By Philip Hughes-Luing
According to Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III, a Democrat, “Some elected office holders have prioritized turning everyday citizens into villains for simply attempting to live their lives in the pursuit of happiness.”
In a 2 minute and 33 second video posted on YouTube on December 18, 2020, reported upon by news outlets including KOB4, KRQE, and Fox News, Gonzales says he sympathizes with the individuals and entities “who believe their civil liberties are being compromised.”
He goes on to state that in his opinion the resources of the Sheriff’s Office “should be focused on making our community safe and more prosperous for everyday citizens.” Therefore, he says, he has chosen “to direct this office’s resources to enforcing the laws deemed to keep the people free of crime.”
“Over-reaching restrictions will only hurt our community, “he continues. “For that reason, we will not follow along with any orders that subvert their constitutional rights.” On YouTube, Gonzales’ video is labeled “COVID-19 Sheriff's Stay at Home Statement” and is reported in the news media as a refusal to enforce safety mandates from the State of New Mexico if Gonzales, as the county sheriff, determines them to be unconstitutional.
This stance is in line with the philosophy of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association, a group described in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s article, “Line in the Sand.” According to that article: The group says it is part of “a growing movement of public officials who are drawing a line in the sand” by “interposing themselves between the sometimes overreaching Federal Government and your constitutionally guaranteed rights.” The group claims that local county sheriffs can stop outside law enforcement officials from enforcing laws the group deems unconstitutional. “The sheriff,’ it says, “is the highest elected official in the county and has the authority to stop this insanity.”
Last July, KOAT reported that Gonzales confirmed he is “definitely very serious” about running for mayor in Albuquerque in 2021. That interview followed his having met with President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr to bring federal resources to Albuquerque as a part of Operation Legend. Albuquerque became one of seven cities nationwide to be targeted by Operation Relentless Pursuit, a move decried by Senator Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Albuquerque’s mayor, police chief, and city attorney along with numerous others among New Mexico’s Democratic leaders. He has also defied a bill signed by Governor Lujan requiring the use of body cams by public safety officers, proposing instead the use of smartphones.