Republican incumbent Sheriff Doug Wood faces a challenge in his bid for re-election from a Sandoval County deputy, Democrat Jesse James Casaus.
Casaus, a former State Police officer who has served with the sheriff’s office for six years, beat two candidates in the June primary to win his party’s nomination. He lives in Placitas.
Wood, who was elected to his first term in 2010, has had a long career in law enforcement, including with the state and military. He lives in Rio Rancho and was unopposed in the primary.
Each candidate was asked to provide biographical information and to respond to these questions:
1. What do you consider to be the top two responsibilities of the sheriff and how would you fulfill them?
2. What qualities or experience make you a better candidate to represent the county than your opponent?
3. What is the biggest crime issue facing the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office and how would you address it?
4. How would you describe the sheriff’s office’s relationship with surrounding law enforcement agencies? Can it be improved?
5. Are you satisfied with the amount of time it takes for deputies to respond to emergency calls? If not, what would you propose having the county do to improve in that area?
6. The use of deadly force by law enforcement officers has been in the news a great deal. How would you ensure deadly force is used by your department only as a last resort?
7. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
8. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
9. Have you ever been arrested for, or charged with, or convicted of drunken driving or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, please explain.
Party affiliation: Republican
Residence: Enchanted Hills in Rio Rancho
Education: I have attended several advanced supervision and management courses throughout my career; New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy graduate certification, 1992; U.S. Army Military Police School certification, 1989; Cibola High School diploma, 1979.
Occupation: Sheriff, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, 2011 to present; sheriff’s deputy, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department, 2007 to 2011; special agent, New Mexico Tax Fraud Investigations, 2002 to 2007; deputy, detective, sergeant and lieutenant, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, 1992 to 2002; officer/investigator, U.S. Army Military Police, 1988 to 2002; licensed private investigator, private sector.
Family: Currently in a committed relationship; I have two daughters and a son.
Political/government experience: Sandoval County Sheriff – 2011 to present; U.S. Military Service – 1989 to 2002; state tax fraud investigator 2002 – 2007; candidate for Sandoval County Sheriff – 2006 and 2010; I have worked on several political campaigns for various sheriffs.
Major professional accomplishment: I am honored to have earned the support and trust of the people of Sandoval County who elected and allowed me to serve as their sheriff.
Major personal accomplishment: I am proud to have instilled a moral foundation and work ethic for my three children, which have helped them to be successful and productive members of society.
Responses to questionnaire:
1. My first responsibility is to staff and train qualified deputies and supervisors committed to providing respectful law enforcement services. I will continue utilizing thorough and fair hiring and promotion processes, and provide deputies with advanced training and education. The second responsibility is to promote the safety of the people in Sandoval County through diligent and efficient law enforcement practices. Motivating employees and supporting partnerships with community members and other relevant agencies will be my goal.
2. I sincerely care and am committed to the safety and welfare of Sandoval County residents. I have 25 years of military, county and state law enforcement experience where I have held several supervisory positions. My undersheriff has over 33 years of law enforcement and supervisory experience and we function as an effective team. My opponent, who works for me as a deputy, has never held a law enforcement supervisor position in his 13-year career.
3. Illegal drug activity with its related crimes against people and property, such as burglary, thefts and assaults. I will continue the Sheriff’s Office Community Relations and School Resource Officer programs to provide crime prevention and school gang and drug education. I have assigned a full-time detective to work with a DEA Drug Task Force on Sandoval County cases. We have created a special services unit assigned to gang intervention and identification and arrest of serious offenders.
4. The Sheriff’s Office currently has positive and effective working relationships with surrounding law enforcement agencies. We participate in multi-agency drug and DWI task forces, provide mutual aid, conduct joint criminal investigations, assist with promotion processes and traffic escorts, and share information on investigations. Surrounding agency law enforcement officers are cross-commissioned by me so that they can legally assist and back up deputies. Improved relations are inevitable as we continue to work closely with mutual respect and support.
