Saturday, September 30, 2023

BernCo Sheriff Primary Candidates In Their Own Words


Answered by Lawrence G. Koren (D), Philip A. Snedeker (D), Kaelen Ashby Dreyer (Lib), Rudy Mora (D), John D. Allen (D)

Matthew McCoy (D), Patricio R Ruiloba (D), Sheridan Lund (D), David Bibb (R), Paul Pacheco (R), Dereck Allan Scott (R) and Joshua James Ryan Lawrence (R) did not respond.

What is the first major change you would like to make at the BCSO?

Snedeker: Community involvement and outreach is the foundation of effective and successful policing. I fully endorse and will implement community policing initiatives and programs, involving a strong police presence designed to address the distinctive needs and problems of each neighborhood/area. These policing practices will result in the Sheriff's Department enjoying the trust, confidence and support of the communities it serves. Consistent and comprehensive review, analysis, and evaluation of Departmental policy, procedure, and practice, coupled with meaningful dialogue, engagement and interaction with the community, will be characteristic of our agency.

Koren: My first major change and priority will be a multifaceted approach to bolster law enforcement services to both city and county residents. My focus areas will include (1) investing in recruitment and retention efforts of our personnel by advocating for competitive pay and more staffing of deputies and support staff; (2) sustaining and developing strong collaborative relationships between all criminal justice stakeholders, including federal agencies, local law enforcement (APD), the District Attorney’s office, and behavioral health organizations; (3) developing law enforcement infrastructure to include facilities and information technology; and  (4) integrating and utilizing smart policing initiatives, which will include data-driven law enforcement, real-time data sharing, next-generation dispatch technology, and live video streaming technology. 

Dreyer: The first major change I would make at BCSO would be criminal justice reform. It’s time to abolish the enforcement of victimless crimes and also end War on Drugs (basically I would try to do a Portuguese style drug decriminalization). Prosecuting these have been a waste of police resource and issues such as drug abuse should be solved through means other than law enforcement. I’m also interested introducing restorative justice as a alternative to the current prison system.

Mora: This is not necessarily a change but I’m a firm believer that “we don’t have to be bad to get better.” One area I would like to focus is overall employee job satisfaction. When employees feel valued and supported, they will perform better. When public servants perform better, the community benefits. People will always be any organization's greatest asset.

Allen: I will immediately change the culture of cronyism, nepotism, and dysfunction created by current Sheriff Manny Gonzales. The Sheriff’s office has been plagued by an inability to work with other jurisdictions and hostility toward transparency, the public and the media. I will restore public trust and rebuild morale at BCSO so we can better fulfill our core mission of public safety, through 21st century techniques and training.

How would you address reducing the increased homicide rate in New Mexico, particularly in Albuquerque?

Snedeker: Crime reduction and suppression strategies will involve comprehensive and intensive, data analysis of public safety law enforcement activities, calls for service, arrest data,  etc., resulting in the focused deployment of personnel and services to specific areas and neighborhoods, based upon needs, levels, and types of crime. Our agency will engage in focused initiatives, and aggressive enforcement operations, to reduce the unlawful purchase, presence, possession, sale, and use of illegal firearms. Our agency will present strong, factually sound cases for prosecution, and work closely with State and Federal prosecutors and Legislative representatives advocating for increased penalties, and swift and severe consequences, for such criminal endeavors. Our agency will work cooperatively and collaboratively with all of our area Law Enforcement agencies, and Criminal Justice stakeholders, the District Attorney's Office, the Law Office of the Public Defender, mental health and chemical and alcohol abuse counseling professionals, services for disabled and the homeless, and employment providers, and educational/vocational institutions, in the shared interests of addressing and curtailing criminal behavior and addressing underlying, root causes of criminal behavior, and providing systems and societal alternatives to criminal ideation and lifestyle.

Koren: I intend to take a three-pronged approach to address the increased homicide rates in Albuquerque that is focused on fundamental law enforcement strategies, data-driven technology, and collaborative agreements among stakeholders. I will move to combine fundamental strategies of directed patrols and investigations into high-impact communities complemented by data sharing and real-time technology.  I will work toward formulating practical agreements between the city and county to address violent crimes.And, importantly, as Sheriff I will offer assistance to any law enforcement agency in the State of New Mexico should an agency acknowledge they need help, accept help, and support the help from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

Dreyer: The Homicide rate is a complex issue that can not be solved solely by politicians. I believe it would be most effective for the communities affected and involved to look at the root causes and try to solve it themselves. As far for police role, I believe if we stop persecuting victimless crimes then the police’s resources could focus on solving violent crimes such as murder.

Mora: I believe in intelligence led or data driven policing. While this type of policing does not go so far as to identify who will commit the crime, it does pinpoint hot spots to help law enforcement anticipate the approximate time of day and area of town where police might anticipate another crime. Armed with this information, deputies can be placed more strategically to either stop a crime in progress, or even better, prevent a crime from taking place. Intelligence-led policing is considered one of the most important law enforcement philosophies to effectively fight and prevent crime. Due to its focus on preventing crimes before they happen, it is regarded as an essential counterweight to past “reactive” models of policing.  Lastly, we must rely on violent repeat offenders. Offender-focused approaches for violence reduction concentrate police resources on a relatively small number of high-risk, chronic offenders to address violent crime.  We must focus our limited enforcement resources on efforts that will have the most significant impact on violent crime in our communities, especially the gun violence that is often at the center of the problem. This begins with working collaboratively with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners.

