QUESTA, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a small northern New Mexico community will soon see police officers patrolling the streets in vehicles marked with the village's name for the first time in three years.
The Questa Police Department is scheduled to reopen April 1 with four police officers led by the village's new police chief, Ronald Montez Jr. The Taos News was the first to report the police department's expected return.
Home to about 1,700 residents, Questa is about a 30-minute drive north of the popular tourist destination of Taos and serves as the gateway for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
“Without a law enforcement agency, traffic infractions and stuff like that were never really enforced,” Montez, a former New Mexico State Police officer, told Taos News.
Questa has been without a police department since 2020, when then-police Chief Nicolas Lamendola and all three of the village's officers resigned for still-unknown reasons.
To fill the gap, the Taos County Sheriff's Office has been providing police services to the village under a contract that ends next month. Residents have said sheriff's deputies were sometimes slow to respond.
Questa Mayor John Anthony Ortega began rebuilding the village's police force soon after he was sworn in last April, fulfilling a promise he had made on the campaign trail.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Ortega said. “I think, at the end of the day, even though it took longer than I and many of the citizens would have wanted, we’re getting a better department.”