Former Albuquerque Police Chief Gil Gallegos, described as “a cop’s cop,” died Tuesday at his Belen home. He was 78. (Courtesy of Maria Henderson)
When Gil Gallegos was looking for a job back in 1964, he filled out two applications with the city—one, to work for the sanitation department, and the other, to work for the police department.
“He said, ‘Whichever one calls me back first, that’s who I’m going with,'” recalled his daughter, Maria Henderson.
It was fortuitous that the Albuquerque Police Department called first. Gallegos parlayed that phone call all the way up the ranks. In 2001, then-Mayor Martin Chávez appointed Gallegos police chief.
He resigned the position in 2005, amid allegations that he didn’t act quickly enough to resolve long-standing problems of theft and missing items from the APD evidence room.
Gallegos, who also served as president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, died Tuesday at his Belen home after a long illness. Hey what 78.
Gilbert G Gallegos was born in Albuquerque. After graduating from Valley High School he joined the Air National Guard and served as a member of the military police, Henderson said.
She remembered her father as being “a gentle, kind and supportive man.”
“Both me and my brother were into sports and he was always there for our concerts, my track meets, my brother’s football games. He was a hard worker. He was a great provider. He was a good family man,” she said.
Her father, in his police leadership roles, also championed giving women opportunities and recognition, Henderson said. “He believed in promoting women, because women weren’t acknowledged like men were back in those days. It was a man’s world. So he really pushed to include and promote deserving women.”
Former Albuquerque Police Chief Gil Gallegos at a news conference in 2002. (Jessica McGowan/)
Bob Coon went through the police academy with Gallegos and the two who remained close friends over the years.
“Gil was the type of guy when you met him you immediately liked him,” said Coon, who described himself as “a transplanted farm boy” from rural upstate New York.
“One of the first people that befriended me in the police academy was Gil. We made sergeant, lieutenant and then captain around the same time. After that, Gil passed me and went on to become a deputy chief and then the police chief. I could tell from the first time I met him that he was destined for great things because he was such a charismatic person and a great leader. He was very knowledgeable and could talk about any topic, especially law enforcement related.”
That, said Coon, was a quality that also made Gallegos particularly well-suited for a leadership position in the national Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in the country, where he served four two-year terms as national vice president, and three two-year terms as the national president.
“I don’t think many people realize what an accomplishment it is for someone from a small population state, such as ours, to become the president of a national organization like that. It was one hell of an accomplishment,” said Coon, who retired as an APD internal affairs detective in 1986.
Another close friend, James Flores, also a retired APD detective, currently sits on the national FOP board of directors. He credits Gallegos with sharply increasing the national FOP membership during his administrative tenure.
“He also served as our national legislative chair for many years and he walked the halls of Congress and lobbied for legislation on behalf of law enforcement,” Flores said.
Although Gallegos was part of APD’s upper management for many years, during police contract negotiations he was far more in sync with the officers’ side of issues, Flores said. “He was supportive of the labor side and reached out to officers on a regular basis. … He was very personable, soft spoken and a good listener. He was a cop’s cop.”
Gallegos is survived by his daughter, Henderson, and husband Joel, of Belen; son Gilbert Charles Gallegos of Albuquerque; seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Services will be held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 619 Copper Ave. NW, on July 29, with a viewing at 4:30 pm and rosary at 6 pm; and on July 30, with a viewing at 8:30 am and Mass at 9:30 am Burial will follow at Vista Verde Memorial Park, 4310 Sara Rd., in Rio Rancho.