Allen: Violent crime is our most serious challenge. We must invest in focused and data-driven policing that keeps violent offenders behind bars. We also must overhaul and improve how BCSO works with APD and our law enforcement partners to communicate better, share resources, and allocate officers and deputies more effectively.

Do you think that police body cameras should be switched on during every encounter?

Snedeker: Our agency will ascribe to, and employ current and modern methodology in our Law Enforcement activities. I am a proponent of, and fully support the use of body cameras, consistent with all investigations, interactions with the public, and when responding to, and engaged in, calls for service. Cameras should be in use and operation at all times.

Koren: No. Current New Mexico law regarding body cameras requires the activation of a body-worn camera whenever a peace officer is responding to a call for service or at the initiation of any other law enforcement or investigative encounter between a peace officer and a member of the public. Additional comment: With the ever-increasing volume of video evidence collected by law enforcement, I suspect more legislative energy will eventually need to be spent on defining what video information is releasable to the public. 

Dreyer: Yes Body Cameras should be switched on during every encounter because Police officers are government employees who posses a lethal force. Having body cameras on ensures transparency to the public. If elected sheriff I would make sure the requirements on body cameras and the ban on Qualified Immunity are upheld to ensure transparency and accountability to citizens.

Mora: I believe body cameras should be automatically activated in every citizen police encounter. 

Allen: Yes, 100%.  Body cameras provide impartial evidence of what’s transpired—which is helpful to the public and to deputies. Not only do body cameras reduce use-of-force incidents, they protect our deputies from frivolous lawsuits. Body cameras are key to reform and transparency. I find it shameful that the state legislature had to pass a law to force Sheriff Manny Gonzales to embrace body cameras and it’s unsurprising that both Democratic undersheriff candidates running for Sheriff are on record opposing body cameras. 

There are three major area commands under BCSO jurisdiction, yet only two Social Work & Advocacy officers (and one position is vacant). Do you find that Social Advocacy work is essential to de-escalating crisis situations involving excessive alcohol use, child abuse and other domestic and public disturbances? If so, why? If not, why not?

Snedeker: Yes it is. Social Advocacy resources, treatment professionals, mental health resources, and professionals, should be utilized whenever dealing with such situations.  Research indicates and clearly supports findings of successful resolution as resulting, when such crisis intervention modalities are available, utilized, and implemented as part of an overall strategy of resolving such situations and matters.

Koren: As to de-escalating crisis situations.  The best public safety practice with regard to crisis intervention is to take a layered and multifaceted approach by training all stakeholders (i.e., law enforcement, firefighters, medical personnel, social workers, teachers, etc.) at various levels of their respective organizations in crisis intervention techniques and community services referral process. At a time when the City of Albuquerque is experiencing escalating rates of crime, homelessness, addiction, and behavioral/mental health issues, the integration of social advocacy professionals into public safety is critical to our community’s wellbeing. The simplest description of what really works is people helping people! Social advocates fulfill a unique and important role by working toward individually tailored services to simply help people. The BCSO actually has three (3) social workers: two full-time and one contract social worker. In addition to the three social workers, BCSO works in partnership with crisis intervention clinicians. BCSO’s three social workers certainly possess special training on de-escalating crisis situations, however, they often work on follow-up and referrals to any wrap-around services from field deputies. As to the de-escalation of incidents involving excessive alcohol use and other public disturbances:  BCSO has a partnership with Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Department to establish two Mobile Crisis Teams (MCT). The MCTs are a blend of BCSO Crisis Intervention Deputies and Clinicians with Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Department to respond to requests for de-escalation. The MCTs work closely with BCSO social workers, deputies, and fire department personnel. Although the teams of social workers, clinicians, and crisis intervention trained deputies is certainly helpful, our community continues to see a void in “walk-in crisis facilities” throughout the metro area. At the end of the day, law enforcement and behavioral health services need to be decentralized throughout our community.

Dreyer: Yes definitely, Police officers have been shown to unnecessarily escalate as they are often not trained to deal with serious situations like these. I think more people should understand that many of these issues can not solely be solved through Law Enforcement. Having social workers who are trained and expertise with these issues will result in better outcomes for the victims involved. 

Mora: I am a firm believer in social workers working with law enforcement. Social work is a very important aspect of emergency services. They provide a critical service for our community.  They work with a wide range of people, from persons suffering from mental illness and substance abuse to the homeless and indigent. They also act as advocates for survivors of domestic violence and other crimes. Social work is a profession embedded in social justice and human rights. Social workers follow a distinct set of professional ethics and practice guidelines. It is imperative that all stakeholders, including law enforcement personnel, understand and respect these facts. I would support and advocate for more social workers and petition the commission for additional funding to support this effort. 

