The Lake Arthur, New Mexico Police Department is on the hot seat. To many, Lake Arthur is a small town in the middle of nowhere with a population of about 430 residents. It’s 33 miles south of Roswell, smack dab between Lubbock and El Paso.
But the Lake Arthur PD has an unusually large reserve police force with more than 100 “officers” on its roster. As krqe.com reports,
“We started it out as a way to have more law enforcement here in the town,” Lake Arthur’s long-time Mayor Ysidro Salazar said. “Our community is so small that we can’t afford to pay a police officer a lot of money.”
(Police Chief) Will Norwood came up with a suggestion to help the village with a no-cost law enforcement solution. Norwood submitted his proposal to the Lake Arthur Town Council. “He came up with the idea that maybe we can have some reserves and they’ll help us out,” Mayor Salazar recollected.
Norwood proposed forming a Lake Arthur posse of sorts, a group of volunteers called Reserve Officers who could help keep the village safe. Because reservists are not certified police officers, under New Mexico law they do not have law enforcement powers to act on their own and they cannot make arrests.
But 80% of them live outside New Mexico.
The Lake Arthur Reserve Police Program was launched in 2005. But instead of recruiting local residents, the “Chief” rounded up a posse from across the country. There were ex-military buddies, gun enthusiasts and a handful of celebrities.
Some of them are prominent names in the firearms industry while others are prominent politically. These people “joined” the force to get a badge and the attendant 50-state concealed carry privileges that go with it under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act.
Names you might recognize include like Duane Liptak (a director of Magpul ), Mark LaRue (LaRue Tactical), Jon Canipe (also with Magpul Dynamics), Charles Pressburg (Presscheck Consulting) just to name a few.
The conservative billionaire Koch Brothers also had their bodyguards armed and authorized through Lake Arthur PD. Other big names are US Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell of Lone Survivor fame and Rob O’Neil, the SEAL who claimed to kill Osama Bin Laden along with Andrew Arrabito, former SEAL and now part time movie actor.
KRQE News 13 discovered that the Lake Arthur Police Chief, Will Norwood abused his authority by passing out legitimate police credentials.
…Lake Arthur’s “Chief” abused his authority by passing out legitimate police credentials. In exchange for a $400 annual fee paid to the private Lake Arthur Reserve Police Officer Association, the credentials Will Norwood issued gave his friends full police powers with statewide authority. A Lake Arthur commission card allows an individual to wear badges, carry concealed weapons, bypass accredited training and play cop.
Chief Norwood has since resigned.
Mayor Ysidro Salazar now says he is “bothered” by Norwood handing police commissions to his out-of-state friends. Did the village law enforcement chief mislead the Town Council? “Yeah, he probably did,” Mayor Salazar said.
“Because of you asking for the names (on the Lake Arthur police roster) to be released, a lot of the Reserve Unit resigned,” Mayor Salazar said. “When (the officers) resigned I dismantled the Reserve Unit.” He said all the Lake Arthur police credentials issued by Will Norwood have been recalled and will be destroyed.
Most amazing is that under the law, Lake Arthur’s Reserve Program didn’t qualify for LEOSA carry privileges due to New Mexico’s low police standards. In New Mexico, reserve officers only have authority when working with a full-time sworn officer. Off duty, they carry no weight. But Chief Norwood apparently didn’t tell his reserve officers that.
The danger of a program like this comes when out-of-state law enforcement encounter one of these badge-holders. LEOSA states that someone can carry if they’re issued photo ID and credentials and have the authority under law and agency policy to carry off duty and make arrests.
But your average beat cop in, say, Florida isn’t going to call the Lake Arthur PD and ask for a copy of their policy. Nor is he going to call the New Mexico State Police Standards Board. He’s going to see a badge and ID and go on what his own agency has told him. Cops can carry off duty across the country if they can carry off duty at home. And the vast majority of agencies have their cops carry off duty.
As a law enforcement officer, I am 100% in favor of national reciprocity for all Americans. And I am 100% opposed to what happened in Lake Arthur. Not just because I’m a cop. I’m against it because it diminishes the stature of honest reserve police all over the country. These are cops that joined for no pay to help serve their communities.
This wasn’t an altruistic action by Chief Norwood as a way to expand the number of peace officers, or let more people exercise their Second Amendment rights. It was a pay to play scheme, pure and simple.
A number of big wigs in the gun industry are legitimate reserve cops. Travis Haley (of Magpul and Haley Strategic fame) is a reserve officer. He serves his agency by donating training to the department and other agencies that saves tax payers dollars and makes for better law enforcement officers. Another honest big wig is Massad Ayoob. He’s been a reserve police officer with the Grantham, New Hampshire Police Department since 1972 and he actively serves his community.
There appears to have been nothing honorable or altruistic in the Lake Arthur scheme. This is no different than the CCW schemes in California where former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca gave out CCW permits to major campaign donors. The rich and well-connected got permits and regular citizenry were left defenseless.
News like this doesn’t help the cause National Reciprocity at all. In fact it hurts. Furthermore, the fact that there are some names from the industry involved doesn’t further our cause either.