Two former deputies with the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office agree that budget shortfalls are a problem within the department.
However, they say that’s not why they left, taking issue with statements made last week by Sheriff Tom Gossett.
Gossett said last week his department is underfunded and was a key reason why deputies are leaving for other agencies.
“I know for a fact that at least three of the deputies have taken pay cuts leaving that office,” said Malin Parker, a former county deputy now working for the Curry County office. “This was an office that didn’t have any turnover, now it has lost five deputies in a year.”
Parker and Shawn Gore, former deputies with several years at the department, said Gossett’s recent decision to pull out of the Region V drug task force — and what they feel was unequal treatment for deputies — had more of an impact on the departures than finances.
“I didn’t like that fact that he pulled out of the Region V task force, which was where I was at when he took office (in January 2003),” Gore said. “I was pulled out with no notice, no leeway. One day, then I was on patrol. I had to leave a lot of work behind.”
Gore left the department in February 2003 and now works with the Clovis Police Department. He said his current department is also having trouble with salaries, and he does not disagree with the points that Gossett made in that regard.
“I agree with the point that raises need to occur, but that’s not the reason I left,” Gore said. “It was administrative issues. I got no increase in pay when I went to Clovis, and I know it was implied that I did (receive an increase).
“I agree with a lot of his requests — he needs better money, he needs better retirement for his officers — but I don’t want (money) being an excuse for why I left.”
The former deputies said pulling out of the task force left a void for drug prevention in Roosevelt County. Gossett said he felt the department gave too much manpower to the task force, with not a lot of enforcement to Roosevelt County in return.
“All of our people were used up there,” Gossett said. “I had one deputy quit because I wouldn’t let him work up there. That’s exactly why the Portales Police Department pulled out too.
“I commissioned those people to go ahead and work here. They would work, let us know nothing about it … I felt when they were working under my commission, I should be informed of what was going on.”
Lonnie Berry, a captain with the Portales Police Department, backs up Gossett’s contention.
“At the time we pulled out,” Berry said, “a lot of the operations were in areas that were not benefitting us.”
Gossett said some of the deputies that complained of unequal treatment felt that way because they benefitted from unequal treatment under previous sheriffs.
“Basically, they felt like it wasn’t equal treatment because they weren’t a fair-haired boy anymore,” Gossett said. “I tried to make it as equal as I could.
“I held people accountable and a lot of them didn’t like it, and there wasn’t accountability with the Region V task force. Why should I allow somebody working in a different county when I didn’t have the people to work this county? It would be crazy to ask for more people when I’ve got one farmed out to another county.”
Parker, who still lives in Roosevelt County, said he would like to return to the department at some point. He said he will wait until the next election and weigh his options.
“This is where I want to be and this is where I intend on coming back to,” Parker said. “Roger Hatcher and Doug Bowman (of the Curry County office) have been great, but this is my home and this is where I want to be.”