That leaves this small town with just one certified member on its police force: Nikka, a drug-sniffing Belgian Malinois (like the one in the photo).
According to KRQE, an investigation found that Police Chief Chris Armijo had pleaded guilty in January to failing to pay child support in Texas, which is a felony in that state. Since convicted felons cannot carry firearms, Armijo wore a fake gun, and city officials bought him a taser he could use legally.
Officer Brian Bernal – who had no previous police training or experience before he was hired earlier this year – also had a criminal record and therefore could not carry a gun. He had been convicted in 2010 on a felony domestic violence charge.
Although the Vaughn P.D. rarely makes arrests or writes tickets, KRQE reported in June that the town of 450 residents has shelled out tens of thousands of tax dollars for police cruisers, flak jackets, designer sunglasses and other pricey accoutrements.
As for Nikka, the town bought her earlier this year with $10,759 borrowed from the New Mexico Finance Authority. Neither Armijo or Bernal had any prior experience with police dogs or drug investigations.
Nikka “doesn’t have no use,” Vaughn Mayor Paul Madrid told KRQE in June.
Gordon Eden, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, told KRQE, “They are a police department that should not exist. If they do not stop what’s going on in Vaughn … we will go to the New Mexico attorney general … to take additional action.”
PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps