Taos County Sher­iff can­di­dates spar at fo­rum

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS - By John Miller jmiller@taos­news.com The Taos News

The two can­di­dates run­ning for Taos County Sher­iff in the 2018 gen­eral elec­tion an­swered ques­tions and de­bated im­por­tant pub­lic safety con­cerns at a fo­rum Thurs­day (Oct. 4).

Taos County Sher­iff Jerry Ho­grefe and Repub­li­can chal­lenger Jani Davis some­times found com­mon ground, and at other times, dis­agreed strongly.

The fo­rum, or­ga­nized by The Taos News, the Taos County Cham­ber of Com­merce and Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­i­coTaos, started around 5:30 p.m. at UNM’s Bataan Hall on Civic Plaza Drive in Taos.

Davis kicked off the evening by telling the large turnout gath­ered that she be­lieves law en­force­ment has reached a “tip­ping point” in Taos County. “They’re tired, ready to re­tire and they’re out­num­bered,” Davis said.

She framed her state­ments around a pic­ture of ex­hausted deputies and low morale at the sher­iff’s of­fice, an ar­gu­ment she would thread through other re­sponses she gave through­out the evening.

Davis spent al­most a decade in law en­force­ment be­fore her ca­reer was de­railed in 2015 when she was ac­cused of us­ing ex­ces­sive force against a sus­pect. A jury later found her not guilty.

She ac­knowl­edged at the fo­rum she made “a bad call” the night the in­ci­dent oc­curred. She said her “grit and guts,” along with ex­pe­ri­ence in the pri­vate sec­tor, have im­bued her with the qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to serve as an ef­fec­tive sher­iff.

Ho­grefe, with 30 years in law en­force­ment, coun­tered that his of­fice, while im­per­fect, has greatly im­proved dur­ing his ten­ure. He said his track record of reg­u­lar fugi­tive roundups, ma­jor case in­ves­ti­ga­tions and Taos County’s re­cent in­cor­po­ra­tion into the Re­gion III Drug Task Force, part of the High In­ten­sity Drug Traf­fick­ing Area ini­tia­tive, are ma­jor steps in the right di­rec­tion.

The sher­iff also noted the ad­di­tion of sev­eral po­si­tions un­der his lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing two deputy po­si­tions that were added within the last few months. But, he said he agreed with Davis that more man­power is needed. He has re­peat­edly ap­proached Taos County for funds to add po­si­tions while also seek­ing grant monies from the state and fed­eral govern­ment.

“I’m very proud of this of­fice and the fam­ily and team that we have be­come,” Ho­grefe said.

While both can­di­dates treated each other with re­spect and shared in jokes on­stage, things took a turn af­ter Ho­grefe was asked about his of­fice’s re­cent raid of a com­pound near Amalia where five adults were ar­rested, 11 chil­dren were taken into cus­tody and a twelfth child was later found dead.

“I wish that the fed­eral agency (FBI) would have moved quicker,” he said as part of his re­sponse and re­it­er­ated that his of­fice moved in once they felt they had suf­fi­cient prob­a­ble cause.

He made waves when he walked out of a CNN in­ter­view in Au­gust af­ter he was asked whether mov­ing in sooner could have saved the life of the child.

Davis took the op­por­tu­nity to point out that Ho­grefe had cre­ated a “lip sync video” in the past year, ar­gu­ing that, if she had been in of­fice, she would have been work­ing the case in­stead.

Tem­pers flared from there, with Ho­grefe telling Davis, “You don’t know any­thing about that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” He said he was proud of the video, which has be­come a pop­u­lar means for law en­force­ment agen­cies through­out the United States to re­late to the pub­lic.

Later in the evening, Davis would also take shots at Ho­grefe for crim­i­nal charges that are pend­ing against two of his sergeants, one of whom al­legedly com­mit­ted his crimes be­fore Ho­grefe took of­fice and a re­cent petty mis­de­meanor bat­tery con­vic­tion against one of his deputies, whom Ho­grefe has kept on at the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Ho­grefe re­sponded that he has fol­lowed pol­icy in all dis­ci­plinary mat­ters and that his rule­book was de­vel­oped in con­junc­tion with seven at­tor­neys and the Taos County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

In spite of the at­tacks, Ho­grefe re­sisted tak­ing sim­i­lar shots.

In clos­ing state­ments, both can­di­dates re­it­er­ated their plat­forms. Ho­grefe, a sher­iff with many ac­com­plish­ments un­der his belt but look­ing to do more, and Davis, deftly play­ing to a large turnout of sup­port­ers, re­mind­ing them of the qual­i­ties she put on dis­play Thurs­day night: that she’s tough, cal­cu­lat­ing and not afraid to clash with those who op­pose her.

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