May 29—Fewer Republicans than Democrats have entered the race to be Bernalillo County Sheriff, but there are still four men campaigning to win their party's nomination in the primary.
Candidates include a former state representative, a Colorado native who has worked for the Sandoval County Detention Center, a former chief of police in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and a man who describes himself as a constitutional activist and teacher.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office is the largest sheriff's office in the state and employs 458 staff — 305 of whom are sworn deputies. It mainly covers the unincorporated areas of the county, however deputies have jurisdiction within the city limits as well.
The winner of the Republican primary will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary and libertarian candidate Kaelan Ashby Dreyer in November's election.
Paul Pacheco was spurred to run for sheriff by his two daughters, ages 18 and 30, who are talking about leaving New Mexico because of the crime problem in the county and state.
He said he's not aware of either having been a victim of crime but it weighs heavy on their minds.
"They're fearful for their friends, going out doing things, even going and doing something as simple as going to the grocery store concerns them, especially at night," Pacheco said. "So that's the catalyst of everything of why I jumped into the race."
Pacheco, 58, who worked for the Albuquerque Police Department for 27 years and then served as a state representative from 2013 to 2017, said if elected he would push to increase the number of deputies on patrol by transferring more to the field services bureau.
"So the first thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to reorganize the agency," Pacheco said. "I'm going to put more deputies on the street along with asking the Bernalillo County Commission for 75 new deputies."
He said he's not sure if he'll be able to convince the commission to fund 75 more deputies but is hoping for at least 50. With more people on patrol Pacheco said deputies will be able to engage with the community and make more traffic stops, which he said will then lower crime.
He said he's noticed the current sheriff seems to be in "constant conflict with numerous other entities within the law enforcement community," including the Albuquerque Police Department command staff and the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office.
By contrast, Pacheco said, his time in the Legislature taught him how to build relationships. And his years, starting in 2017, as deputy cabinet secretary for the Corrections Department gave him "another part of the law enforcement puzzle" as well as a lot of executive experience.
"It helps me again, in building coalitions and relationships," Pacheco said. "I am not all knowing, I don't know everything. The important thing for me as sheriff is to be articulate, is to know my subject matter and to surround myself with good people."
David Bibb's father was a career FBI agent so the family moved around a lot as he was growing up.
But Bibb, now 53, was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and went to high school in Santa Fe. He joined the Las Vegas Police Department, the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office and then the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office — where he worked until he retired.
More recently, Bibb served as police chief of the Las Vegas Police Department from November 2018 to July 2020. He said he was able to keep the department unscathed, completely neutral and transparent as the mayor was being tried for public corruption by the Attorney General's Office.
While the 50-officer police department is much smaller than the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, Bibb said he believes his experiences have prepared him for the role.
"Whether I'm the chief in Las Vegas, a platoon sergeant in combat, or the sheriff of Bernalillo County, I would empower and give the authority to the people in the positions to make the decisions on the spot," Bibb said. "All I would ask is they do what's best for the community and keep within their scope of training."
If elected, Bibb said he would not "come in with a wrecking ball" but instead would fine-tune things, such as instituting a system where people can report incidents online rather than waiting for a deputy to come to them.
"I believe the sheriff's department is doing a phenomenal job today," Bibb said. "Can they do it better? Of course, there's always room for improvement. And having worked for different agencies, I think I bring the perspective of different practices that could work better."
Dereck Scott grew up in Colorado and moved to New Mexico in 2003, where he worked for the Sandoval County Detention Center.
He said he was kicked into a "higher gear" and spurred to run for Bernalillo County Sheriff by his children, who said they felt like they had no future in New Mexico.
"This is the first time I'm running, but it's the only job I want to do — is sheriff," said 42-year-old Scott. "I really don't have any bigger aspirations than that."
Scott said he was a law enforcement explorer — a program for teenagers to learn about law enforcement — and a cadet with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office before moving to New Mexico.
"When I went through the academy in the late '90s, early 2000s, that was the idea — community-based policing," Scott said. "And so it's something that I brought from Colorado, that I think that can really bring the crime down, and help Albuquerque get out of its slump."
In interviews and on his website, Scott said he worked for the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office as a reserve deputy and a peace officer, patrolling the area and investigating crimes.
But Sandoval County officials could not find any records to confirm he was a deputy or a reserve deputy, only that he worked at the jail.
Scott provided the Journal with a certificate that showed he was a certified peace officer with the Sandoval County Detention Center. State statute says a jail guard's peace officer powers only extend within the facility or during transport, supervision or apprehension of an inmate. The state's Department of Public Safety has no record of Scott having a peace officer law enforcement certification.
If elected, Scott said he would want to make some changes to the training to include new technology that helps with situational awareness. He said he would also like to empower residents to join the reserve program at BCSO and try to get state grants to fund the Sheriff's Office and the Albuquerque Police Department to help solve murders and get the homicide rate down.
"How do we take care of our county and how do we help out Albuquerque — what some people like to say is the monkey on the back of the Bernalillo County," Scott said. "That's where our reserve program comes in."
Joshua James Ryan Lawrence
If elected Joshua James Ryan Lawrence said his first week in office would entail "escorting the elected officials and judges out of their offices" and then holding a special election to replace them.
This is because, he said, none of the officials had gotten their oath bonded as is required in the state's Constitution.
"If they're not within those 30 days, they actually forfeit their elected office," Lawrence said. "Which means that all of the elected offices in our county are technically vacant."
Lawrence, 39, said he has talked to every single elected official in the state as well as the secretary of state about this issue but "they're not very familiar with our constitution" and "they don't understand or comprehend how they are not upholding their constitutional duties."
A spokesman for the state's General Services Department said the department has received several requests for information about bonding. He said the GSD provides surety bond coverage for all state employees, including elected officials, to cover the state if they fail to perform their duties or if they commit any wrongdoing.
Lawrence said he's worked in the film, music and theater industry for more than 20 years and has "done just about everything you can do on a movie set." He also describes himself as a constitutional activist.
"I've been teaching the constitution for many years," he said. "Traveled the whole state, teaching town hall meetings, the community, as well as all the elected officials how to operate in a constitutional status."
While Lawrence said his prior experience was being Bexar County Sheriff for The Republic of Texas, in an interview he clarified that he is not referring to the state of Texas. He has not worked for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office in the state of Texas.
Things would change a great deal if Lawrence becomes the Bernalillo County Sheriff.
He said he will release all the deputies who already work for BCSO and deputize all veterans who will then help deputize the public. The former deputies will then have to decide "if they want to operate constitutionally" and if they do they will be vetted by the veterans and re-instated.
"I'll be putting the power of the people back into the people's hands," Lawrence said. "Unfortunately, the people don't have a whole lot of power right now and most aren't aware of their rights. So I will be teaching the people of the county what their rights actually are, and how to assert those constitutional authorities."
Which rights should they be asserting? That elected offices are vacant because none of the officials have gotten bonds.
To read candidate bios and the complete questionnaires, visit ABQJournal.com/election-guide