WorldNow, KFDA News Channel 10, newschannel10.com
BYLINE: Eric Ross
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Portales, New Mexico- The Portales Police Department is opening up to NewsChannel 10 and admitting their flaws outlined in a recent audit.
Lack of communication, sloppy handling of evidence and officer intimidation were all discussed in a 14-page report recently published on the department back in April.
"It was kind of in the wake of having an unfortunate incident with our deputy chief," Lt. Mark Cage said.
Deputy Lonnie Berry was convicted in February on three counts of tampering with evidence for fixing a friend's traffic tickets.
In August, the department was hit with more bad news.
School resource officer Victor Castillo was arrested and charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl. New Mexico State Police say they also found more than 10,000 pictures of young girls on his cell phone.
Despite these two major incidents, Lt. Cage says two bad apples shouldn't continue to tarnish the department's reputation.
"We're busting our butts," he said. "We're going to hold officers accountable."
Berry turned in his officer certification. Castillo is no longer employed with the force and awaits trial.
Lt. Cage is now working with other officers and administrative personnel to turn the department around starting with a new policy handbook for officers and changing the way they patrol the streets.
"We've been seen for so long as a closed agency," Cage said. "I don't think we've been out in the community as much as we should be."
While he wants officers to be more proactive in the field, he also wants the department to be proactive with the way they handle evidence.
"We were told we were keeping evidence too long," Cage said. "Imagine that! Usually you're missing evidence you should have had. We had too much."
Sgt. Kirk Wilson willingly opened up their newly cleaned out evidence room for our camera crew Friday.
Now that the room has been cleaned out and organized, Lt. Cage plans on re-opening cold cases.
"We're going to go back and look at older cases and make contact with those victims and see if we can help out and make progress there," he said.
Lt. Cage admits all of this progress can't happen overnight but is confident in the new direction the department is taking.
Portales Police Chief Jeff Gill retired Friday from the department.
Lt. Cage says he is applying for the chief's position to continue leading the department.
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