From Police Lights to Spotlights for N.M. Officer-Turned-Recording Artist

March 12, 2024
Frank Ray was a Las Cruces police officer for 10 years before turning to country music full time. Now, he's using his platform to address mental health in the law enforcement community.

Seven years ago, Frank Gomez decided to make a career change. After serving as an officer with the Las Cruces Police Department in New Mexico for 10 years, he decided to transition his passion for music into a full-time gig. Looking back, the Nashville-based country recording artist—now known as Frank Ray—told OFFICER Magazine that while he never believed he was destined for stardom, those around him knew it all along.

This article appeared in the January/February issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

“Everyone kind of knew me as the ‘singing cop.’ I was always singing the National Anthem at different memorials or academy graduations, so I was always in that world of music, and it was how I coped with a lot of the stresses and the traumas of the job,” he says, adding that for the last three years of his career, he would go to work as an officer by day and at night he would play at local clubs. He started to find success to the point where whenever the chief of police would pass him in the hallway, he’d say: “Frank, you’re still here?”

When he left the force in 2017, Ray says that he had the support of his brothers and sisters in blue, as well as the support of his family. “Fortunately, it worked out and three years after I quit, I landed a major record deal here in Nashville and moved shortly after, and here I am.”

Despite leaving the profession, Ray always planned to stay close to the law enforcement community. This past October, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund named Ray honorary Chief Ambassador of its Ambassador Program. In his role, he will be tasked with serving as an example for the program’s other ambassadors by helping build awareness and generating support for the NLEOMF’s initiatives from agencies across the country.

“When I first went into the law enforcement world, I found very quickly that I was a part of a bigger family than I could have ever anticipated. That is not something that goes away, especially after 10 years of service,” he says. “This is something that I want to stay close to. Music has given me a platform to be able to do that.”

An important partnership

While out on tour, Ray visits both police stations or firehouses and talks to first responders about the importance of changing the conversation on mental health. “There’s a negative stigma attached to it,” he says. “When it comes to first responders, we’re sort of bred in an environment of suppressing and just dealing with that and going on to the next call. A lot of times you have to, but you need some sort of healthy outlet to be able to do that, because it will manifest itself in something negative.”

He views his partnership with the NLEOMF as another way to help put the focus on mental health for law enforcement officers. “We see it sometimes with different instances where an officer becomes involved with alcohol or drug abuse or there’s been domestic violence issues or suicidal ideations,” he says. “Then, of course ultimately, suicide. So, it’s very important that we change the conversation, and having this platform has allowed me to do that.”

Troy Anderson, the Executive Director of Officer Safety and Wellness for the NLEOMF, says that the organization wasn’t out to recruit ambassadors who had fame or name recognition, but that when the partnership with Ray came about, it was a perfect fit. “He’s a wonderful human being who passionately cares for law enforcement folks,” he says. “He wants to help us in that mission of making it safer for those who serve and keeping names off the memorial wall, and I am very much looking forward to a long and successful relationship with him.”

Ray says that he has always been aware of the NLEOMF and their mission to both honor fallen officers and to help keep active officers safe. He was put in contact with the organization after they were made aware of his mental health campaign called FRAY (First Responders MentAl ClaritY). “Because we’ve been instrumental in changing the conversation and having a positive impact, they invited me to help use their platform as well to amplify what our message is, and I’ve been so honored to be a part of this,” he says. “Just to know that you’re having a positive impact on society is what we are all trying to do. Just change some lives and save some lives and try to prevent people from taking their own lives.”

He is hoping that his new position helps get lawmakers to pass legislation focused on the mental wellness of first responders. FRAY has worked with various mental health consortiums, House Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) of New Mexico. “Everyone’s been really supportive, and we got support on both sides of the aisle trying to get this thing moving forward,” he says.

The organization has turned a lot of its focus to creating FRAY decompression rooms. The rooms are installed at police stations and include features such as full body massage chairs and a Bose audio system for ambient sound. “It’s very spa-like,” says Ray. “Wouldn’t you want to have a place where you can just go and decompress for a little bit? Take the uniform off, take your vest off, lock up your firearm. Sit in the massage chair and take 10, 15, 20 minutes; whatever you’ve got—your lunch hour—to get your mind right. You know, decompress, exhale. Put that uniform back on to go out there and take care of business.”

Ray first came up with the idea for FRAY after attending a leadership conference held by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C. “There was a speaker during a segment that had to do with mental health. Unsurprisingly, it was one of the least attended portions of the conference. I was like, ‘I’ve seen this before.’ To change that conversation, everyone’s afraid to go in there, or it becomes a giant eye roll, right? It’s a very dry subject. Nobody wants to sit in a lecture about the statistics.”

He says that the statistic that 80% of law enforcement officers or first responders are more likely to take their own life than to die in the line of duty is something that alarmed and stuck with him. “How do we normalize this conversation and have a positive impact and prevent things like this from happening?”

The Arlington County Police Department in Virginia had the first FRAY decompression room installed in September 2023. On its website, the agency states that the addition “is a quiet space designed to help officers decompress, refocus and relax. The hope is that the decompression room will reduce fatigue and help officers maintain mental clarity, both on and off-duty.”

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