Letter to the Editor: A Call For Integrity

Los Alamos

I am moved to respond to recent Letters to the Editor on the topic of funding the Los Alamos County Office of Sheriff particularly from a perspective of Integrity and the restoration of Integrity.

George Chandler’s letter of April 10, 2017, is an excellent example of behavior that fails to deliver on what is actually possible in the world: It appears as a full display of being base that undermines actual fulfillment in any area of life. “Base”, as defined by Dictionary.com and by Merriam-Webster, among other available references, is an adjective for the quality of being “morally low; without estimable personal qualities; dishonorable; mean spirited; selfish; and cowardly” and “lacking or indicating the lack of higher qualities of mind or spirit: ignoble” and “lacking higher values: degrading”.

While Mr. Chandler holds that clarity is found in the law, I am clear that Mr. Chandler’s letter also represents vitriol disguised as humor or cleverness as a ploy to get people to agree with him that the Sheriff is, in fact, nothing more than a cartoonist’s character in our town and county who is not only unworthy of inclusion and useless to law enforcement in the County, but also to be seen only as less than and not equal to Mr. Chandler or those who agree with his amply promoted views. I ask you all to consider that baseness of human nature likely will not generate any form of a Sheriff, a budget, or a community that actually works or has no conflicts any more than would making money, profit, and avoiding dealing with conflicts at their roots ‘the bottom line’. And I ask you to consider that clarity is not a function of law, but rather we could hold that workable law is given as a function of both Integrity and Clarity.

Please consider that why the function and distinction of ‘Sheriff’ has not been working among all members of this County is owing to a loss of Integrity as well as a potential mistake in our Charter in this area. “Mistake” as I use the word here could be read as ‘lack of clarity’ since that is likely the source of the error. And where there is an emptiness, a void, or a lack of actual clarity or facts, an abundance of opinions usually arises, including those used to manipulate and coerce (bully), degrade, and “win”.

While Mr. Chandler and his wife, one of our current County Councilors, and their supporters are at choice and can continue with these ways of being and the results they generate (like no affinity and casting even life-long members of the community out), I select from another view that arises out of the possibilities of Integrity, Inclusion/Community, and Satisfaction. Restoring Integrity to our conversations, County, and community might require some purification; that is, to see what is actually at work recently that has generated the conflicts.

One of those conflicts was created out of the prior County Council’s actions to diminish the functions of the Sheriff by stripping away duties, deputies, and dollars prior to the 2016 election. These actions are common from people who think being responsible managers means to fulfill on an agenda, to do so at all costs, and to do so via new results that would lead ‘any reasonable person’ to conclude what the managers want them to conclude.

 In the case of the Sheriff and the view that the Sheriff is a duplication of the Police Department and therefore not needed, those managers moved early on to eliminate staff positions and funding and create results like an FY 2017 budget number of $85,411 (Cornell Wright) (link) so that people would easily choose to abolish the Sheriff since there is barely any duty to carry out and so that any increase in funding will in fact be seen as ‘unusual’, a ‘problem’ and as “empire building”.

What those who generate such views have done is failed to disclose all the actual motives going on in the background: consider this manipulation and these results were designed to have just such a ‘debate’ about costs and validity of costs that would have ‘any reasonable person’ object to cost and even function that could actually, upon full consideration, be in Integrity or in alignment with lawfully running a competent, capable, and contributing Sheriff’s office and conclude it is a “waste” or “wabbit hole”.

Restoring Integrity might also require looking at what else is in operation that is giving results like conflicts in this area. A Sheriff in our US History and in our State is given first as a concern for ‘elected official’ (by the people) and second by an act at the level of the State government (the representatives of the people). A Police Department, regardless of concerns for “professional”, is not elected in our County and is given by an act of the municipality – in this case, the County. The County also is given at the level of the State government. As a consideration, to align the sources properly offers that Sheriff and County are given from the same level (the State), and Police Department is given at a ‘lower’ or more limited level (the County). From clarity, we can see that these are two distinct paths of responsibility, action, and accountability.

Restoring Integrity might also require to consider that the State constitution and statutes do name a Sheriff and provide for some particular duties. And the State also provides for an “H class” county and “home rule” designations that have given Los Alamos County its hallmark, or as many relate from, a conundrum of ‘specialness’ or ‘superiority’. Consider, however, that just because a County in relation to the State might be an “H class” type with “home rule”, providing for making laws of self-governance that counter or somehow would be exempt from State laws, does not mean that we should do so just because we can. In other words, a conflict certainly could arise when an “H class” “home rule” county of the State decides to diminish, degrade, or cancel a provision that exists for all of the rest of the counties in the State. And it makes sense that that conflict could be a large one if years of precedent and manipulation are involved.

Restoring Integrity might also require looking at another path based in a new conversation. If we consider that possible with us is a vibrant and charming community where law enforcement is handled lawfully and in accordance with the purposes of elected offices and that possible with us is Integrity, Inclusion, and Satisfaction, then we all can move beyond the agenda that ‘the Sheriff must go or be constrained’ to generate a disappearance of the Sheriff. Functions as they exist at the level of both Integrity and what is possible as a way of being could generate new results that work and already show up in other counties.

As Patrick Brenner also wrote (link), another path is available in looking at the conflict generated at the level of the County Charter. While we could make a case based on the presence of conflicts in this area that in amending the County Charter circa 1976 to state some language for “no duplication” of duties, these framers generated the conflicts we have, particularly with respect to the concern for Indemnification; and while several have made a case that those framers would have abolished the office of Sheriff at that time if they were clear in the law that they could have then, what remains is to follow a path that ends conflicts and generates results that work – and possible is, with all of the residents such that Integrity, Community, and Satisfaction are present. For example, one result from disappearing conflicts in the Charter in the area of law enforcement (rather than the Sheriff) might be people saying, we are grateful for our Sheriff and our Police Department and that we live in a vibrant and charming community where others of good will would like to join us in contribution.

For consideration is that the amendment that was put to County voters in 2016 was not the amendment that would abolish the conflicts or their causality. And it might be a contribution that those framers of the County Charter circa 1976 left us with a Sheriff. An amendment that Law Enforcement shall be handled via collaboration between a Sheriff – as given by the State – and a Police Department – as given by the Municipality/County – with focus on efficiency, respect for the differences and similarities in their sources and duties, and shared responsibility for effectiveness might really cut to the heart of the matter, ending the conflicts. I suggest: people who live here, if we thought we could afford it and if we gave up coming from either-or thinking, would rather have full law enforcement coverage of both a Sheriff and a Police Department (and District Attorney) and retain the values that provided for elected officials in the US and the sources of government, including self-governance and (financial) prosperity, in the first place.

If we consider these possibilities of Integrity, Inclusion, and Satisfaction, it makes sense that anyone who wanted or was inspired to participate and contribute in Integrity into our community would be welcomed and acknowledged for who they are and what they contribute. There would be no need to pretend that a Sheriff who has invested in their training and education and performance would not be able to provide law enforcement as provided for at the level of the State (and US) distinctions and statutes for ‘Sheriff’. There would be no need to degrade or diminish the office or the office holder or the office staff for either the Sheriff or the Police Department; and likewise there would be no need to aggrandize them. There would be no need to have a ‘being in’ or ‘being cast out’ community, particularly one based on level of wealth or dominance via manipulation. What is available is to dispense with being base and to raise the conversation to considerations of what could work for all, including supporting anyone in being who they could be in our community, in our state, in our country, and in the world.