Letter To The Editor: A Mountain Of Reasons To Abolish The Office Of Sheriff

By Los Alamos County Resident

As a general rule, I try to avoid public confrontations with angry, gun-toting people. But, since the Los Alamos Daily Post published an anonymous letter in support of the Sheriff and his deputies last week, I’m trusting that the Daily Post will publish this anonymous reply.

First, Sheriff Lucero and both Deputy Hornes, you should be ashamed of yourselves for the vicious and offensive tone of your remarks. If you’re trying to convince people that you really deserve actual responsibilities, your hateful, condescending remarks are enough to make the case against you. How could anyone trust you to dispationately and fairly execute any serious duties after watching you carry on?

If the Council has made a mistake in this matter, it is that they have been too polite to the Sheriff and his men, who themselves are the ones who are deceitful and delusional. They’re not evil.  They’re just absurdly misguided and fiercely passionate in their ridiculous cause.

I’ll spend just a minute on the polite, reasoned public excuse the Council has used to reign in the Sheriff; and then I’ll address more important reasons for abolishing the Office. It all revolves around the Sheriff’s insistence that he and his men are working law enforcement officers, and special ones at that.

As a group, the Sheriff and his deputies are a walking lawsuit waiting to happen. In most law enforcement agencies, officers must meet physical and psychological standards. There are age limits, and training is more than just shooting at targets. Formal, ongoing training includes the use of force in a continuum of response; it includes judgmental (shoot/don’t-shoot) training exercises; and most importantly it includes training on how to deescalate and calm situations. Neither the Sheriff nor his Deputies get any of this training, and it would be a waste of money to try to give it to them.

In every other County in New Mexico, Sheriffs actually have the duty of patrolling the unincorporated areas outside the towns. In Los Alamos, we don’t have any unincorporated areas, and the County long ago decided not to create, staff, and fund a law enforcement agency with nowhere to patrol. Sheriff Lucero knows that, but he keeps pretending that our situation is exactly like other counties.

Our deputies are wearing badges, they have issued themselves uniforms, they are carrying their personal firearms, and they have been very clear that while traveling about the County they are on the lookout for criminal behavior so that they can make “citizen’s arrests”. If one of these badged, uniformed, self-armed, aged, un-fit, untrained Deputies judges poorly in a stressful situation; a family in our community could lose a husband or wife, a son or a daughter. And then there’s the less important monetary liability that the taxpayers would absolutely bear afterward.

I have always found Mr. Lucero to be a personable, cordial man, except when he is talking about the sanctity of the Office of the Sheriff. I appreciate his volunteer work as a coach and I admire his past service as a patrolman in Santa Fe, and I would have been happy to see him and the younger Deputy Horne skirt the term limit rules by handing the Office of Sheriff back and forth between themselves for another 20 or 30 years. It’s a nice little retirement job for Mr. Lucero. But since he ran for and was elected to this administrative post he has been conniving, angling, sneaking, back-dooring, and maneuvering to make the Office into something it never was intended to be – a bona fide, gun-toting, cop-car-driving, slapping-on-the-cuffs law enforcement agency — and much, much more.

I wrote above that Sheriff and his men have been deceitful and delusional. Here are the facts.

Deceitful – Remember the whole won’t-go-away “I need a patrol car!” dust-up? Well, it turns out that Los Alamos has kind of a weird local law, Ordinance 28-33 establishes the crime of Resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, which is a common offense everywhere. But here, there is a little twist.Section (4) of the Ordinance says that: “Resisting, evading or obstructing an officer consists of: (4) Willfully refusing to bring a vehicle to a stop when given a visual or audible signal to stop, whether by hand, voice, emergency light, flashing light, siren or other signal, by a uniformed officer in an appropriately marked police vehicle.” Yes, you read it right. The Sheriff is desperate to have a police vehicle issued to him because under local law, if he has one, hebecomes a real patrol officer and people must obey him under penalty of law. That’s a big part of what he wants, and in this case the keys to the car are…well…the keys to the castle.

For another lie, consider the Sheriff’s often stated position that this isn’t about his personal power (since he’s out in 2018 due to term limits) but about the sacred Office of the Sheriff. All through the recent legislative session, the Sheriff was prowling the halls of the Legislature, feverishly lobbying for two new laws. One would have eliminated term limits for County Sheriffs, like him. The other would have created special Sheriffeligibility rules that would have prevented all but a few dozen residents of our County from running against him in an election. I like to think of those two provisions together as the “Sheriff-for-Life” package. They don’t flat-out guarantee that Mr. Lucero would be Sheriff forever, but they sure line it up nicely. 

