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New Mexico State University names Lopez chief of police

  • By Emily C. Kelley
  • 575-646-1957
  • ekelley@nmsu.edu
  • Jul 16, 2012
Two men, one with walkie talkie
New Mexico State University has hired Stephen Lopez to be chief of the NMSU Police Department. Lopez is the former deputy chief of the department and has served as interim chief since Chief Jaime Chavez retired April 1. His first day as chief was July 5.

"It was my pleasure and honor to select Stephen for this prestigious position as Chief of the NMSU Police Department," said NMSU Senior Vice President for External Relations and Chief of Staff Ben Woods. "As a long-term employee and recent deputy chief, Stephen has been instrumental in creating the department we take so much pride in today."

Lopez began working for the NMSU Police Department as a student in 1987 and became an officer in 1988, following his graduation from NMSU with bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and art in psychology. He also has a master's in strategic planning for Critical Infrastructure from the University of Washington.

Lopez's lengthy career at NMSU was unintentional.

"When I first started out at the police department, my intent was to work for a few years until I was eligible to apply for the FBI. They had a minimum entry age of 23 and a half, and I wanted to get some experience before I reached that age," Lopez said. "In those years, I had an opportunity to work with a lot of people in the department and on campus, and found that working at the local level, you get to make a difference for people and you to get the meet the people you're making a difference for. That's something I really enjoy - to the extent that I never submitted an application to the FBI. I decided to make my career here."

The campus has grown and evolved since Lopez's time as a student, as has law enforcement, in general. When he first started in law enforcement, the mobile radios officers now carry were bulky and heavy, many officers carried revolvers and officers had to purchase all their own equipment. Mobile phones have now replaced pay phones and emergency call kiosks on campus, making crime reporting nearly instantaneous - as is the average response time by the NMSU Police Department. Lopez said they respond to most 911 calls in less than 60 seconds. Officers are now issued all required equipment, and they are more prepared to handle a crisis.

The department prides itself in its extensively trained employees, many of whom have top credentials and have served as instructors and expert witnesses. The training and expertise of the department's officers means the NMSU community gets the best quality of service possible.

The department employs 35 people - of those, 22 are officers; seven are dispatchers, along with one dispatch supervisor; two are records/evidence technicians; two handle special events planning and crime prevention; and there is one administrative assistant. The department also typically has between two and four student interns. During special events, the department also employs as many as 50 security guards, as well as dozens of local and state police officers.

Lopez says the department leadership encourages employees to come up with new, innovative ideas in all areas. An example of this is the active shooter training the department conducted well before the Virginia Tech shootings caused other universities to undertake such preparation.

"NMSU is fortunate to have had in place an outstanding group of professional law enforcement personnel," Woods said. "For many years this department has earned its stellar reputation by ensuring the highest standards."

"I look forward to growing the department to continue making NMSU a great place to learn, work and enjoy life," Lopez said. "I really enjoy working directly with students each semester, as well as teaching alongside so many dedicated and caring faculty."

Lopez will continue to teach "Drugs and Behavior," a class in the Department of Public Health Sciences, as a college assistant professor. He has had teaching responsibilities since the fall of 2000.

"We have been fortunate to have a long line of outstanding police chiefs," Woods said. "I have had the good fortune to personally know the last four and I have the utmost confidence that the department will continue to prosper under Stephen's leadership."