"If you are not afraid, there is something wrong with you, but there is something about police. That is why it is so prestigious to wear the badge and to wear the uniform. It is because they seem to be a little crazy. Police run to the danger when people are running away from the danger. That is what sets the police officers apart from other people, and it is their duty to do that. ... Every time that police officer goes up on that car, that routine traffic stop, it could be their last. You don't know what you are facing sometimes. ... The police officers on the street are truly first responders to any situation. Yeah, you should be a little bit scared when you go up there. That just heightens your alertness a little bit," said Dumas Police Department (DPD) Chief Ray Resendez.
Resendez has been chief of the DPD since October 20, 2020, when the long-time veteran of the Canyon Police Department took over as the permanent replacement for Chief Marvin Trejo, who unexpectedly died last May after a little over a year in the job. Resendez has already begun bringing change to the DPD. "I want things done pretty quickly." But he says he recognizes that change can be hard for an organization to process. "I promised myself to pump the brakes a little bit." He says he appreciates the work of his predecessors, who, he said, "did a good job with what they had" and who laid the groundwork for future progress. But, "we are making a lot of changes. It has been working in the past, but there are better ways. ... I believe the officers and employees here want change. They want to get up with the times. They want to move forward. They want to be proactive," he said. "I hope that whenever I leave the DPD I leave it better than I found it and improve on those who have come before me."
Resendez has two big priorities: improving the department's operations and increasing community engagement. Central to achieving his goals is the Texas Police Chiefs Association Recognition Program, "which I am passionate about, because I believe it is a program way ahead of its time." Resendez was the program manager in Canyon, and he has already begun the process of implementing it in Dumas. The program is a "best practices" accreditation. Police chiefs and officials across the state came up with more than 166 standards governing such things as pursuits, use of force, evidence, training, and others that they say are critical for a modern, successful law enforcement agency to meet. Those agencies that can prove that they are conforming to the standards are deemed "recognized" for four years, during which they must still show that they are continuing to meet the standards. "I believe the recognition program ... opens up departments to be more transparent and to look into themselves and say 'are we doing the right thing, the right training, having the right equipment.' That is why the program is so important to me."
Among other things, Resendez is in the process of restructuring the Criminal Investigation Division and changing case management "so we are communicating more. I want to make sure we know what is going on and that each case gets looked at and its fair share of investigation." He is also having all the stored evidence inventoried and audited "to make sure we have what we say we do in the system and in the evidence room." Once catalogued, the evidence that has to be maintained will be stored in a new and improved evidence room that will make it easier to find. The lab, where evidence is prepared to be sent to the crime lab in Lubbock for analysis is also in the process of being updated.
Resendez has met with new 69th Judicial District Attorney Erin Lands, who shares his desire to see criminal cases dealt with in a timely manner. "It is important to us where these cases are going and how fast they are going," he said. He is optimistic. "I am really excited about the new DA. I think she has a great vision."
Recent weeks have brought a lot of new faces to the top jobs of law enforcement in Moore County. In addition to Resendez at the DPD and Lands at the DA's office, Keith Quirk has taken over as chief of the Dumas Independent School District Police Department and Morgan Hightower is the new Moore County Sheriff. Resendez says the top people at the different agencies are getting along very well now, unlike sometimes in the past when there was conflict among the leaders, even as their subordinates managed to maintain a cooperative relationship with their counterparts in other agencies, something that Resendez says is bad for the organizations and employees. "We need to be setting the example and not making it tough for employees."
Resendez says the DPD is authorized 27 officers and is short four. "That is almost a whole shift. That work has to be drawn out and given to other officers." As a result, the DPD is not able to provide "some services that we would love to." Keeping officers patrolling the streets is the top priority. Recruiting and maintaining enough police officers has been a chronic problem in Dumas and around the country for years.
Two areas Resendez says need increased police attention in Dumas are domestic violence and vehicle theft.
This is the first of a two-part series on Chief Ray Resendez and the Dumas Police Department. The article will continue in a future post.