US town has only one police officer: a drug-sniffing dog

Nikka the dog

The police chief of the small eastern New Mexico town of Vaughn resigned, leaving the town with just one certified member on its police force a drug-sniffing dog named Nikka.

Dave Romero, attorney for the town, said yesterday that police Chief Ernest "Chris" Armijo decided to step down after news stories reported that he wasn't allowed to carry a gun because of his criminal background.

"He decided the attention was distracting from everything as he had to do in his position," Romero said.

State officials said Armijo couldn't carry a gun since acknowledging owing tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments in Texas. Armijo also faces new felony charges after being accused of selling a town-owned rifle and pocketing the cash.

Romero said Armijo is working to clear up the latest case. He said Armijo has not ruled out seeking the police chief's position again if his case is resolved and the position is open.

According to records, the only qualified member of the Vaughn Police Department is Nikka, a drug-sniffing dog. Vaughn's other officer isn't certified and pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery last year.

But Romero said not having an officer qualified to carry a gun didn't put Vaughn at risk. "England doesn't allow police officers to carry guns," he said. "Sometime the strongest weapon in law enforcement is communication."

Vaughn, a town of about 450 located 167 kilometers east of Albuquerque, is set deep in what US Homeland Security Investigations officials say is an isolated region of the state popular with drug traffickers. Officials say the desolate roads in Guadalupe County make it hard for authorities to catch smugglers moving drugs from Mexico.

Guadalupe County Sheriff Michael Lucero said since news about the police chief's record became public his department has helped patrol Vaughn.

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