New Mexico governor appoints police veteran as next chief

April 6, 2019
Newly appointed Mexico State Police Chief, Tim Johnson talks about his priorities for the law enforcement division at a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M., Friday, April 5, 2019. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Johnson for his approach to recruitment and diversity. Women represent 7% of the State Police officers, a percentage far below the national average. Past allegations of discrimination, retaliation and lewd behavior against ex-Police Chief Pete Kassetas, not seen, have been settled by the state under undisclosed terms. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham picked a veteran officer with the New Mexico State Police to lead the 650-officer force on Friday, saying he will work to boost recruitment of more women and be tasked with ensuring a professional work environment.

The announcement of Tim Johnson as the state police chief comes more than three months after the governor took office. He replaces former Chief Pete Kassetas, who served under former Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, and was accused of discriminatory and retaliatory behavior in a lawsuit settled for an undisclosed amount last year.

A spokesman for the Martinez administration last year said the lawsuit contained “ridiculous allegations” that were untrue.

Lujan Grisham and Johnson said there would be no tolerance under their leadership for inappropriate behavior.

“We want a standard of professionalism, and you will be held accountable to that standard,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said at a news conference.

The governor said Johnson brings a diverse background of experience following a nearly 20-year state police career in which he has investigated DWIs, homicides, and white collar crime. He most recently was responsible for overseeing criminal investigations.

Johnson outlined his plan for improving recruitment overall, but especially among women. A prong of the plan will include telling recruits early in the application process the city where they would be based if they graduate from the academy.

State police officials for years have told recruits while they are completing training where they will be assigned, and Johnson indicated that has likely led to some making an early decision not to pursue that career.

Lujan Grisham noted this approach can be especially tough for mothers and all parents who must make plans for their children’s schooling.

She said women make up 7% of New Mexico State Police officers compared to 13% nationwide.

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