WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation has a new chief of police.
Phillip Francisco will start in early August after the Nation was hindered for years by a lack of qualified applicants who met the minimum qualifications and who questioned the low pay for the position.
Francisco was one of two applicants recommended for the position after completing interviews with a Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety (NNDPS) interview panel made up of county sheriffs and agency police commanders.
The Law and Order Committee June 22 approved legislation that directed Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety Director Jesse Delmar to hire a new police chief no later than July 13.
Delmar said the position has been vacant for nearly eight years. Filling the position has been a top priority for the Begaye-Nez administration. Delmar said he was directed by Navajo Nation Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez to hire a chief of police when he was appointed as director of the Navajo Division of Public Safety.
Francisco, who is 40, is from Farmington, New Mexico. His clans are Bilaganna born for Ha'shtl'ishnii. His maternal grandfather is Bilaganna and his paternal grandfather is To'da'chii'nii.
He currently serves with the Farmington Police Department as a patrol and training officer. He has worked with the Aztec Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, where he was a patrol corporal training officer. He has nearly 18 years of combined experience working as an officer.
Francisco said he wants to make positive changes in leadership for officers on the Nation who are working long hours, covering large areas and working with understaffed departments.
"The first thing I want to do is review policies to make sure they fit the needs of the citizens on the Navajo Nation," he said. "This way we can have our officers serve the citizens more effectively and efficiently.
Francisco is now responsible for 27,000 square miles of land and will be paid $80,000 a year. Other police chiefs in the United States are generally paid around $100,000 to take care of 1,000 square miles, according to the Office of the President and Vice President.
The Navajo Nation has high crime rates and the chief of police will provide assistance and recommendations to prevent and decrease crime, Delmar said in a previous press release.
Begaye said the search for a new chief of police had been long and extensive and that having Francisco in place will ensure that the Nation's communities will have proper protection and existing vacancies can now be filled with new officers.
He said that the Nation's public safety facilities are underutilized in proportion to high crime rates that exist.
"The Nation has gone for eight years without a chief of police ...," Begaye said. "Bringing on a new chief will provide stability to our police force while reinforcing to the public that we are serious about protecting them."
Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. also said that Francisco will need to address public safety concerns and advocating for additional federal funding, a better retirement package for police officers and salary increases for officers.