Well, those two legislative proposals didn’t pass, but all’s not lost! The younger Deputy Horne can step up and run, with Sheriff Lucero as his Deputy; and then they can switch back after four years. And again, I would have been fine with that if they were content to safely and peacefully serve court papers, ride in parades, and hang out at the Posse Lodge. 

I don’t really need another example, but there’s one hanging right out there on the tree so I might as well pick it. Now, I don’t know if this is deceitful, or just an example of not being too good at thinking, but Deputy J. N. Horne’s June 6th diatribe here in the LA Daily Post made the point that our “rogue counselors” are somehow usurping the voters rights……by letting the voters decide on whether or not to eliminate the Office of Sheriff. Yes, again, you read it right. Deputy Horne says the Council is tricking the voters by referring the question to the voters themselves for a decision.  Instead of taking his case to the voters and making some kind of rational argument about the importance and value of having deputies serve papers, as another person might, Deputy Horne is cleverly trying to tap into some giant reservoir of hate through his name-calling and lies. See how smart he is! You didn’t even notice that he’s complaining that the Council is sending the decision to, well,….you.

Everything I wrote above was the stuff I found annoying but would never have taken the time to write a letter about. Now we get to the creepy part.

Delusional–In his June 6, 2016 letter to the LA Daily Post, Deputy J. L. Horne writes that the Sheriff’s Office is “the most important elected office in this community”, and that the Sheriff “does protect us from unlawful situations including those perpetrated by local government.” Come on John L., what part of serving divorce papers covers secret investigations into corrupt local government? Pat Canfield wrote in support at 7:40 p.m. on the same day: “The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen. He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to law.” And there have been the two or three other letters that suggest that the jobhas some super-magical powers that are not in law but somehow arise out fromthe Magna Carta or the Rosetta Stone or something. 

A few months ago I asked an old timer in town about these kind of obscure references to the “special powers” of a Sheriff. That was first time I heard the term “Constitutional Sheriff”. At first, I thought it sounded pretty good. You know what I mean, it has a nice ring to it. Like Eloquent Attorney, or Dexterous Dentist; it just sounds good. It’s the kind of person you’d want in a job, right?I mean, I’m for the Constitution. But when I did a simple google search on “Constitutional Sheriff”, I started to get a little bit ticked off myself. I had thought the writings of the Deputy Hornes and the other Sheriff boosters were just weak, illogical, un-focused arguments; and people are entitle to make those, right? They’re just ordinary guys, right? But after I learned about the Constitutional Sheriff movement, all those rants made perfect sense, in an unsettling way.

As it turns out, there is actually a fringe, extremist movementcommonly known as the Constitutional Sheriff movement. Read about this very special Constitutional Sheriff’s group, the CSPOA at: http://cspoa.org/about/

This group traces their heraldry back to the Reeve of the Shire in 9th Century England. And somehow, because that’s older than our actual country, those rules apply. OK – I’m not exactly clear on that either.

From the CSPOA web site: “The law enforcement powers held by the sheriff supersede those of any agent, officer, elected official or employee from any level of government when in the jurisdiction of the county. This power even supersedes the powers of the President. Furthermore, it is this preponderant responsibility that grants a Sheriff the Constitutional authority to check and balance all levels of government within the jurisdiction of the County.” So, I guess the Sheriff will be sauntering on over to the Lab to square away what’s going on in there.

Now google the words: “Marco Lucero Constitutional Sheriff”. Guess what. Our Sheriff has proclaimed himself one of these special people.

The CSPOA is led by a guy named Richard Mack, a former Sheriff from rural Graham County, Ariz. Read what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about CSPOA President Richard Mack:  https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2012/former-arizona-sheriff-richard-mack-seeks-%E2%80%98army%E2%80%99-sheriffs-resist-federal-authority.

