The Independent reached out to all of the candidates running for Torrance County Sheriff with a questionnaire. Only two candidates responded. Their answers are presented here in full.

There are no Democrats in the race for Torrance County Sheriff, which is being sought by the incumbent Jose Martin Rivera and challenger David E. Frazee, who has run for the post before. Also in the race is Pete Golden, who formerly held the position. All three are Republicans.

The Primary Election will be June 7, and early voting is ongoing now. New in this election, voters may change voter registration at the polling location, to vote in any party’s primary. Visit the Secretary of State’s website for details. For Torrance County polling locations, follow this link.

Jose Martin Rivera – R (incumbent)

Why are you running for Torrance County Sheriff?

I am running for sheriff because I care about this community. I have spent a lot of time building a good and respectable department and look forward to continuing this progress.

What strengths do you bring to the table if elected? 

I bring many strengths to the department. I am a currently certified law enforcement officer that immediately adds to the manning when needed. I have been a part of the Sheriff’s Office for the last 12 years and know what works and what doesn’t because I have tried many things to get us to where we are today. I have experience in how the county, state and federal government work and can navigate to get the department what is needed which in turn translates to the protection of the citizens. I follow through with all of my projects to make sure I didn’t waste time or money on a fad. I am fiscally responsible and work hard to stay within my budget while supplementing our needs with grants where needed.

What weaknesses do you bring to the table if elected?

My biggest weakness is that I don’t boast every time my department or I complete a task. I am not very good a marketing myself or my office. It comes with the humble nature I was taught as I grew up.

What is your top priority if elected?

There are many things that are priorities at different times. I think the most impactful priority is having a relationship with the citizens. Whether that means solving crimes, stopping to change a flat tire, or simply talking to someone, it all builds trust in the end. We tackle many things and our focus changes as our environment changes. We already have programs where we interact with children such as the Sgt. Dominique Smith Junior Deputy Program, EVYFC, our participation in the RESPECT program, attending sporting events, and even stopping to play a few minutes of basketball from time to time.

What is the biggest issue facing the county right now and what is your proposed solution?

Our biggest problem in Torrance County is the drug problem. Drugs lead to thefts and family issues that consume the majority of our time. We have made many arrests involving drugs during my time here. The problem with solving the drug issue is obvious. We get one dealer and they are replaced that same day by someone else. The dealer goes to jail and is out on bond usually within two days. Even if we put up a border wall at the county line, the drugs would still get in. Anyone who has worked in a jail setting can tell you that the drugs find their way into all of these facilities. Our biggest way of impacting the drug trade is education and involvement from the parents and community. This problem hasn’t been solved nationwide for many decades despite our best efforts and all the task forces and approaches that we have used. The drug trade like all things is fueled by the consumers. There is a way out if the drug user will commit to going to rehab and doing the things they need to do.

Why are you the best person for the job?

I believe I am the best person for the job because I have already been doing the job. I have experience directly dealing with this community and it’s needs. I already have the respect of the deputies that work for me. They know that I am willing to do whatever it takes to help them process a scene, make an arrest, or anything else that is required. I don’t stop at the Sheriffs Office. I have also helped Animal Control by catching animals or crawling under the house to retrieve a trap. I carry a shovel in my unit for in case there is a grass fire I can help put out. When our dispatch was understaffed, I had some of my staff get trained to help them fully function. I don’t put myself above anyone or any task where I can help someone. Those are the things that are important to me. Aside from that, I have the skills and confidence of my department as well as the County staff. I have formed relationships with state legislators to help the citizens with law enforcement issues and anything else I can do to help the county.

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If yes, provide details.

Aside from traffic citations, I have never been charged or convicted of a crime.

David E. Frazee – R

Why are you running for Torrance County Sheriff?

I want to see more deputies on the job working, with more tools available to them, so that they can do their jobs better, and thus make a safer community for all to live and work in.

Everyone knows that the Sheriff’s Department is severely lacking in having the necessary resources they need to do their jobs. They lack staffing and they lack tangible resources such as cars and equipment. They also need more training, such as training on how to handle mental health issues, how to de-escalate hostile people and hostage negotiations. They have a quasi-traffic unit but only one deputy who is a certified traffic accident reconstructionist and frequently they have no deputies on duty, at all, due to staffing problems.

I am certain that once in office, I will be able to increase staffing and visible patrols immediately by beefing up the once robust reserve officer program, and placing the older vehicles back into service, and acquire tools necessary to properly do their jobs from available, but unsolicited, grants.

I don’t believe the sheriff’s department currently is serving the community to the best of their abilities and I would love the opportunity to correct it.

What strengths do you bring to the table if elected? 

I bring to the table the knowledge, training, education and experience necessary to run the department successfully and to move it forward.

I spent twenty-seven (27) years with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and rose in rank, through all of their growing pains, so I have seen these problems before and I know what needs to be done to correct them. I served eighteen (18) years, of the twenty-seven, as a police supervisor.

I secured many federal and state grants and received over 1 ½ million dollars in grant monies for our department. I know how to get grants, how to manage grants and how to follow up on the grants. I will re-invigorate our grant program to bring a lot of that free grant money to the sheriff’s department.

I commanded Search and Rescue operations, as an Incident Commander for the New Mexico State Police, for a number of years and was the Commander of the Bernalillo County Mounted Search and Rescue unit. I also commanded the departments Fatal Traffic Accident Investigation Team for five years.

