Paul Rogers, these days

After 34 years in law enforcement, a Rio Rancho Police deputy chief is heading off to new experiences.

Deputy Chief Paul Rogers’ last day with the department where he’s spent almost 29 years will be March 1. He has secured a new position as the deputy director for the City of Albuquerque’s Security Services Division.

“I had been thinking about retiring for the last 12-18 months, but I still enjoyed doing what I was doing,” Rogers said. “… Every day there’s a challenge, there’s something new.”

Nevertheless, he wanted to experience something new, and when he learned about the opening in Albuquerque, he pursued it.

Paul Rogers, in the 1990s

“I’ll miss serving the citizens of Rio Rancho,” he said, hoping his new job will be as interactive as law enforcement.

He and his wife, Erin, have lived in Rio Rancho throughout his career with the police department. Both of their children grew up in Rio Rancho, graduating from Cleveland High School.

Rogers was disappointed that their son, Paul III, won’t be able to attend any going-away party or ceremony he has with RRPD, due to being stationed in South Korea with the U.S. Army. However, their daughter, Courtney, lives in this area, working in the film industry.

Rogers began his law enforcement career in October 1986 with Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

“I had always been interested in being a police officer since I was a kid,” Rogers said.

However, he began working in fire services while going to community college in Arizona and continued as a firefighter in the Air Force. While on active duty at Kirtland Air Force Base, he served as a reserve deputy with Bernalillo County and was allowed to leave the Air Force five months earlier to become a full-time deputy.

His Air Force career was going well, but he preferred the more sustained activity and community interaction of police work, as well as the chance to initiate efforts to help where he thought it would do the most good.

“I liked the ability to help people,” Rogers said.

After 3½ years, he and his wife moved back to Arizona to be near family, and Rogers served with Sedona Police Department for two years.

“We missed this area, so we decided to come back,” he said.

It has always been important to him to live where he worked, and Rio Rancho was affordable. In July 1991, he got a job with what was then the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety.

Rio Rancho police officers at that time doubled as firefighters, and Rogers said it was hard to keep up the necessary certifications for both careers. He recalls having to change from his police uniform into the firefighting gear in his trunk, and then change back and answer police calls while still smelling of smoke and sweat.

“I’m sure that more than once, we got a strange look from people,” he said.

Over the years, Rogers rose through the ranks and worked in patrol, traffic enforcement, the DWI unit, internal affairs, criminal investigations, public information and support services.

“I responded for a long time to every traffic fatality, and that’s something you don’t want to see all the time,” he said.

He felt very strongly about enforcing traffic and DWI laws.

DWI arrests involve a lot of paperwork and drunken people are hard to deal with, he said. But he’s often wondered how many fatal wrecks he and other officers prevented with those arrests.

“You’ve got to know what you’re doing has a greater impact that overshadows those negatives,” Rogers said.

Rogers recalled one night during his time with the DWI unit when he was helping with a checkpoint near the intersection of Unser and Southern boulevards. While working, he heard an impact and saw sparks fly.

In the darkness, none of the officers initially knew what happened but ran toward the crash. They soon realized a car had rear-ended a motorcycle, and there was nothing they could do for the motorcycle rider.

Rogers thought the lights and activity of the checkpoint must have distracted young man driving the car. It turned out the driver had worked multiple shifts and fallen asleep at the wheel.

“I was horrified that we had played a part in that and relieved to find out we didn’t,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s still a very tragic situation.”

Rogers was promoted to deputy chief in 2016 and served as interim chief in 2017. He has been a police-driving instructor for 20 years, as well as teaching use of radar and lidar, which uses a laser beam, for speed detection.

The things that kept him in law enforcement for so long are the same things that drew him into the career.

“And that’s what I’ll truly miss,” Rogers said.