Allen: Social advocacy work is essential and I strongly support it. I intend to expand personnel in this area not only for de-escalating crisis situations but to provide the community the services it needs. For people experiencing poverty, drug addiction, and homelessness, a trained social worker is much more helpful than a deputy because the social worker can address immediate concerns and put the individual on a path toward addressing root causes.  

What is the biggest problem facing you if you were elected Sheriff today?

Snedeker: The proper recruitment, selection, training, development, and retention of professional law enforcement personnel, dedicated to the service of their community and it's citizens, is the foundation of exceptional policing. Our Officers must, and will be properly and continuously trained, must and will be properly equipped, and enabled to perform their jobs, must and will have access to the latest tecnologies, training and professional development. All areas of responsibility must and will be adequately staffed and personnel properly deployed, to ensure the goals and objectives of public service and safety, and ensure greater and improved investigation clearance rates.

Koren:  The biggest problem I have is ensuring that the city residents have the same services as county residents. This questionnaire and my responses are directed to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office. But I do not want to imply that my response will not reflect upon the city of Albuquerque, it will. As a city resident and your Sheriff (if elected), when Albuquerque residents are crying out for fundamental public safety services, I am torn because my obligation is to protect and serve all Bernalillo County residents. I recognize that the county’s challenges with regard to crime and behavioral health issues are modest in comparison to the city’s challenges. I am proud that county residents enjoy prompt and quality public safety services by first responders. The fact the Sheriff’s office can accomplish so much with so little in comparison to the city is remarkable. But I do want city residents to eventually have the same level of services currently provided to county residents. As Sheriff (if elected), I will look forward to developing an agreement to bridge service between the city and surrounding law enforcement agencies to fill this gap in service or at least until the city is able to achieve sustainable levels of staffing.

Dreyer: The biggest issue facing myself if I was elected Sheriff would perhaps be my non LE background. I’m certain I will not get along with the corrupt leadership (Especially given I’m a bit infamous from last years “Dongcopter” incident) however I’m running to give a voice to the numerous citizens of Bernalillo County fed up with the corruption and violence seen in local police and suggest changes that is needed.

Mora: Today's policing environment is endangering officers' health, wellness, and performance.  With that, the biggest challenge for me would be recruiting and retention.  The law enforcement profession has been under tremendous scrutiny in recent years.  The attention continues to shine on the actions of law enforcement officers, and departments are reacting to demands for immediate changes at multiple levels.  The candidate pool for qualified officers are changing in a time of increasing attrition, expanding law-enforcement responsibilities, and decreasing resources.  The challenges I would face if elected sheriff can change quickly. Whether it’s developing ways to retain officers or implementing crime prevention strategies without interfering upon the public’s trust, each day can come with new and complicated issues to address.  I will strive to make sure our deputies are the best qualified to serve our community. The recruitment, hiring and retention of the best deputy sheriffs is critical for a safe, thriving community. I will continually strive for a diverse and inclusive Sheriff’s Office that reflects the community and leads to increased trust, collaboration, and transparency. I will continually work with community stakeholders, and the County Commission to ensure the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is adequately staffed and funded.

Allen: If I were elected today, I would go straight to work to restore relationships with APD, the DA’s office and other law enforcement entities. Crime is all of our problem and pointing fingers rather than sharing resources and strengths makes us all less safe. 

What is your personal-favorite outdoor activity?

Snedeker: I enjoy running.

Koren: Tough question for sure. I have many personal favorite outdoor activities depending on the season and time of day. My most enjoyable year-round activity is an urban hike with my wife. Neither rain, snow, wind, cold, heat, nor the gloom of night, will prevent us from taking our hikes. Currently, we hike about four times per week. Each hike lasts for a few hours and we cover between 6 to 8 miles. During the winter, depending on the snowfall, I enjoy snowboarding in New Mexico. And during the summer months, I enjoy kayaking, flying aircraft, playing tennis, and riding bikes or motorcycles. Just writing about these activities makes me want to stop typing and get outdoors. See ya later!

Dreyer: Fun Question! Since I’m a small farmer in the North Valley, I basically live outdoors! Personally my favorite outdoor activity is Biking (especially in the bosque) and I love the amount of bike trails here in Albuquerque, also I have recently been getting into Tenkara style of fly fishing (which is great for small streams here in NM)!

Mora: My favorite outdoor activity is cycling, Cycling, whether road cycling or mountain bike riding, allows me to relax and enjoy the outdoors.  It gives me an opportunity to "decompress." I am a current member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and believe in best practices offered by IACP.

Allen: Running is my favorite outdoor activity and it’s something I’ve kept up with since high school when I ran track for West Mesa High School.

These candidates did not respond to The Paper.'s requests for answers to the questionnaire for BernCo Sheriff: Matthew R. McCoy (D), Patricio R. Ruiloba (D), Sheridan J. Lund (D), David T. Bibb (R), Paul A. Pacheco (R), Dereck Alan Scott (R), Joshua James Ryan Lawrence (R)


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