This year’s 30-Day Legislative Session has been busy for New Mexico sheriffs. I, as your elected sheriff, have again been active in testifying at the State Capital in support of bills that will enhance penalties for crimes against children, support to help protect law enforcement officers and efforts to make the Office of the Sheriff more professional and functional.
I will begin with HB-65. This bill will enhance penalties for sex offenders who are in possession of child pornography. Our current law reads that a person convicted of this crime receives a maximum penalty of eighteen (18) months in prison whether they possess one (1) or one hundred (100) pictures of children, often times infants being raped.
It is my belief that each of the pictures, videos, or CD’s has a child victim, and my argument that persons possessing these images encourage further deviant behavior towards our children. Persons who have been convicted under our current law have not been sentenced to prison, but rather they are given a slap on the wrist and sentenced to probation and are free to live in our communities.
It is my belief that persons found in possession of these types of pornography should receive stricter sentences with mandatory prison time.
HB-95 is a bill that will include law enforcement officers as victims of Hate Crimes. It will help protect law enforcement officers targeted by those who wish to injure or kill them.
Recent media coverage has shown direct attacks toward those working in their law enforcement capacity. These attacks are direct and deliberate toward those who have sworn to serve and protect. They are done with prejudice and hate because of the peace officer’s chosen profession. The attacker may not even know the officer, but is motivated by hate toward the profession.
We have all seen the decline in numbers of those choosing to work in the law enforcement profession. The negative media coverage and the poor choices made by very few officers have made it difficult to keep and maintain a full staff. Passage of this bill will show our support for those who have committed to do their best to keep our communities safe.
SB-203 is a bill that will enhance the qualifications for those wishing to run for the office of the sheriff. This bill will require that persons running for sheriff; must be qualified for the position.
Currently the law reads that a person running for sheriff must be at least 18 years of age, and not much more. I have argued that the office of the sheriff should have a sheriff who has successfully completed a basic law enforcement academy, has seven years of law enforcement experience and has not been convicted of a felony. In our last election cycle, we had two convicted felons run for sheriff in our state.
For those who know me, you know where I stand in providing professional law enforcement services for our community. In my 28-year career as a law enforcement officer, all have been in service to the residence of the county, to include the city, through the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff is a unique law enforcement position accountable to those who have elected him/her, rather than the city mayor or county manager. It is my belief that persons holding this position have at least basic qualifications in law enforcement before running for the office.
I would like to encourage the community of Los Alamos, to please notify our representative and senators in support of these bills that will better protect our children, law enforcement professionals and require that those holding the office of sheriff to a professional standard.