Letter To The Editor: Give Duties, Funding Back To Sheriff

By Concerned Citizen
Los Alamos

I would like to thank the County Council for the reconciliation of the Sheriff’s duties and funding. There seems to be a debate of how much funding the County should return to the Sheriff’s Office. It seems that individuals responsible for trying to drive out this elected position are now in charge of determining what the Sheriff’s duties should be. This seems to be a bit of a conflict of interest, a pick and choose as you will, of those obligations the Sheriff has to the citizens of Los Alamos County. 

George Chandler raised some interesting points. Do we want a Sheriff that is just wall art, a figurehead, or do we need an elected official that serves the residents of the County.  The New Mexico Sheriff’s handbook outlines the responsibilities quite nicely from 2011 back to 1978 (link).

The purpose of the Sheriff’s office is not a question of either/or for police enforcement; it is a matter of checks and balances. When Police Cmdr. Ballew was arrested for poaching, this is an example of where the Sheriff’s Office should have handled the case. The State Police have jurisdiction over all of New Mexico, Mr. Chandler expresses the concept of all or nothing. Though we have State Police officials who reside in Los Alamos, if you have a problem how do you get ahold of them? Is it not possible for all three organizations to protect and serve Los Alamos County?

There is a call for fiduciary responsibility. How is rebranding the Los Alamos County, LLC and decorating the street and all the vehicles with the new LA Logo responsible? How much has the County spent on art projects like the dysfunctional piece at the transfer center? Much of these monies could have been used to directly fund law enforcement in Los Alamos.

I have read stories about business owners who treat customers with disdain and threats. My favorite quote is, “Go ahead and call the police, they won’t do anything, I know them all.” Would it not be a good idea in such a small town, to have an elected official that protects all the citizens, not just the ones they know? Not every town has a perfect solution to law enforcement, having individuals who work for the residents would not be a bad thing, considering all of the items that are presented in the police blotter.

The County Council has stated that they will not be defunding the police department. “Your facts about the sheriff’s budget are incomplete. I did not want to ADD money to the budget for the sheriff because I believe we should TRANSFER the money from other departments. When the other councillors voted to take away the sheriff’s duties they TRSNSFERRED his budget to the police department. I believe we need to reinstate his duties, and other duties, and TRANSFER the money from the budgets that we take the duties from back to the Sheriff’s budget. We will be having a discussion in June to address this.” -Councilor James Chrobocinski.

The elected Sheriff has duties in the state of New Mexico that are not a figurehead position. I happen to know Sheriffs in other counties and they are very involved in the community and law enforcement. They work with the NMSP, USFS, National Guard, as well local law enforcement. When there is a perceived conflict of interest between agencies it is often the place of the Sheriff to handle the incident and uphold the law. I hope our County Councilor’s can keep a budget in balance and return the Sheriff’s position to full active duty.

Thank you.

REF: George Chandler:

County Councilor (Pete) Sheehey has prepared a resolution purporting to “settle the debate” about the Los Alamos County Sheriff. He writes that we must respond to the decision last year by voters to keep the vestigial Sheriff’s Office in our charter, by carving out law enforcement duties for the sheriff’s office, hiring and certifying deputies and staff, handing over the jail, and buying a pickup to pull the sheriff’s horse trailer to meetings of the Sheriff’s Association.

Oh, there is a slight oversight in the letter promoting his resolution: he apparently overlooked the part where it gives the Sheriff authority to arbitrarily intervene in any police department criminal investigation and take it over.

The charter question vote simply maintained the status quo. There was no language mandating an expansion of the sheriff’s office or the dismantling of the police department.

We have never actually needed a sheriff. If people want to keep one for parades, fine, but the council ought to exercise its fiduciary duty (the one that says they should spend your money sensibly) and keep the office to the bare minimum, as it always has in the past.

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