Letter To The Editor: System Working Well Across America Should Not Be Tossed Out

By Former Police Officer
Los Alamos County

I do not believe that the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office should be eliminated. I actually believe that it should be expanded and some of the duties held by the Police Department should be transferred to the Sheriff.

Duties such as court security, prisoner transports, process service, sex offender registration, and even control over the county jail, which are all traditionally duties conducted by the sheriff’s departments across the state.

These could easily be conducted by the Sheriff and just a few deputies in Los Alamos. Deputies who should be sworn officers … I am sure the County could find the funds, even if it meant moving a few from the police department to the sheriff’s office.

I do believe there is merit in Sheriff Marco Lucero’s statement that the sheriff’s office is a good check and balance for the law enforcement function in Los Alamos. Take for example the last major event at the police department. The Chief of Police at the time, Wayne Torpy, had to take a leave of absence for medical reasons. This all while the police department was in the midst of conducting internal investigations on two of its four commanders, which disqualified them from assuming command, and the other two were deemed unfit by Torpy to take command while he was out.

With this problem, the solution Torpy settled on was to assign a civilian – who had never been a law enforcement officer – to take command of the police department while he was out. If the sheriff’s office had been treated as a legitimate law enforcement entity in town, then the sheriff would have been the logical choice to take charge of the police department while the police chief was out.

That scenario also serves as a perfect example of why a sheriff, who is elected by the citizens and not beholden to the county manager should be allowed to remain, and remain as a law enforcement entity in Los Alamos.

At this time there is no alternative in Los Alamos for citizens other than the police department. If at some point the citizens begin to believe the police department is not fulfilling the County’s law enforcement needs in an ethical way, then they have nowhere to turn. New Mexico State Police will not respond to Los Alamos unless called upon by the police department. The police chief is wholly beholden to the county manager who is wholly beholden to the Los Alamos County Council – which is finally responsible to the citizens.

A sheriff is directly responsible to the citizens, which at least at some level removes a few steps where possible corruption can occur.

I am not saying that the chief of police position should be eliminated – I believe it is beneficial to have both. I just feel that a system that is working very well across the United States should not be tossed out.

Our government is supposed to be based on a system where the citizens elect the representatives they want in important positions so that when that elected person is not doing the job appropriately, then they can be voted out.

If the County Council decides to eliminate the sheriff in Los Alamos … the citizens will be denied their right to have their chosen representative in what should be one of the top law enforcement positions in the County.

I know the argument from the County is that there is no unincorporated land in Los Alamos County for the sheriff’s office to patrol and that they do not want duplication of law enforcement efforts. I don’t think this is a true concern since the duties I described above would not duplicate any enforcement efforts but would instead relieve police officers of extra tasks that take away from their time, which could be better spent on the enforcement activities.