Police chief’s lowrider Buick earns him a nickname

Santa Fe’s acting police chief earned a new nickname Friday among the rank and file: the “Cholo Chief.”

Andrew Padilla, previously a deputy police chief who lives in Alcalde and recently was named acting chief by newly elected Mayor Alan Webber, picked up the moniker after driving to work in a 1984 Buick Regal lowrider.

The word cholo has various meanings, but in Northern New Mexico, it is loosely defined as a gangster.

“East L.A. o que,” an unidentified Santa Fe police officer wrote in a group text message shared with The New Mexican.

Another police officer who requested anonymity said the lowrider looks unprofessional for someone in such a high position.

“ ‘Cholo Chief’ Andrew Padilla decided to drive his lowrider instead of his police unit,” the officer wrote in a text message. “We hope he doesn’t have to respond to some emergency today. He clearly doesn’t take his position serious!”

In a telephone interview, Padilla said he wouldn’t drive the blue lowrider if he had to respond to police business.

“If there was a critical emergency that would happen here now in the middle of the day, and I had to respond to the situation to be there at the command post or speak to the media, one of the available administrative vehicles that are here, I would drive in that vehicle over to that location,” he said.

Padilla said he usually drives a police vehicle to and from work, but that it’s not uncommon for command staff to drive their personal vehicles to work.

Padilla said the lowrider represents Northern New Mexico culture. Española, for example, is known as the “Lowrider Capital of the World.”

“Everyone is well aware of that on Good Friday, many people from the surrounding communities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque and Española will drive their nice vehicles on Good Friday,” Padilla said.

Padilla noted that most city employees, including himself, were working only a half-day Friday.

“I’ll be off work in 40 minutes and enjoy the afternoon,” he said late Friday morning.

Padilla, who said the car has been in his family since 1984, said he had “no reaction” to being labeled the “Cholo Chief.”

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion — freedom of speech,” he said.

Padilla also said the type of vehicle he drives doesn’t change his ability to lead the police department.

Webber appointed Padilla to the position while the city searches for a long-term chief. Padilla has said he is interested in the job.

“What type of vehicle anyone drives on duty, off duty, as a police officer doesn’t affect their character and their work ethic,” he said.

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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