Patrick Gallagher, Santa Fe’s new interim police chief, has worked in the largest police department in the United States and in one of the smaller ones in the Southwest.
On Tuesday, City Manager Brian Snyder chose Gallagher to take the helm of Santa Fe’s Police Department after Eric Garcia abruptly announced that he was retiring at age 43 after just 13 months on the job.
Gallagher, 51, moved to Santa Fe in 2012 after being hired by former chief Ray Rael to head the department’s Internal Affairs Division. Gallagher shifted last year to the city’s Human Resources Department as a training specialist.
For 23 years, Gallagher worked for the New York City Police Department, rising from patrol officer to deputy inspector. After leaving the NYPD, which has more than 34,000 sworn officers, he became the police chief in Truth or Consequences in Southern New Mexico. He supervised a department with about 15 officers from 2009 until 2012, when he accepted a job with the Santa Fe Police Department.
Now, at least temporarily, he will run Santa Fe’s 170-member police department, which has been fractured by infighting and accusations by four lieutenants that Garcia tolerated wrongdoing and practiced cronyism.
Snyder immediately turned to Gallagher after accepting Garcia’s notice of immediate retirement.
“I asked Patrick Gallagher to step in as interim chief while we launch a national search,” Snyder said. “Patrick is an experienced law enforcement professional whose proven leadership can help us continue building strong public trust in our police department.”
Matt Martinez, the Santa Fe police union president who has been a vocal supporter of Garcia, said he likes Snyder’s choice of Gallagher as interim chief.
“He’s very fair and unbiased. When he was here as internal affairs captain, he was very thorough,” Martinez said. “He went into every investigation with an open mind, and the officers respected him for that. We respect the decision that the mayor and the city manager made in placing Patrick Gallagher as the chief and any decisions that comes down in the future, we’ll back them 100 percent.”
Gallagher declined to be interviewed, but he issued a statement praising the officers.
“I’ve seen firsthand the quality of officers serving in the Santa Fe Police Department, and I am ready to move forward,” Gallagher said. “I’ve worked hard to build a reputation as a leader who is firm, fair and consistent, and my top priority is delivering high-quality service to the public that is collaborative and highly professional.”
During his time as police chief in Truth or Consequences, Gallagher came under some scrutiny after a story by television station KRQE in 2011. The station reported that Gallagher had auctioned 87 firearms that had been stored in the evidence room, and it alleged he had not followed state law on such arms sales.
“This auction was not conducted with any malicious or nefarious intent in mind,” Gallagher said at the time. “If we become aware of any errors or mistakes made in the process, they will be rectified.”
Rael hired Gallagher in Santa Fe in November 2012 to oversee the Internal Affairs Division. Rael said Gallagher had experience in the New York City department’s Internal Affairs Division, and he wanted someone who had no connections to the Santa Fe department to ensure impartiality.
John Eterno, a former captain in the New York Police Department, worked with Gallagher while both were police academy instructors. In a telephone interview, Eterno said Gallagher was a good officer and will be a good chief.
“I guarantee you he will be an asset to the police department there,” said Eterno, who is now an associate dean and director of graduate studies in criminal justice at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “He was a very good instructor, very professional, highly competent, highly intelligent.”
There is no guarantee that Gallagher will be Santa Fe’s chief for the long term. Snyder says the city will conduct a national search, and that Garcia’s successor could be an internal candidate or someone from outside the department.
Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.