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I see by Carol Clark’s story in Sunday’s paper that our “Cowboy Sheriff” is at it again. It’s time the council reined him in.
All law enforcement duties in the county are assigned by the charter and by council resolution to the Los Alamos Police Department.
The Los Alamos County Sheriff is limited to those duties assigned by statute to the sheriff that are not duplicated by the police department, which are civil duties such as serving process, evictions, debt collection and so forth.
Our sheriff, a recently retired deputy sheriff from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, has decided that he will provide a parallel law enforcement function even though it is not legal or needed, whether we like it or not. I do not like it, and you shouldn’t either.
One duty the sheriff has by statute that is not duplicated by the police department is the registration of sex offenders and notification of various state officers, and providing information on sex offenders to the public.
The Los Alamos County Sheriff does not have authority to track down sex offenders who have not registered, or to verify that sex offenders are in compliance and warn them that they must stay in compliance on Halloween.
The first is a law enforcement function exclusively within the purview of the Los Alamos Police Department, the second a function of probation officers and/or the police.
But our sheriff seems to be capitalizing on the registration function to bootstrap himself back into law enforcement.
Our sheriff somehow persuaded U.S. Marshals to accompany him on a mission to make an arrest for failing to register, and the LAPD to take him on a “sweep” to pre-empt the attack-of-the-sex-offenders on Halloween, in each instance followed by publicity about how the sheriff is keeping us safe.
I can’t say if his motivation is the protection of children or the publicity, but I think he’s far more effective at the latter.
If adding another officer would better protect our kids from pedophiles, the LAPD would hire one, they don’t need to rely on a part-time publicity-seeking sheriff.
The police don’t need any help against pedophiles that you can’t provide by being vigilant about your kids.
Because the sheriff is not allowed to perform law enforcement duties, neither the county nor the sheriff is protected from liability when the sheriff plays cop, whether he is acting on his own or accompanying legitimate law enforcement officers.
Outside agencies are confused when the sheriff claims authority he doesn’t have, and this could result in vital information not getting to the police when it is needed.
To protect itself, the county must make every effort to prevent the sheriff from acting illegally under color of law.
The council has a duty to defend its prerogatives under the charter, and that means taking effective action to prevent the sheriff from usurping the legitimate functions of the police department.