Current Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III will meet a familiar challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary. In the last go around—in 2014—Gonzales beat fellow Democratic contender and colleague, Sylvester Stanley by only 376 votes. These two are facing off again, along with a third candidate, Joe Williams.
Over on the Republican side, retired Albuquerque Police Department officer Lou Golson has no rivals and will breeze into the November election to face the winner from across the aisle.
While party should not matter much if the job is to enforce the laws passed by legislative bodies, the tone that is set for enforcement often comes from the local law enforcement offices like those of the sheriff—which is where the essence of the rule of law comes from. For example, former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio did not agree with the US Constitution on several issues, consequently chose what laws to enforce, illegally enforced others and has been convicted of contempt of our courts—though he was subsequently pardoned by the big Orange One.
Manuel Gonzales was appointed to office by the Bernalillo County Commission in 2009 then lost the 2010 election, but bounced back to just barely win the sheriff’s badge back in 2014. Gonzales has 25 years in law enforcement and 4 years in the Marine Corps. He has a bachelor of science in occupational education From Wayland Baptist University. Some of his main platform points are: consolidation of metro area law enforcement services, expansion of community policing and continuing efforts to provide transparency and accountability. He is in support of dashboard cameras but he is not in support of deputies using body cameras. He says that money is best spent putting more deputies in the community. County Commissioners recently approved hiring an independent auditor to look at the department policies after a sharp increase in use of force claims against the department and nine officer involved shootings in a four and a half month time span under his watch. More information on his campaign is available at manuelgonzalesiiiforsheriff.com.
Sylvester Stanley retired from the very department he now wants to lead. He has an associate degree in criminal justice. Prior to going to work for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office in 1982, he served as a US Army military officer. Since his 2002 retirement, he has done stints as police chief for Gallup, the Jicarilla Apache Department and for Isleta Pueblo. He wants to make Bernalillo County a safer place by increasing the involvement of residents in community policing, and being more proactive with property, drug and gang crimes.
He is in support of body cameras saying it protects the integrity of any subsequent investigations and minimizes county liability in litigation, and should make anyone wanting to sue the department think twice. To learn more, visit the candidate’s website at stanleyforsheriff.com.
Joe Williams, an octogenarian, has never been a law enforcement officer. He has said that his interactions, and subsequent frustrations, with area law enforcement over the last few years are what led him to run for office. He is by far the underdog in this race. Williams is still a licensed real estate agent and says, as sheriff, he will protect private property owners. Williams said being sheriff will give him more power even than his real estate license. He has not publicly answered whether he supports body cameras for deputies. Williams does not have a campaign website.
Lou Golson started his career in 1977 as a military officer before he chalked up more than 20 years with the Albuquerque Police Department, retiring in 2004. He didn’t stay retired long and came back to APD after a few months as part of their re-hire program. Since then, he worked all over the department before being critically shot during a traffic stop in January 2015. He officially left the department a year later. Golson says he will reach out and involve residents more to help make them comfortable dealing with deputies, to increase the eyes and ears in the community. He says he will have a closer relationship with the district attorney’s office to keep repeat and violent offenders off the streets. Golson is in support of using both dashboard and body cameras to get the full picture. His website is at lougolsonforsheriff.com.
Bernalillo County spans 1,167 square miles of central New Mexico. The terrain takes in riverbeds, rugged mountains, miles of dirt mesas and three-quarters of a million people, at least. The sheriff is responsible for a budget of over $40 million annually, and supervises about 300 sworn deputies who provide public law enforcement for all county residents including Albuquerque and the Villages of Los Ranchos and Tijeras. BernCo deputies are also tasked with providing state court house security. According to the Bernalillo County website the current sheriff salary plus benefits is about $86,000. The sheriff is an elected official who cannot be fired by anyone except the voters.