Editorial: Training Fight Becomes Public Records Denials

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Police Blotter fans who want the entire story about why their weekly fix of Española Valley antics is two days short will find their answers here.

First a correction to last week’s editorial regarding law enforcement training. First we got Ray Smith’s name wrong and called him Bill. Our apologies.

Second Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan’s certification comes from the Rio Arriba County Commission.

From the New Mexico Department of Public Safety:

“Sheriff James Lujan is duly elected to his position, and is a commissioned officer as authorized by the Rio Arriba County Commission. By statute, Sheriff Lujan is not required to be a certified law enforcement officer in the State of New Mexico. As a certified law enforcement officer, Sheriff Lujan (CERT NO: 90-0281-P) is subject to the biennium training requirements. Records reflect he is currently not in compliance.”

From our Major Randy Sanches:

“We strongly believe your information is less than accurate. RASO has made sure our training requirements are up to par and in cases where we are due we have scheduled and/or participated in updates as needed.”

However, the Sheriff’s Office did not provide Rio Grande SUN Staff Writer Tabitha Clay with proof of training after several records requests, nor her prompting via email to do so.

The sheriff insists he is trained up and so are his deputies. It’s all the New Mexico State Police’s fault for not updating its files and/or computers, which he alleged Sept. 19 were “down.”

Regardless, and coincidentally, the Sheriff ordered E-911 staff to stop releasing the E-911 dispatch logs, which they have provided for almost 10 years. His argument is that they contain sensitive information, such as dates of birth, social security numbers and victims’ names.

Dates of birth and social security numbers are referred to as personal identifiers and it is true they should not be released to the public. Names of victims and witnesses are not protected under New Mexico law.

Additionally, all of this information is broadcast over the air and is received by our scanner. If you’ve ever been in Lovin Oven, chances are you’ve listened to Dino‘s scanner.

This information is what makes up the body of the dispatch logs. Courts decided long ago this is public information almost exclusively on the fact it’s broadcast for the world to hear.

Instead, Lujan asked E-911 Deputy Director Josh Archuleta to create a document to release to the public instead of the dispatch log. Archuleta and Director Petra Gutierrez are the records custodians for the E-911 dispatch log and unfortunately are now on the hook for Lujan’s bad behavior.

We don’t feel too bad for them though, as they seem complicit with Lujan’s actions. Shame on both of them for not standing up for what is right and doing the bidding of one person on the E-911 Board.

To regain receipt of the dispatch log, we’ve started the long, laborious process to make a case that the records are public, we’ve routinely received them for years and have a judge approve a writ of mandamus to force E-911 to again allow inspection.

We make a preemptive apology as Rio Arriba County taxpayers will foot this bill. We don’t think the Sheriff cares about that, or he’d take a step back and rethink his weak position.

If you’d like the Police Blotter back, give him or Major Sanches a call at 753-3329. Up north call 588-7271.

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