SANTA FE (KRQE) – Sheriffs lead sworn officers in every New Mexico county but that doesn’t mean he has any experience being an officer himself. According to state law, pretty much anyone can run for sheriff and one group says that needs to change.
The law doesn’t require candidates running for sheriff to have any law enforcement experience.
“You could be whatever profession one day and the very next day you are carrying a gun and making very big decisions that impact a lot of people,” said Torrance County Sheriff Heath White.
Sheriff White is on the board of directors for the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association, a group pushing for legislation in the upcoming session in January to change the requirements for sheriffs.
“At the bare basics, you should be a certified police officer that has spent some time on the street so you know what’s going on,” Sheriff White said.
The Sheriff’s Association wants to require, at the very least, candidates be 21 years old and have five years of experience as a certified law enforcement officer.
The association said it believes a few current sheriffs in the state don’t have that background although it could not provide an exact figure or names.
“They are in power to carry a firearm but if they’re not certified, they can’t arrest, they can’t ticket or do all those things and file charges in the courts,” White said.
He said most counties in the state can’t afford not to have their sheriffs out on the streets alongside their deputies.
“Because of our county size, because of our budgets, because of our manpower, we are right next to our deputies or we’re out there ourselves covering shifts and working,” Sheriff White said.
The Sheriff’s Association said it also wants to close any current loopholes in the law and make sure sheriffs do not have any felony convictions.
Los Alamos County didn’t have a certified law enforcement officer as sheriff until 2010, according to the Sheriff’s Association.
If lawmakers approve the legislation, it would go to the voters who would have to okay the constitutional amendment.