Primary candidates speak out: COUNTY  SHERIFF

May 15, 2014 • Local News

RDR: Tell us a little about your background. Where were you born and raised, your education, current and previous employment. Please include the names of any businesses you may own or have owned and any companies or government agencies you may have worked for.


BARNCASTLE: I was born and raised in Las Cruces, NM. After earning a bachelor’s of science degree from NM State University, I began my law enforcement career by joining the NM Department of Game and Fish and graduating from the NMDPS Law Enforcement Academy in June of 1976. In 1983, I was promoted to district supervisor and came to Roswell.

In 1989, I was promoted to assistant area chief as the head of Law Enforcement Division for not just one county, but 10 counties throughout southeastern New Mexico. After retiring from the Department of Game and Fish, I was hired by District Attorney Tom Ruttledge and continued my law enforcement career as the senior investigator for the NM 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office. After only two years on the job I was promoted to lead investigator, a position I have held for the past eight years.


FLEMING: I was born in Roswell on Sept. 21, 1972. I graduated high school, have been to many technical training courses and have completed the New Mexico Mounted Patrol Law Enforcement Academy. I have also received my Professional Lecturer in General Instruction Certificate from the NM LEA.

I currently work for the gas company and have for the last 20 years. I have been a supervisor for the last nine years.

My wife and I currently own and operate a civil process service company, Advantage Process Serving. We serve papers in civil matters to multiple counties.


GRAVES: My name is Gary W. Graves. First, I’m a Christian and because of my Lord’s sacrifice I have salvation and eternal life. I was born and raised in Roswell to Cecil and Mary Graves. I attended school and graduated from Goddard High School.

I began my law enforcement career with the Hagerman Police Department in 1982. I worked all phases of law enforcement from basic patrol, criminal investigations, and narcotics. I advanced to the position of elected sheriff. I received multiple awards that included a citation by Governor Bruce King for service above and beyond the call of duty, Life Saving Award. I continued until I retired with 21 years of service.

I attended and completed the National Sheriffs Institute, which is reserved for elected sheriffs only. I’m a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Association. I’m a strong supporter of our Constitution and will not accept federal money. I will stand on the Constitution and I will not allow the government to infringe upon our constitutional rights such as the Second Amendment.


SNYDER: I am a native New Mexican having grown up in Reserve, NM, in Catron County. I was born in Springerville, Ariz., because this was the closest hospital to Reserve. Other than the day or so they held me against my will in Arizona, I have only lived in New Mexico.

I am the youngest of six children and I believe that gives me a special edge at crisis intervention. My father was employed fulltime with the U.S. Forest Service and retired after 29 years.

We grew up hunting and fishing in the Gila National Forest. My father was also a Baptist minister and ministered for 30-plus years at the Baptist church in Datil, NM, while we lived in Reserve. My parents moved to Datil after my father retired. Over the years we have celebrated many family weddings and funerals in that small church to include both of my parents and two of my siblings.

I graduated from Reserve High School in 1982 and began working for the Catron County Sheriff as a dispatcher/jailer soon after. I continued working in the jail until I became a deputy in April of 1986. I became a certified police officer in New Mexico in July of 1986. I worked under two sheriffs in Catron County and served all of 1987 and ’88 as the chief deputy there.

I was hired as a deputy here in Chaves County in November of 1989 and I have spent the last 24-plus years serving in the Sheriff’s Office.

• Assigned as a patrol deputy for first five years

• DARE Officer (Drug Abuse Resistance Education); instructing elementary school level, middle school level, parent level – 5 years

• Character Counts instructor

• Twice chosen Chaves County Sheriff’s Office Officer of the Year

• Promoted to sergeant in 1994, where I supervised the Patrol and Civil divisions

• Promoted to lieutenant in 1997 and supervised all divisions for many years

• Comprehensive Strategy board member since it’s inception (approximately 12 years)

• Created our current Field Training Officer Program

• Created our current Accident/Incident Review process for employees

• Assigned as administrative lieutenant 2009 supervising Court/Civil Division

• Partner in writing all current policies and procedures for the department

• Attended FBI National Academy 2001

• Recognized by Character Counts in Chaves County for helping the program – 2014

• Promoted to chief deputy 2013

My wife Jean and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary on May 28. We have four children and one grandchild who just turned 10. She is my favorite. I have two sons currently enrolled in Roswell High.


RDR: What do you think are two or three of the biggest challenges facing the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office? What would you do to improve the department?


FLEMING: The lack of working relationships with other law enforcement agencies within our county and providing enough training to existing deputies

Here are my proposed solutions: Communication. If our deputies see a command staff that is communicating and attempting to work with these other agencies, they will follow by example. Next, not just meeting the minimum state mandated training to maintain certifications, but to go beyond that mandate to broaden the deputies’ training and utilize the instructors within the department that have been given advanced training and haven’t been given the opportunity to pass on that knowledge.


