The security team at PESCO has 80 years of combined law enforcement experience between its four employees – all of whom retired from state and local law enforcement agencies.

The team was built by retired New Mexico State Police Officer Max Salas, who was hired in August 2019 and tasked with building a competent team focused on “protecting life and property” at the company’s facility on Bloomfield Highway.

“I began by hiring retired police officers,” Salas said. “So far it’s been great.”

Salas brought in longtime friend and co-worker Paul Gonzales, who made the decision to retire, based on the opportunity to work for PESCO. “Max told me they were starting up a security team,” Gonzales said. “When this opened up, I made the decision.”

Retired Farmington Police Detective Paul Martinez and retired Farmington Police Officer Chad Herrera joined the team as well.

Salas said when he started, upper management wanted to address safety on the site, where there were actual crimes occurring. With more than 400 employees, the team was dealing with stolen property, drinking on the job, domestic violence, “all types of shenanigans.”

“They also wanted to address the issue of active shooters,” Salas said, adding this was in response to the Aztec High School shooting, as well as other shootings around the country.

The retired officers came in as armed security officers, which according to Herrera, “provided a sense of security of PESCO employees as well.”

With trained law enforcement on site, Salas said, “the calls for service from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office have gone way down. We’re handling things here instead of bringing in a deputy from off the street.”

Safety is not the only aspect of these officer’s job descriptions. The entire PESCO workforce is a team from upper management down, and the employees are considered members of the extended family. This is apparent in the relationship between members of the security team, as well as in the service they provided to the employees. Martinez told of how he has changed employees’ tires, unlocked car doors, when employees leave their keys inside and just provide help wherever and whenever it is needed.

“We have jumper cables, so when your car doesn’t start you have somebody, who can help you,” said Gonzales. “We interact with the employees to build that mutual respect.”

Herrera added, “We’ve taken a lot of responsibility from the employees, such as securing the buildings, locking doors and setting alarms.”

They also like to keep the atmosphere light, joking with one another. “Real men work 12-hour shifts at PESCO,” Martinez joked, as all four expressed their appreciation for the company. “PESCO treats us good. We appreciate them letting us work here.”

The security team also has kept the facility open and functioning during the COVID-19 Pandemic. “A lot of things changed,” Salas said.

First there were layoffs, and people were not happy. “We had to stand by with Human Resources,” Salas said, adding security helped to defuse situations and make certain that people left the premises peacefully. All four of them had taken Crisis Intervention Training, while employed as police officers, so they have the skills to lessen the stress that can occur in a crisis.

“It was a time of uncertainty and confusion, and they kept things under control,” PESCO Chief Financial Officer Linda Rodgers said.

“Once we got layoffs out of the way, we had to man the gates – checking people in,” Salas said. They were tasked with verifying employment, checking identification from vendors, visitors and contractors. They also began taking temperatures and asking questions about a person’s health status for contact tracing purposes.

Just as with most businesses, some employees were placed in quarantine because of either contact with COVID or having contracted COVID. Upper management kept track of those individuals and security made certain, they did not return to work until they were given the all-clear for their health status.

Rodgers said their work helped to keep the business operational, during a time when some had to close their doors. “We are really fortunate to have this group of people on the security team, helping to keep us open and to feel safe and secure.”

Herrera said when people know they have to enter through armed security, they listen, and the security team is perceived as a good thing amongst staff. “We keep the integrity and professionalism at a very high standard here.” Rodgers echoed the sentiment. “They really are professional and courteous – top notch!”