Bernalillo County Sheriff

The Alibi Endorses: Dan Houston

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Job Description: Bernalillo County’s top law enforcement official. Oversees and manages more than 400 employees.

Term : Four years, limited to two consecutive terms

Salary: $68,307

Guess which candidate—Republican
Dan Houston or Democrat Manny Gonzales—espouses the following positions:

He supports treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

He’s in favor of the state’s medical marijuana program, though he opposes outright legalization.

He doesn’t believe the Sheriff’s Department needs to increase its number of officers, especially if resources and personnel are organized responsibly.

He says morale problems in the department can be addressed by better communication and by administration sharing responsibility for mistakes.

He believes it’s up to the feds to secure our borders, and perhaps issue work permits to immigrants already in the country.

That’s GOP candidate Houston. Color the
Alibi surprised.

Early on in his campaign, Houston was endorsed by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose controversies include housing detainees in horrible conditions, accusations of unconstitutional searches and seizures, and abusing his power to investigate those who oppose him. Arpaio is also known for doing immigrant "sweeps" in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Houston’s website doesn’t mention Arpaio anymore. But it boasts endorsements from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, the Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Chicano Police Officers Association.

When asked about the Arpaio endorsement, Houston says, "My wife endorses me, and I love my wife probably more than anybody on this earth, but we don’t always agree. I don’t always agree with what Sheriff Joe Arpaio does or has to do with his community out there. It’s certainly not applicable here."

Still, Houston is in favor of the policy instituted by Mayor Richard Berry that requires everyone who’s been arrested to have a face-to-face interview with an Immigrations and Custom Enforcement agent. Domestic violence advocates protest that this will negatively impact immigrant victims, who are sometimes mistakenly arrested. Civil rights attorneys say the policy is unreasonable because people who’ve been arrested have not yet been convicted.

Houston also talks about reorganizing the department so that officers are able to work in one group all week long under just one sergeant. He’d like to see them consistently assigned to one part of the county. That way, he says, they get to know the people in the area and become responsible for keeping crime rates low there.

He says he places a high value on life, and deputies must be trained to neutralize situations. "I want to make sure that we don’t help people commit suicide by law enforcement.”

Manny Gonzales took over for Darren White when White left the office to become the chief public safety officer for Berry in December 2009. During his interview, he was unable to answer many of the questions we posed, or his answers were confusing. Not everyone needs to be a master communicator, but the sheriff is expected to oversee and explain policies and procedures to 300 sworn officers and about 150 civilians on the force. In general, Gonzales says the department is obligated to enforce the laws handed down from state and federal governments.

We’re as astonished as anyone, but the
Alibi is endorsing Houston in this race.
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