New police officer earns NMSP award

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The first woman to earn the All Around Recruit Award at the New Mexico State Police training academy just came to work serving the Socorro area.

Capt. Adrian Armijo said Patrolwoman Veronica Saenz started work in District 11 on Jan. 5, but her first day in uniform was Wednesday. Saenz graduated Dec. 21, 2012, with the 84th NMSP training academy class, which began in July 2012 with 42 recruits. Thirty of those finished the academy and graduated, but only five of those graduates were women.

Armijo explained the All Around Recruit Award is presented to the recruit who performs best in all areas of training at the academy — firearms training, driving, command presence and everything else academy training covers. He said the training staff, who closely monitor the recruits from day one at the academy, choose the best All Around Recruit. Armijo said Saenz is the first woman he’s aware of in the history of the academy to be honored as All Around Recruit.

Saenz did not find out about her selection as the All Around Recruit of her academy class until the day of graduation. She said there are other awards presented to recruits upon graduation, and of course she was trying her best to achieve some recognition, but she was honestly surprised when she found out she was the All Around Recruit.

“It’s an honor,” Saenz said. “It felt really good.”

Saenz, who is originally from California, said she has always been interested in working for law enforcement. Ever since coming to New Mexico, she has wanted to work for the state police. She said she took notice of city police agencies as well, but they did not hold her fascination.

“It never really caught my attention like the state police did,” Saenz said.

Saenz said from her perspective, it seems the NMSP academy is tougher and longer than other law enforcement training, and requires more discipline.

Saenz has lived in New Mexico for nearly 10 years; before coming to Socorro, she lived in Las Cruces, where she still has family. She has served in the National Guard for eight years and plans to continue serving in that capacity in addition to working full-time for the NMSP.

“It’s only a weekend a month,” she said. “… I enjoy wearing the uniform.”

Saenz said she enjoys serving as a role model for other young women who may be inspired to serve in law enforcement or the military. She said she has been interested in working for the state police for quite a while, and so far it has been a great experience that compares favorably with her expectations.

“You know, just patrolling, being out there,” Saenz said. “Showing that we’re out there helping individuals.”

Saenz said she plans to work for NMSP until her retirement.

“It’s tough, but it’s exciting — definitely,” she said.

Armijo said the NMSP academy is 22 weeks, and now Saenz is on field training for her first 14 weeks with District 11. He said she has learned everything she can at the academy and is now putting the education to use with the supervision of experienced NMSP patrol officers. He explained the 14 weeks is broken into four segments, and Saenz will spend each segment under the supervision of a different officer in order to benefit from multiple perspectives. After that, Saenz will be on her own.

Armijo said Saenz is the only new recruit employed with District 11 at this time. Patrolman Robert Alguire added Saenz is the first fresh recruit from the NMSP academy the district has employed in 4 1/2 years, although the district had patrol officers transfer in from other areas during that time. Alguire is Saenz’s current field training supervisor.

Armijo said NMSP is always hiring, and encouraged anyone interested to go to NMSP.com to check out the testing requirements for the academy. He said NMSP previously imposed a one-year freeze on hiring new officers. Although two training classes have graduated since the freeze was lifted, NMSP is currently short about 80 officers statewide.

“We have been shorthanded,” Armijo said. “… We do need officers, people applying for the positions.”

Armijo explained working for the state police is different than other law enforcement agencies, where employees can start work before they must attend a law enforcement academy. For state police, he said the employee’s first day on the job is at the academy.

Armijo said NMSP has finished the hiring process for the 85th class, which starts Jan. 27. NMSP is now recruiting applicants for the 86th class, which begins in July.