5. Having 3,700 square miles to cover, a decentralized detention center and more serious service calls have resulted in response times that are sometimes longer than I prefer. I am also concerned about deputy safety. The county will need to approve funding to hire and equip additional deputies, and reasonably increase deputy pay and benefits so that acceptable staffing levels can be reached and maintained. I have proposed 10 new deputy positions in my current five-year plan.
6. The standard for using deadly force is when it is objectively reasonable. Creating a culture of respect for human life is foremost. Training in de-escalation techniques, decision-making, safe tactics and weapon proficiency are critical. We recently purchased a use-of-force simulator to train deputies on decision-making and appropriate utilization of their baton, Taser and firearm. I will ensure the presence of proper culture, policies and training to prevent improper uses of force and hold deputies accountable.
9. No drunk driving. In 2003, the previous sheriff orchestrated title fraud charges against me after I supported another candidate. The charges were dropped for lack of probable cause prior to trial. My civil suit was settled in 2005, when I was awarded monetary compensation for damages. As your sheriff, I will ensure that something like this will never happen to anyone again.
Jesse James Casaus
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Education: AA, liberal arts; New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy graduate
Occupation: Sandoval County sheriff’s deputy
Family: Married 14 years, with three children.
Political/government experience: Working with New Mexico State police for seven years and currently with Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office for six years.
Major professional accomplishments: I have been a government employee for 13 years.
Major personal accomplishment: College graduate; New Mexico State Police Academy graduate; Commendation for Courageous Performance; Firearms Top Gun Award in 2001, 2002, and 2003; married 14 years to my incredible wife; three wonderful children; built a home for my family.
Responses to questionnaire:
1. As sheriff, my two top responsibilities are leadership and deployment of resources. I will use my experience to intelligently, efficiently and competently provide leadership to meet the goals and objectives of the office. I will deploy resources that effectively maximize personnel and equipment to ensure the safety of citizens and their property through proper enforcement of all state laws and county ordinances.
2. My qualities include leadership, integrity, and excellent communication. As a leader, I hold myself to a high ethical plane, a value that encourages others to follow suit. My family values mirror my qualities and include faith, generosity, responsibility and tradition. In my community, I have a sense of belonging and can relate which is the basis for my investment in the law enforcement profession and is why I am seeking the office of the sheriff.
3. Illegal drug and alcohol offenses are the biggest issues facing the county and are catalysts for other activity including property crimes, violent crimes, crimes against children, family violence, and vehicle crashes. As sheriff, these issues would be addressed by dedicating resources to reduce demand for drugs and abuse of alcohol by enforcing existing laws and utilizing resources for treatment of addiction. Disrupting drug supply will be attained through joint operations with other agencies.
4. As the result of the lack of effort by the current administration, the relationship between the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office and the surrounding law enforcement agencies is distant and lacking in camaraderie. It will be a priority of my administration to improve relations through joint training operations. Additionally, a review of mutual-aid agreements is necessary to ensure maximum effective use of resources.
5. Under the current administration, a high turnover of personnel has severely hindered the ability to respond in a timely manner to some calls for service. Currently, there are between four and six deputies working a shift responsible for 3,714 square miles. Response times will be improved by implementing a retention strategy to maintain qualified deputies and regular evaluation of peak call times and high crime areas will be used in determining the allocation of resources.
6. Pursuant to policy, deadly force requires balancing all human interests and utilizing all available means of apprehension and control before resorting to deadly force. My administration will be committed to frequent review of policies and procedures for the use of deadly force and will ensure that training demands deputies use only the force necessary to effectively bring an incident under control while protecting the life of the deputy and others.
9. Unlike my opponent, I have never been arrested or charged with a felony. Unlike my opponent, I have never been a respondent in a restraining order. In addition, I have never been arrested, charged or convicted of drunken driving.