By JOHN N. HORNE
Los Alamos County Undersheriff
It is ironic that at the same time the League of Women Voters was having its debate on the merits of retaining the Sheriff’s Office Police Chief Sgamblione would play out the exact scenario that proves that this police chief and others require a sheriff to provide oversight.
On Oct. 6 at 7:15 Thursday night I was sitting in the second row of the debate audience when I was approached by two Los Alamos police officers. I was dressed in full uniform, my badge was clearly displayed, and I was wearing a duty belt, which included a sidearm. I was asked to meet with the officers in the hallway and I complied. The female officer who made contact with me stated that the chief was getting phone calls complaining that I was carrying the firearm on school property. I told her, “..of course I’m carrying a firearm. I’m a peace officer like you are.”
She then stated that she was here to escort me off the property. I told her that was not going to happen and I then called the Sheriff into the conversation. He explained to the officer that I am the Undersheriff of Los Alamos County acting in my official capacity and I was authorized to carry my weapon.
It is very important to remember exactly what this officer said to me. She said, “.. the Chief is getting phone calls.” Had this been a concerned citizen those phone calls would have been received by the county’s unified dispatch. Instead these calls were going directly to the Chief.
Since his number is unlisted it would follow that these calls were most likely coming from connected individuals within the county who were privy to the chief’s private number. We now know the caller was Jaret McDonald who was not even present at the debate. Someone must have called Mr. McDonald to instruct him to call the chief. So it is obvious that there was extensive collusion among a group of political bomb throwers who thought they could benefit from stifling our political speech or embarrassing me and/or the Sheriff.
If this was an attempt to suppress political speech this is a very serious First Amendment issue and an instance of corruption. If it was the latter, Chief Sgamblione still tasked three officers to stand around waiting for three hours for the debate to conclude so they could claim they escorted me off the property. If you figure the full burden FTE cost he squandered between $500 and $1,000 dollars.
While that is not a huge amount of money it does constitute a fair chunk of my property tax bill wasted in just one evening. If that is how you’re going to spend my tax dollars I’d like to have them back and, I’m sure many other people feel the same. Los Alamos police officers do not exist to humiliate political opponents. Their job is to keep the peace.
The community would have been better served if these officers were out patrolling rather than standing in a lobby. There was obviously no danger to public safety from my presence at that forum. In my opinion all the chief did was succeed in proving that when he is under pressure from his superiors he will act politically rather than ethically. He has shown he will protect his position rather than do the right thing. There could not be a more clear illustration of the need for a Sheriff to provide checks and balances in this community.