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LA sheriff seeks more enforcement duties

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Challenge: Lawman wants to take question to the voters

By Whitney Jones

After the Los Alamos County Council voted against a proposal to increase the Sheriff’s Department’s law enforcement duties earlier this year, Sheriff Marco Lucero is seeking to have the question put on the general election ballot.

Lucero said he’s been fighting to have more law enforcement authority within the county since he took office nearly two years ago.  He said the Sheriff’s office has never gone out and done criminal law enforcement before, and that has been the concern for the last year and a half.

That’s because Los Alamos is the only unincorporated county in the state meaning there’s no difference between the Los Alamos town site and Los Alamos County, and the Los Alamos Police Department currently has jurisdiction over the entire county.

Even so, he said he’s the first Sheriff to have state certification from the Law Enforcement Academy.

“I want to be more proactive working in cooperation with the Los Alamos Police Department and federal law enforcement,” Lucero said.

The Sheriff’s Department is currently in charge of delivering summons and other court process orders, but has recently taken on ensuring all sex offenders in the county are registered.

Lucero submitted a proposed referendum to include such changes to the county clerk to have placed on the ballot. Lucero said he needs to gather approximately 1,600 signatures in order to see that happen.

The County Charter allows for any registered voter of the county to commence such a referendum by filing an affidavit with the County Clerk and circulating and filing a petition.

Lucero said that way the voters will get to decide if they want the Sheriff to have more responsibilities.
The Los Alamos County Council set up a committee last year to review the county’s charter and propose changes where necessary.

Charter Review Committee member Kyle Wheeler said the committee reviewed possible changes to the Sheriff’s Department which took center stage during the discussions.

She said the committee determined that there shouldn’t be any duplication of services.

“We do not need the Sheriff’s Department doing law enforcement,” Wheeler said in her own opinion. “We have a police department to do that.

Wheeler said she thinks the Sheriff wanting to expand his law enforcement duties could lead to complications including jurisdictional issues and delaying response times.

According to the committee’s report, two committee members were in favor of abolishing the Sheriff’s Department all together.

Los Alamos County Council Chairwoman Sharon Stover said the council took the recommendations of the committee and that they decided to keep the Sheriff’s Department as is because of concerns regarding redundancy in law enforcement and budget concerns over adding another department, but she said everyone has a right to petition.

“I know he’s passionate about his job responsibilities,” Stover said.