I studied at the University of Albuquerque and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology with a minor in Police Science and a second minor in Theology. I have achieved the highest-level certification issued by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, the “Command Level Certificate.” This is the highest awarded certificate without being a Chief of Police or Sheriff issued in New Mexico.

I am a Master Instructor with the Department of Justice and I trained police, of all ranks, from basic police to Executive Management, in Iraq for 3 ½ years, and then again in Beirut, Lebanon for another 3 ½ years.

I worked at the CCA prison in Estancia for three (3) years as the Facility Investigations Manager. I investigated crimes occurring within the facility by either inmates or employees and investigated Internal Affairs complaints as well.

I started my own Private Investigations business called Global Soldier Investigations, LLC and have been successful in operating the company as the owner/CEO for over five (5) years.

I have a concealed carry permit and firmly believe in the second amendment that it is everyone’s right to possess a firearm.

What weaknesses do you bring to the table if elected?

My most notable weakness is inexperience as a sheriff. I have many years of experience working and training in many capacities in law enforcement, but I have yet to be the sheriff. I have however, found a running mate who has run the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department for some fourteen months, as the undersheriff, and in reality, made most of the decisions for the sheriff. I believe with the combined team effort, we will be very effective in pushing the department forward and obtaining the tools needed to propel the department into the top, where they used to be, and where they belong!

What is your top priority if elected?

My top priority is to increase staffing initially by about roughly twenty-five per cent (25%), which should be accomplished fairly rapidly, and then I’ll be working hard on a second twenty-five per cent (25%) increase in staffing. This will be accomplished by reinvigorating the Reserve Officers program and having them provide patrol and other services using the excess vehicles that sit in disrepair. Deputies and Reserve Deputies will be placed in districts within the county so that they can respond to a call for service much quicker and be will responsible for the communities where they are stationed. We will then be working with the County Commission for help in boosting our manpower, with boots on the ground, certified officers, over the next several years to match up with our five year plan.

I will work closely with the three major cities Mountainair, Estancia and Moriarty and immediately commission each city police officer, which will allow every policeman within Torrance County the authority to work together, and we will help each other out. One deputy will be assigned to each of the three assigned cities to work with them and they will supply one officer to join together with a task force we initiate in order to seek out and crush major problem areas as the needs arise.

We will immediately initiate the community policing concept whereby the deputies and reserve deputies will be in contact with the community leaders, and establish neighborhood watch programs. We will reinitiate the Crimestoppers program. The deputies will spend their down time, (when not patrolling), visiting schools, businesses and individuals in their area of responsibility. I will ensure that the deputies receive extra training on investigation techniques so that they themselves will investigate the crimes they handle, under the guidance of the Investigations Manager, and these deputies will be held responsible to answer to the public on their specific cases. This will alleviate the need for the single investigator to investigate every crime and allow him to concentrate on the truly most serious cases. Reserve deputies will also be allowed to work with the investigating deputies and aid in solving the crime problems. We will be available and responsive to any victim, and will keep them informed of the status of their investigation, through conclusion.

What is the biggest issue facing the county right now and what is your proposed solution?

The biggest issue facing Torrance County today is the amount of criminal activity (mostly drug dealers) moving into our area, and mostly from Albuquerque. We have too many meth labs and other drug dealers in our towns and communities already, and more come in daily. They bring their criminal enterprises here to get away from the local law enforcement in Albuquerque, and set up shop here. We’re easy targets. Little is done here to go after them because it’s all our deputies can do to just react to calls for service.

We need to reach out to APD and BCSO to obtain and use their data-bases about who these criminals are. We need to monitor them and place their identifiers into our own data-bases and share that with all of the police agencies in the county, and in adjoining counties. We must get away from “reactive policing” and move into “pro-active” policing. We need to develop a task force, (mentioned earlier), to seek out and aggressively go after the criminals and chase them out of our neighborhoods. There is a lot of “free” grant money available to pay for task forces, and state and federal assistance is available, as needed. Once we start arresting the dealers and confiscating their drugs and money, they will move out, but not until then.

When we learn of a family struggling with a member who is a user, we need to intervene and give them guidance and direction on how to get help for their family member. Locking up a user may keep him from breaking into your home today, but it isn’t solving the problem. Sometimes locking a user up will help them because they will get help in jail, but that rarely works long term. We have to make the user want to quit more than he wants to use. Our deputies will receive extra training on what resources are available and they will have the information readily available to give to whomever needs it.

As we all know, drug abuse is connected to a multitude of criminal activities. Burglaries, larcenies and robberies are usually committed by a person seeking money for drugs. If you slow down the drug problems, the other criminal activity will slow as well. It takes hard consistent work by professional and dedicated deputies, aligned by other law enforcement resources, to eradicate or slow down the drug trade in Torrance County, but with the right person leading, it can be accomplished.

Why are you the best person for the job?

I am the best person for the job because I truly care about Torrance County and its residents. I am dedicated and motivated to helping the county become better and safer. I am trained, educated and experienced in law enforcement, for several decades, and I understand the problems. I truly want to help direct the deputies to become high achievers, and give them to tools and motivation to make Torrance County a safe place to live, and work. We have plans, we understand grants, we understand the needs, and we know what we’re doing. We just need to be placed in office to make it happen. The current sheriff has been in a leadership position in the department for about 11 ½ years and nothing has changed. If he continues, nothing will change.

Crime is not stagnant (and neither should be the police), and it must be met head on aggressively. More of the same simply will not do!

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If yes, provide details.

No, I have never been convicted of a crime.