Richard Mack was in the news again in January of this year when he sided with the Bundys and other self-styled “Constitutionalists” who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in a standoff with the FBI. If you want to be even more unsettled, watch the Richard Mack video in this link saying that our current government is worse than the government of King George III, which we rebelled against:

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/01/15/oregon-militants-try-recruit-%E2%80%98constitutional%E2%80%99-sheriff-neighboring-county-fail

This is our Sheriff’s ideological guiding light. So, those kind of weird, puffed-up letters to the Daily Post make sense, if you think — as these people do — that the guy who serves eviction notices in our County outranks the President.

You know, on some level I can kind of understand it. If there was a movement that said short, fat, left-handed men like me were the most awesome people out there and everyone else had to honor and obey them; I might be tempted to sign up…for about a second.

But seriously, the idea of the Sheriff and his Deputies barricading the truck route, squinting over the hoods of their (thank God) non-emergency vehicles, lever-action rifles in hand, protecting us from the FBI or the New Mexico National Guard, or wait, DOE? Wait just a minute… We pretty much all work for or live off the Fed payroll here, one way or another. Who exactly is it our Constitutional Sheriff is going to protect us from? Our coworkers? Will the government stop paying us if we get into an armed conflict with it? Might something even worse happen? What about our pensions???

This situation is just layered with irony, but the best of it all is the apoplectic rantings of Deputy J. N. Horne in his letter when he writes: “The rogue counselor seem to believe they have the power to pick and choose which laws they will follow even though each one of them took an oath to uphold all the laws of the state.”, and …”they do not understand their true role in government.  Servants must know their place.  And it is high time that we the people re-establish our authority over them.”

Wrong, Deputy Horne! It is Sheriff Lucero and the other “Constitutional Sheriffs” who have vowed that they will not enforce laws they don’t agree with.  Never mind the Legislature.  Never mind the Courts.  These Special Sheriffs will decide what the laws should be. Really…check out the link with Sheriff Lucero’s pledge: “Sheriffs across America have vowed not to enforce any of Obama’s new gun laws which may violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”, with Sheriff Lucero as number 146 on the Honor Roll of “law-abiding Sheriffs.”, link below:

http://www.nhteapartycoalition.org/tea/2013/01/19/sheriffs-stand-strong-for-constitution/

Fortunately, Sheriff Lucero’s pledge is not that big a deal for practical purposes since he doesn’t currently have any law enforcement authority anyway.

Deputy Horne, I don’t always agree with the County Council, but I’m pretty sure the elected members of the Council do understand their role correctly. It is you who are delusional in this fantasy world of Sheriffs as benevolent warlords. And given your delusion, you rage is understandable. Get help. 

Sheriff Lucero, people are entitled to their views — even views like yours that inch right up to the edge of sedition. But you’re not an ordinary citizen. You’re an elected leader in the community. Be honest for a change, instead of continuing to hide your radical views behind a smile and ten gallon hat. Step up and explain that you believe you are actually in charge of all levels of government in our county – Federal, State, and Local — and that the courts and other elected officials are properly subordinate to you. Just tell the voters the truth as you see it. Why have you been keeping your extreme positions from everyone but your inner circle? 

Getting back Deputy J. N. Horne’s rant on civics, here’s how it actually works. The Council will hold a vote on whether to ALLOW THE VOTERS TO DECIDE on eliminating the Office of Sheriff. At the hearing, The Sheriff and his fellow extremists will skirt around their true argument, which is that we can’t eliminate this $5,000 a year job because it’s more powerful and important than the Presidency. People like me will stay home and watch on TV or on the Webcast, silently praying for the poor Councilors, because armed, furious people scare us. The Council members will squirm, and most of them will probably do the right thing and LET THE VOTERS DECIDE. You and your cronies will rant on for four months and then, quietly, and in the secrecy of the ballot box, a majority of voters will cast ballots to end this ridiculous drama.   

But by all means Sheriff and Deputies, use the months before the vote BY THE CITIZENS to whip up some really mean name calling, divisiveness, ridiculous unfounded allegations, blustering, and venting your considerable anger…because the world is just not the way you want it to be.That’ll help the voter decide.  

Earlier I wrote that this situation has layers of irony, but really it’s just a heap of irony, all tangled together. I guess the crown on top is that if Sheriff Lucero and his Deputies had just delivered the court papers and taken the $40 a pop they get as a fee, gone to the Sheriffs conventions, drank beer at the Posse Lodge and rode horses in parades, none of this embarrassment would have occurred. Sheriff, you had a sweet deal, you flushed it away, and you embarrassed yourself and all of us in the process. 

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