Gallup swears in first female Navajo police chief

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GALLUP, N.M. – It was a historic ceremony in the heart of Gallup when Erin Toadlena-Pablo swore to “faithfully and impartially discharge” the duties of police chief.

“Not only is Chief Pablo, as you’ve heard, the first female chief of police for the City of Gallup, but based on our research that we did, she’s the first female Diné municipal police chief in the state of New Mexico,” City Manager Maryann Ustick said at Pablo’s swearing-in ceremony Tuesday morning.

“You’re leading the police force here in the City of Gallup, you’re going to be the trendsetter for all the woman warriors that are going to come forward to one day be police chiefs as well,” Navajo Nation President, Dr. Buu Nygren, told Pablo.

But the new police chief told KOB 4 this was not the future she grew up envisioning for herself. 

“As a female, my dad did not want me to do this,” Pablo said.

As the survivor of a crime when she was younger, she explained how she felt compelled to make the same impact in peoples’ lives that law enforcement officers made on hers. So, at 21 years old, she joined the Gallup Police Department, determined to protect, serve and make positive change.

“Erin has experience in all capacities at the Gallup Police Department, from police officer, first class, sergeant of Internal Affairs, lieutenant, captain, and now chief,” said Debra Martinez, the City of Gallup’s Behavioral Health manager.

“You’ll never know if you don’t try, and look at where I’m at,” Pablo said.

In addition to her 23-year career, the chief is also the mother of six children who look up to her. Similar to the way she supports her own family, she said her biggest priority in this new role is to better support her staff.

“Recruiting, and really keeping the officers that we do have,” she explained. “And I think the way that we do that is showing them that we care and, you know, getting them a wellness program, helping them to be able to deal with all the trauma that they endure through their careers here.”