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SF County sheriff’s plan to buy AR-15 rifles raises ire

Sheriff Adan Mendoza

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said he had received multiple calls from local residents with the same request: Cancel the purchase of AR-15 rifles.

Ultimately, they were successful.

The sheriff’s office had requested 15 AR-15s as replacements for current firearms used by the office’s SWAT team. In total, the rifles were estimated to cost nearly $9,000.

However, as protests against police brutality continue in cities across the U.S., county residents called into Tuesday’s virtual county commission meeting to voice their disapproval of the proposed purchase.

“I would really like to see more money going to education and not going to the sheriff’s department for purchase of these weapons,” Paola Martinez said.

Almost a dozen people spoke during the meeting, most of them saying they oppose the militarization of local police departments, one of the main criticisms to come out the recent protests against police brutality.

“We’re at a turning point in this country,” Loveless Johnson told the commission. “We will do everything we can to get a county commission to (cancel the purchase) if you all won’t.”

Christopher Harris, a retired Navy commander, also spoke against the purchase of the rifles, citing his experience training other sailors to use them in combat.

“They have no place on our streets, on either side of the street,” he said. “We don’t need military equipment patrolling the streets.”

SFSO had actually rescinded its request for the rifles before the meeting started. Mendoza said that, due to the many phone calls he received, he felt it was not the proper time to make such a purchase.

“We made a decision with myself and my administration that we would pull this item from our budget request based on the fact of the current climate within the nation,” Mendoza said during the meeting.

Mendoza hinted that he thought AR-15 rifles could be a useful tool for deputies, but that he respected the opinions of those who disagreed with him.

SFSO also requested 33 replacement Tasers, with a combined price tag of $45,507, for its deputies. Some speakers also opposed this purchase, but the commission approved it.

So far, Santa Fe has seen two large Black Lives Matter protests since a Minneapolis Police officer killed George Floyd on May 25. Authorities say the officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Commissioner Anna Hansen said she and Commissioner Ed Moreno have been working on a resolution to discuss policies and procedures for the sheriff’s office.

“We’re working to get out in front of it and talk about the situation with the community,” Hansen said.

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