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FOR THE RECORD: This story incorrectly reported Bernalillo County Undersheriff Ron Paiz's rank at his former job with the Albuquerque Police Department. Paiz was a captain at APD.

Sheriff Getting Assault Rifles

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston may be getting a new gun — a really big, powerful new gun.
        And if Houston and his undersheriff, Ron Paiz, get their way, the AR-15 assault rifle will replace the shotgun as the weapon of the future for all 270 BCSO deputies.
        For now, the department is waiting on a shipment of 12 AR-15s, Paiz said.
        Ten of those will be used by BCSO's newly formed team that targets dangerous, high-risk repeat offenders. One will be an "extra," Paiz said.
        And the last one may wind up in the hands of the county's top law enforcement officer — if he can find the time to complete 40 hours of training on the weapon.
        "I've brought an active style of leadership here, and I've made it very clear to the deputies that ... we are always law enforcement officers first," Houston said. "In the world we live in today, with the violence and the escalating armory that the criminals seem to have, if I had an AR-15, and I was properly trained on it, I certainly wouldn't have an issue in using it, or having it available for my own personal use because I'm not going to be a sheriff that's just sitting up here in the office."
        Some members of BCSO's SWAT team already carry department-issued assault rifles, and the agency has a policy that allows its deputies to carry their own assault rifles as long as they are qualified and certified on the weapons.
        Paiz, a former captain with the Albuquerque Police Department, looked at AR-15s from several different manufacturers before settling on a 16-inch, semi-automatic model from Spikes Tactical Inc.
        BCSO paid $740 for each rifle, Paiz said.
        The $8,880 for all 12 guns came from a state fund that's used for law enforcement equipment and training for sworn officers, he said. BCSO is expecting the weapons to arrive within 30 days.
        Paiz said he is a certified rifle instructor.
        He already has his own AR-15, but he'll need to be retrained on it before he can start carrying the rifle again.
        Houston and Paiz are requiring captains and chief deputies to complete firearms qualifications four times a year — just like the rest of the deputies at BCSO.
        Paiz has been a fan of the AR-15 for several years. He tried to replace APD's shotguns when he was with that department, but the idea was rejected.
        He calls the AR-15 a "more precise weapon that's designed to do what it needs to do."
        Several APD officers on specialized units, such as SWAT and the Emergency Response Team, carry department-issued assault rifles, as do some field officers. APD has a policy that allows any officer to carry an assault rifle they've purchased, so long as they are qualified and certified on the weapon.
        "The shotgun is still a great weapon, but I think it's an obsolete weapon," Paiz said. "Ultimately, I would like to replace all the shotguns here with AR-15s."
        He said the AR-15 is preferable because it can fire multiple rounds quickly and zero in on a target, while a shotgun tends to be more of a "scattering" weapon.
        Newly minted BCSO Capt. Scott Baird oversees the unit that will receive most of the assault rifles. Modeled after APD's Repeat Offender Project unit, known as the ROP team, the outfit will be responsible for going after the county's worst criminals.
        "In today's world, everybody's armed with AR-15s and machine guns," Paiz said. "I looked at what I could do special for our guys when they start chasing these bad guys."
        Houston said he still hasn't decided whether he'll keep one of the AR-15s for himself. With a hectic schedule as the new sheriff, he said a week's worth of rifle training is tough to commit to.
        But if he does decide to pack an assault rifle?
        "If I'm in the North Valley, the South Valley or the East Mountains, and something were to occur, I would have no hesitancy in responding," Houston said.

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