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If you attended either of the Charter Review Committee’s hearings on the Sheriff’s Office, you could be forgiven if you were bewildered by the frequent references to the sheriff’s power to protect the constitutional rights of citizens.
Curious, I checked it out, and I would like to share with you what I’ve learned.
The office of sheriff is entirely a creature of state law, and has powers and responsibilities for law enforcement and civil process that are laid out in state law and can be limited or eliminated by a home rule charter municipality/county such as Los Alamos.
Because we have a police department it would be a mistake, widely recognized as such by law enforcement practice in New Mexico and elsewhere in the country, to have a sheriff exercising the same law enforcement authority in the same geographical area.
Obviously, we should either keep the office with its civil duties only or abolish the office and transfer the civil duties elsewhere.
End of story. The present charter does the former, though the current sheriff seems reluctant to acknowledge it.
So what’s this business about the sheriff protecting our constitutional rights in some way the police do not?
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