have to work as a team with the community and other agencies to accomplish our goal," Francisco said.

The new police chief, who is born for Hashtl'ishnii (Mud Clan), also worked at the Aztec Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

Francisco served four years in the U.S. Army, earning the rank of specialist, and he will become a lieutenant with the New Mexico Army National Guard next month.

Since ending his service with the Farmington Police Department on July 22, he completed National Guard training in the state of Washington.

In an interview after the ceremony, Francisco reemphasized the need for teamwork within the department and with outside agencies.

"I've been anxious to get started. Now that I'm here, I feel like starting to make improvements," he said while the chief badge, which was pinned to his uniform by his wife, Glynna Francisco, captured the auditorium light.

As he settles into office, he will continue assessing the police department, and in the next month, he will visit the police districts in Shiprock and Crownpoint and in Chinle, Dilkon, Kayenta, Tuba City and Window Rock in Arizona.

A number of law enforcement officers and personnel attended the nearly two-hour ceremony for Francisco, including Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.

"It's a great day for NPD. It's an honor to him, it's an honor for our agency that he's given the opportunity to come out here and help lead this agency," Hebbe said in an interview after the event.

Hebbe added the Farmington Police Department looks forward to working with Francisco to improve communication and the roles of both agencies in their communities, including training opportunities and partnering on investigations.

He said the agencies work together at events such as the Northern Navajo Nation Fair and the Connie Mack World Series.

"We want to work together to keep everyone safe at those events. …We're looking forward to continuing to build a better relationship," Hebbe said.

The chief of police seat had been vacant since 2008. Until today, high ranking officers from the various police districts have been filling the role.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said filling the position was among the top priorities for his administration.

"It's been a long time coming," Begaye said.

Jesse Delmar, executive director for the Division of Public Safety, said in more than 20 years of working with the tribe, he never witnessed an individual sworn in as police chief.

"This is a first for myself and a first for a lot of you. …I'm very excited to work with you for many years to come," Delmar said.

Members of the Navajo Nation Council also expressed the need to continue creating partnerships with outside agencies and building on those already established.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates offered advice to Francisco by telling him those partnerships have "true value" and can be used to address the needs of the people. He added the council's Law and Order Committee has been "aggressively" focusing on public safety in tribal communities.

In June, the committee passed a bill that directed President Begaye and Delmar to hire a police chief by July 13.

Delegate Edmund Yazzie, who serves as committee chairman, said committee members remain dedicated to rebuilding the police department.

The committee recently worked with Delmar to approve salary increases for officers and together, they look forward to working with Francisco, Yazzie said.

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

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