The Fort Stockton Police Department's former Chief of Police Art Fuentes made an unforeseen announcement of resignation on his Facebook last Wednesday, June 21.
Breaking the news to the public, the Facebook post stated, “It has been a great pleasure serving the City of Fort Stockton. Today will be my last day as your Chief of Police. Angie and I want thank our friends at the FSPD who have been by our side these last six years. Thank you Fort Stockton.”
After laying all the cards on the table about removing his badge, Fuentes speaks on the many achievements made during his time as Chief of Police.
“When I first heard the job had opened up, I already had 26 years of experience with the Odessa Police Department,” began Fuentes.
“I thought to myself 'this is a very rare opportunity'. I knew whoever got the position would be in Fort Stockton for a long time if they did the job right,” he said.
Wearing khaki cargo shorts and a short sleeved collared shirt, the former Chief sat back in his chair and continued, “I'm from Sanderson, so taking the job brought me closer to home. Growing up in Sanderson, Fort Stockton was the big city to us. That's where we did our shopping, we would visit all the time, and so it wasn't a hard decision. In all honesty, I wasn't ready to leave Odessa just yet, but I knew deep down that it was a good decision.”
Fuentes gathered his thoughts for a moment, then poured out a heartfelt appreciation for the community, saying, “We were received very well here. You know, I knew that I would have people that I would upset as Chief of Police, but in totality, as far as the friends that we've had over the years, I can't thank Fort Stockton enough. I'm very thankful for how this community has received and treated my wife. They've treated her in the most respectful way. Fort Stockton has been beyond great to the both of us.”
Sharing the details of his initial year as Chief of Police, Fuentes admitted, “That first year was kind of a challenging year for me. I had just got into my office, and a few months later there were budget talks for the upcoming fiscal year and the City was in some serious financial struggles. I had just made a lot of sacrifices to move down here and a few months, just after I get hired, they're talking about shutting down the police station.”
Fuentes elaborates on getting through his bumpy start, stating, “The City Manager at the time, Raul Rodriguez, really helped us push through those financial pains. We pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and made a lot of cutbacks. We did what we could, and there were a lot of equipment short falls. I didn't want to put anymore financial strain on the City, so I started applying for different grants.”
After becoming very frugal with expenses, Fuentes shared the many achievements that followed his grant applications.
“With the 1033, I was able to get patrol rifles for all the officers. The police department only had a total of five tasers at the time, and through a grant I was able to implement a total of 25. That allowed every office to carry a taser at no cost to the City. I also got us bulldozers and other heavy equipment for the construction of the shooting range. Obtaining that equipment allowed it to be on-hand and accessible to the City for later projects. After a year, the heavy equipment was able to be transferred to other City departments, again, at no cost to the City,” shared Fuentes.
In addition to getting through some early financial pains, Fuentes detailed that he also faced three homicides during his first year as Chief of Police.
“I was hit with three homicides; two were domestic violence related. Those two domestic homicides really got me thinking about making domestic violence services available here in Fort Stockton. With the hard work of Dorman Herman and the Purple Project, we were able to make the Lila Smith Safe House a reality. We have in-town advocates and caseworkers here now. It took years in the making and I'm very proud to say that I got to be a part of that process. Today, the safe house is used every single day.” affirmed Fuentes.
The former Chief of Police highlighted his other significant milestones, such as bringing about the Fort Stockton Police Academy, the installation of police vehicle laptops, re-implementing the police K-9 and School Resource Officer (S.R.O.), starting the first Fort Stockton SWAT team with armored vehicles accessible, obtaining police body cameras, and a new video network server for uploading body camera footage more efficiently.
“The list goes on, and I'm proud of everything I was able to bring to the FSPD through the many grant programs. It's been a long run, and I'm sure people are wondering why I left. I'd rather just respectfully say that I have my reasons, and leave it at that,” said Fuentes.
Before concluding the interview, Fuentes touched on where his life is now after departing with the FSPD.
“I'm definitely going to miss the people that I worked with, the officers that I've watched out for over all these years. Those are the people that I'm really going to miss. What's made this big transition so much easier has been the outpouring of community support. The people who recognize the good I have done in the community,” explained Fuentes.
“I'm still going to be involved with the Fort Stockton Community Theater. We're staying here in Fort Stockton. You know, my wife loves where she works, and I don't want to disrupt her life with my career changes. My passion is still law enforcement. If another opportunity presents itself, I'm all for it. I've been a cop for over 30 years,” said Fuentes with a big smile.
Looking very relaxed and casual, Fuentes admits that he has to get used to living the life of not being a cop. Like telling Superman not to save the day, Fuentes confessed that he actually stopped a shoplifter at Wal-mart the day after he announced he would no longer be Chief of Police.
“The guy was walking out with a shopping cart full of groceries and I said to him, 'Hey buddy, are you going to pay for all that?' He was like, 'Oh yeah, uh, I need to go get my wallet' and then he bolted and left the shopping cart there. I stopped that theft from happening, because that's who I am,” said Fuentes.
“I don't think I've ever owned a personal cell phone until now,” he laughed.
After the interview, Fuentes called back to disclose what has been the most difficult part of withdrawing from being Chief of Police.
“The hardest part so far is having to tell James Wilson. I haven't been able to tell him yet – it's too hard. He was the first person to set an appointment with me. That has honestly been the hardest part of saying goodbye to being Chief of Police,” said Fuentes.