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The Bernalillo County manager has appointed an interim chief of the Metropolitan Detention Center to replace chief Greg Richardson, who retired Thursday.
Rosanne Otero Gonzales – who was the director of administrative services at the lockup – will serve in the role while the county conducts a nationwide search, according to a news release. The Whalls Group, which specializes in law enforcement and correctional facility personnel searches, will hunt for a permanent replacement.
Otero Gonzales has 25 years of experience in the corrections field – all at MDC – and has been in her current position since 2018. In her role as director of administrative services she oversaw the departments of finance, social services, medical, classification, public records, facilities and PREA, or the Prison Rape Elimination Act. She has also worked as a case management supervisor, as a court liaison and with the community custody program.
“Rosanne Otero Gonzales has a vast knowledge and understanding of the day-to-day operations at MDC and is a great choice for interim chief,” County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said. “We will work together with the staff and correctional officers to keep MDC running as efficiently as possible while a nationwide search for a new chief is being conducted.”
Richardson had served as chief since May 2020.
Over the past year the jail has been facing an escalating staffing crisis and its vacancy rate is above 50%. Twice last month officials had to call a state of emergency when there weren’t enough correctional officers to fill critical posts during a shift.
Inmates are routinely held in lockdown – meaning they cannot leave their cell to take a shower or make a phone call – for days at a time and 15 people have died in the jail’s custody since April 2020, according to records kept by the Journal.
Last month, the county and the attorneys representing incarcerated people as part of the McClendon lawsuit and settlement agreement crafted an order that mandates the jail hit staffing benchmarks, make improvements to the facility, and track the amount of time inmates spend out of their cells.
A county spokesman said the county manager, former chief Richardson and the union held meetings to come up with a plan to address those benchmarks and the county has negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the union. The MOU has been presented to union members for a vote.