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'Law Enforcement' Claim Defended

By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          County Commission candidate Dan Serrano is a "law enforcement officer," a video on his website suggests.
        Other campaign material boasts, in the past tense, of his stint as a "police officer."
        But in a Journal interview, Serrano acknowledged he isn't a law enforcement officer. As for whether he ever was a "police officer," that depends on how you define the term.
        Serrano was an unpaid reserve officer for the Albuquerque Police Department during the early 1990s. Reserve officers complete a training course and get a uniform and a badge that indicates their reserve status.
        Serrano said calling himself a former police officer "is not misleading."
        "I can assure you, if you get shot or stabbed, you bleed the same as anybody else in blue," Serrano said.
        Controversy is nothing new for Serrano, a small-business owner who has run for office repeatedly since 1999 without winning. He's faced questions in the past about the number of relatives registered to vote at a Southeast Heights mobile home and where he actually lives, although some of the controversy is more than a decade old.
        "I don't know how many times my detractors expect me to have to go through the gantlet," Serrano said.
        The latest debate involves material posted on his website, danserrano.com. A front-page video features a young man's testimonial.
        "I'm here to say why I want to vote for Dan Serrano," he says. "First off, his passion. The man's a law enforcement officer."
        Serrano said Wednesday the young voter was nervous.
        "We have all kinds of folks working on our campaign," Serrano said. "I think the young man ... probably misused the word 'is' instead of 'was.' I am not a law enforcement officer. I'm a small-business man."
        Another section of the website starts out by saying, "When Dan Serrano was a police officer ..." It doesn't mention his status as a reserve officer.
        Serrano told the Journal he worked 40 hours a week for about two years as an unpaid reserve officer in the early 1990s.
        "It's just another example of the volunteer work I did in the community," he said.
        Serrano's stint as a reserve officer included a 1991 federal lawsuit alleging he and an APD officer used excessive force in a landlord-tenant dispute. The city settled for about $45,000 but admitted no wrongdoing.
        Serrano said the suit came after two people resisted arrest, and there was a struggle.
        "We were exonerated within the department of any wrongdoing," Serrano said Wednesday. "When you have an attorney, you can sue for anything. We were advised the city settled because it was a nuisance claim" that wasn't worth the cost of fighting.
        Serrano is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in County Commission District 1, which covers a chunk of Albuquerque's West Side and North Valley.
        Michelle Lujan Grisham and Loretta Naranjo-Lopez are also running. The primary election is June 1, and early voting is under way.
        In 1999, Serrano grabbed headlines when county records showed nine of his relatives were registered to vote at his mobile home on Virginia SE, where Serrano was running for City Council. Serrano said his brother registered family members to vote there, but none of them actually voted.
        There were also questions about whether Serrano lived at the mobile home. Serrano had been recently married, and his wife and child lived on the West Side.
        In 2008, he withdrew from consideration for a seat on the Environmental Planning Commission after critics questioned whether he lived in the right district. He owned homes in two different districts on the West Side — both in County Commission District 1 — and said he withdrew merely to defuse the controversy.
        Serrano said Wednesday the criticism is politically motivated.
        "My record of public service is what it is," Serrano said. "I've been vetted better than anyone else in the community."

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