Published September 03, 2011
SANTE FE, N.M. – A New Mexico state police officer has been fired after security cameras caught him having sex with a woman on the hood of a car.
Officer Bert Lopez's dismissal from the New Mexico state police was confirmed by The Santa Fe New Mexican on Saturday. The newspaper said Lopez has 30 days to appeal the firing.
The surveillance photos were taken from a motion-triggered security camera positioned at the front gate of the county-owned La Bajada Ranch south of Santa Fe. The encounter was at the remote Canyon Ranch.
Two photos showing a uniformed officer having sex on the hood were forwarded to Santa Fe Sheriff Robert Garcia, who identified the officer as being with New Mexico State Police. He forwarded the images to State Police Chief Robert Shilling.
An internal investigation was immediately launched, and Lopez, an eight-year veteran, was put on paid administrative leave for about three weeks.
Police officials would not comment on whether the dismissal was an indication whether the officer was on duty at the time of the incident.
The dismissal came days after investigators said the officer didn't commit a crime. Officials were assured the sexual encounter was not in exchange for anything related to his position as a law enforcement officer.
"It is an embarrassing situation for the department, but we have to remember the rights of the employee afford him due process we must follow so we won't be commenting further," said spokesman Sgt. Tim Johnson.
The department refused to release the identity of the woman or details about her relationship with the officer. It was unclear when the photos were taken, but Garcia said he believed it was either late July or early August.
If Lopez contests his firing, the appeal goes to a special commission within the New Mexico state police department and then state District Court, according to the New Mexican.
Lopez was named a 2009 state police office of the year and was awarded a "Challenge Coin" in July, an honor given to officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.