Gurule named new chief of police in Los Lunas

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Naithan Gurule might be the village of Los Lunas’ youngest ever police chief, but with his years of experience on the force, he says he’s more than ready for the challenge.

Gurule, 33, who has been with the Los Lunas Police Department for nearly 12 years, says it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to lead a department he joined when he was just 21 years old. From the beginning, he said, it’s always been his goal to one day lead the department that made him the officer he is today.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule says he’s excited for the new challenge as the head of the department.

“I’m very excited,” Gurule said of his recent appointment as police chief, while sitting behind his new desk. “I feel that this department is the best in the state, and I hope I can make it even better.”

Gurule, who replaces Roy Melnick as chief, was given the opportunity by Mayor Charles Griego, who was elected earlier this month. The new chief said he is very grateful to Griego and to the council for their trust in his abilities.

During last week’s meeting when Griego named Gurule as chief, the new mayor said it is his responsibility to appoint people he thinks he needs and will be able to work with.

“After great thought and soul-searching on my part, I am recommending that Naithan Gurule be the next police chief of the village of Los Lunas,” Griego said. “Naithan has been with the village for 12 years, he is currently a lieutenant within the department, and he has agreed to accept the recommendation.”

Chief Gurule began his career in law enforcement in July 2002 when he was hired on by LLPD. After two years of working for UPS and attending the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, it was when he turned 21 that he jumped at the chance to become a police officer.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Gurule said of law enforcement. “I have an aunt and uncle who are in law enforcement and it just always interested me — the whole profession. I wanted to help people, I wanted to help the community.

“When I was a kid, I looked up to police officers and now, working where I grew up, is that much more satisfying,” he said. “What better place to serve than where you grew up.”

While Gurule was born in El Paso, he grew up in Los Lunas, a village he has, as long as he can remember, always called home. A 1999 Los Lunas High School graduate, Gurule started his career as a patrolman, working nights and weekends.

Through the years, he has been a member of the SWAT team, served as a traffic officer and was then promoted to detective sergeant. Gurule was once again promoted to traffic unit commander and then as the professional standards lieutenant, a position in which he served to help the department achieve accreditation in 2012.

“At every position I had, I felt I wanted to learn and know everything that there was about that job,” he said. “In every position, I think it helped me transition to the next by opening up the doors. Trying to become as well rounded as I could was important.”

Gurule said the most important tool that has helped him move up in the ranks is his training and education. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in August, and became the first officer at LLPD to graduate from the FBI’s National Police Academy.

He also successfully graduated from Northwestern University’s senior management and executive management programs and it’s School of Police Staff and Command.

“I was able to go to the FBI’s national academy because of Chief Melnick,” Gurule says. “He was a graduate and he recommended me. Only a small percentage of officers around the country actually get to attend and I owe (Melnick) a lot for the opportunity. I was fortunate enough that Chief Melnick sent me to both.”

Receiving his degree was a long, hard-fought accomplishment that Gurule says was not only important to his career, but to his family as well.

“It was important to me personally and for my children because I wanted them to see that anything is possible,” Gurule said.

Gurule and his wife, Carolina, have six children, the youngest being born in February. He was actually still on family leave when he received a call from Griego asking him to return to work early to become police chief.

He says he couldn’t have accomplished what he has without the support of his wife and family.

“She has always been supportive of me,” Gurule says of his wife. “She’s never complained and has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. She’s been the most important person in my life.”

As for the future of the department, Gurule says he has no plans to make immediate changes, but says his goals are to focus on drug enforcement, traffic safety and DWI.

“We have really good people in place here,” Gurule said of the department. “I would like to reorganize eventually to have more officers on the streets to enhance our visibility to keep the community safe.”

The new chief also hopes to continue working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and believes that with his officers, who Gurule describes as the backbone of the department, people who live and visit the village feel safe and comfortable.

“I have received a large amount of support from the community and our officers,” Gurule said. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity.”


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.