On Friday, March 3, RPD Chief Phil Smith formally announced his upcoming departure from his RPD position at the end of the month to head into new career challenges elsewhere. He has written the following letter to the members of RPD and would like to also share it with the community.
Eleven and a half years ago, I came to Roswell, New Mexico, to begin something that became really special. I surely was an outsider at the time, but I was swiftly and graciously welcomed by the many dedicated law enforcement professionals who make up the Roswell Police Department and City of Roswell. My time with this city and the Roswell Police Department has been, without a doubt, the most satisfying of my 39-year career in law enforcement and municipal government.
When I came to the RPD, I found a police department that was extremely efficient at enforcement, but needed some coaching in addressing the root causes of crime and reaching out with community policing. I found outstanding people who were frustrated by the increasing crime rate, “revolving door” legal system, low salaries and staffing issues. I found aged facilities that needed renovating (still needs), an organization that needed restructuring, and, perhaps most of all, an overall sense of organizational pride and purpose that needed to be restored. In meeting and talking with our members, I came to realize that the mission of the Roswell Police Department was intact, but relationship building with stakeholders, management and the community needed renewed and constant attention.
Over the past nine and a half years, as chief, I have worked vigorously to overcome hurdles and restore the pride of this great traditional Southwest police department. Looking back, I believe we have made extraordinary progress and achieved statewide unrivaled success. Today, the Roswell Police Department is stronger, fully staffed, more confident, has built stronger relationships, has reduced crime by 53% over nine and a half years and is better prepared to deal with the societal and community challenges that are ever present on the law enforcement horizon.
We are certainly a more professional and respected police department statewide and nationally. Salaries have been increased, promotions have become more consistent, technology has been modernized, our fleet and facilities have been upgraded, and training has become more extensive and relevant. Our professional standards are transparent and legitimate and sought out by other police agencies in New Mexico. We are highly regarded by the State Law Enforcement Academy Board. More RPD members, both civilian and sworn, are being given the opportunity to enhance their skills and further their careers. Our department has become more efficient managing police use of force, and de-escalation. We emphasize serving members of our community with specialized needs, enhancing traffic safety using automation, and providing training in civil rights and police responsibilities.
We have made prodigious advances in working with the community to combat crime (as stated). Through our comprehensive outreach programs, police hotspots and strategic placements, and saturation patrols strategy, we have engaged more residents than ever before in neighborhood safety, and through the Neighborhood Watch program, we have given them not only the tools, but also the support and the hope needed to make our neighborhoods safer. The members of the Roswell Police Department have maintained the critical objective of establishing trust between police and community that has been essential to pursuing our goals of increasing the quality of life for Roswell residents. Our crime rate is the lowest it’s been in decades. Thanks to all of you, Roswell, New Mexico, is much safer.
In recent weeks, people have asked me what my most memorable moment or event has been at the Roswell Police Department. There is no doubt that I have had the opportunity to take part in many intense police-related events that only the Chief of Police in “Alien Town” could witness. I have to digress from this train of thought, and repeat, what I am most proud of and will take with me, wherever my career path follows is this: I have been blessed to have been part of an organization whose members truly care about the people and community they serve. I have witnessed an organizational culture evolution from simple enforcement to service, and partnerships, building relationships, endearing trust, legitimacy, and a pursuit of professional excellence in what could be considered the direst and politically troubling environments locally, statewide and nationally.
Even with the pandemic and all of the public pressure and scrutiny, the members of our police department leaned into the challenge, and met organizational goals when other agencies fell back. We allowed peaceful and lawful protests. We protected our city from widespread violence and property damage. Throughout my time here in Roswell, I knew with certainty that the RPD was a truly top-notch honorable police department, capable of handling just about anything that rolled into the city. Over this past decade, you have proven me correct, and made me proud to be an RPD member, time after time.
Although my term as the police chief of this superior police department has come to an end, I look forward to remaining part of the RPD family. This is a very special organization that has affected me profoundly. As I depart the RPD, I am leaving behind a well-oiled machine led by a superior and well-prepared command staff. With all the successes this agency has achieved, it is my hope and professional opinion that the current staff be allowed to continue in place to follow current active mandates and organizational goals. I emphasize from a professional perspective that it would not be prudent to change the RPD leadership when you are enjoying such obvious relational and data-supported successes. It is not a mystery as to what has stimulated full staffing and retention; it has been the leadership of the command staff. A change in command-staff leadership will breach this fragile hold that seemingly only Roswell enjoys in the state of New Mexico.
I thank all of you again for your hard work, your leadership, your support and your friendship. It has been an honor and privilege to have served alongside all of you. I will always be a part of the RPD, and the RPD will always be a part of me.
Philip A. Smith Jr., PhD.
City of Roswell 425 N Richardson Roswell, NM 88201
Phone: 575-624-6700 | Email Us