Year in Review – Police faced setbacks

Editor's note: This is one of a series on top stories in the PNT coverage area in 2012.

To say that 2012 was a bit of a rough year for the Portales Police Department would be a major understatement.

By the time fall turned to winter, the Portales PD had a new chief but had also suffered several minor bruises to the department's reputation and a couple of major blows.

In February, former Portales police captain Lonnie Berry was sentenced to 18 months probation and a $500 fine for tampering with public records — largely due to alleged protection from traffic violations that Berry provided for a friend.

Berry had been the longtime spokesperson for the Portales Police Department, serving as the voice of the department for many years from issues ranging from public service campaigns to murder cases.

Things got worse in the summer when Victor Castillo, a former Portales police officer was charged with 31 felonies in connection to accusations that he maintained a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl he met while serving as the department's school resource officer.

Castillo, 45, faces charges including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sexual exploitation of a child, criminal sexual contact of a minor, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and tampering with evidence. If convicted on all counts, the Clovis resident could get as much as 75 years in prison.

"The Portales Police Department has worked closely with and wholeheartedly supports the district attorney and the New Mexico State Police in the investigation of this incident," said Portales police Lt. Mark Cage in an August press release. "The department is dedicated to seeking justice for crime victims in the city of Portales. We will continue to move forward after this unfortunate incident and continue to serve the residents of the city of Portales."

Jeff Gill, Portales' police chief, was already on the way out when the news of Castillo's indictments came to light.

After the Portales City Council released a report criticizing his leadership of the department, Gill announced in July he'd be leaving the post he had held for nearly 20 years.

At the end of October, Charles Jones of Ponte Vedra Beach (FL) was picked as Gill's successor.

"Those that I have spoken with have been eager to discuss their roles in the mission of this department and to make suggestions to me regarding improvements," said Jones in a November interview. "That is what I like and that is what I want to hear."

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