GRAVES: Infringement of the federal government on the rights of the [auth] citizens. To combat this, as I stated, I will not take federal money or sign agreements with the government that would cause me to lose my ability to stand between the government and the citizens of Chaves County. I know my duty is to uphold the Constitution at all costs.

B: The second thing I see as a real problem for the Sheriff’s Office is the amount of crime and illegal drug use that is occurring. To combat this I will return the Sheriff’s Office to an organization that does proactive law enforcement rather than reactive law enforcement.

This means I will get my deputies out into the community actively patrolling and communicating with the citizens to prevent the crime before it happens. We know we have the same persons who repeatedly commit crime and use narcotics. It is the job of a sheriff to seek them out and make them so uncomfortable that they leave this community.

C: The last problem I see is that the Sheriff’s Office has forgotten how to communicate with the citizens of the community and without this communication law enforcement cannot happen. The Sheriff’s Office is a community-based organization and we must talk with our citizens. This allows the sheriff to know the concerns of the people he serves and address the needs before they become issues.


SNYDER: 1. Recruiting and retention of deputies! Because of my years in the Sheriff’s Office I know this is our biggest challenge. There are simply fewer and fewer people willing to serve a cause higher than themselves. We see fewer applicants every year, as does every department across the country. This makes finding the best-qualified applicants a growing challenge. We have a great group of dedicated men and women who are asked to do a job most people don’t want. However, I will not lower our standards in order to fill empty positions.

We can best retain our deputies by providing them with a good working environment, good leadership and management they believe is honest and treats them fairly. One of the reasons I am running for sheriff is because I truly care about the future of the Sheriff’s Office and Chaves County. I believe the citizens deserve a qualified candidate who understands the real issues facing the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Coon and I have been working closely with the county Finance Committee to get our deputies a much-deserved pay raise. Our pay must be competitive with law enforcement in our area, and it simply is not. The Sheriff and I are working hard to achieve this goal which I believe will help us to retain current deputies and recruit more qualified applicants.

2. Crime and Criminals! I know the vast majority of property crimes are committed by the same repeat offenders or “career criminals.” These are the drug dealers, drug abusers and professional thieves who spend their lives revolving through our criminal justice system. These criminals contribute greatly to the backlog of outstanding arrest warrants. We recently arrested a woman who had nine outstanding warrants for her arrest. I am prepared to organize my department to better track and address this group of criminals and I believe these efforts can help us to reduce crime. I also want my department working cooperatively with all law enforcement agencies on this issue.


BARNCASTLE: One of the biggest challenges facing the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and other area departments is maintaining staffing levels. We don’t have the tax base that our neighbor to the southeast has to attract and retain new recruits. We need to attract new officers from within our community first. By recruiting locally, the officers will have a vested interest in the community. I will offer them incentives of a positive working environment, training opportunities, advancement opportunities, and the best equipment we can afford.

As our community is cleaned up of our drug related crimes and industry chooses to move into our area, thus increasing our tax base, I will ask for a compensatory increase in officers’ pay and benefits.

I would also like to see every officer fully equipped with a recorder, camera and eventually a lapel camera. Documentation of a crime is the greatest asset to ensure a conviction in court. It assists the officer in preparing the case and assists the prosecuting attorney in presenting the case. It is essential in case preparation that the officers strive to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. I will not accept less.


RDR: As you are all aware, there is a strong connection between illegal drug use and crime in Roswell and Chaves County. What ideas do you have for drug abuse intervention? How would you stop the cycle of repeat offenders?


GRAVES: Illegal drug use affects the community in many ways, it causes crime to skyrocket. Thefts rise, health care costs rise, and children and the elderly begin to suffer the most. As I stated, we continually seem to see the same persons involved in the use of illegal drugs and crime. The courts become overloaded and the problem continues.

We cannot blame the courts. I must go forward to combat the persons who refuse to reform themselves by making them uncomfortable in Chaves County to the point that they move from this county. I see we must be ever vigilant to offer assistance medically and counseling to those who wish to reform themselves. The sheriff must work closely with his citizens to help stop drugs before they become a bigger problem for our future generations.


SNYDER: We find most people we arrest for committing crimes are often motivated by their need to obtain more drugs. They usually have prior felony and/or misdemeanor convictions and are likely on probation. Once arrested, they have a stronger motivation to get help for their drug addictions, but this is often ineffective in getting them to really change their lives.

I have already committed to rejoin the drug task force in order to work cooperatively with other law enforcement agencies and to go after top-level drug dealers. This will greatly enhance our ability to address our drug problems and these career criminals. I must also ensure my staff is well trained in current drug trends. As sheriff, I will work cooperatively with local community, local government and state government leaders to seek out additional solutions that can enhance law enforcement’s efforts to fight the drug epidemic.


BARNCASTLE: When I announced my candidacy last September, I outlined my number one priority as a concentrated attack on drug trafficking. We have to stop the drugs coming into our community, corrupting our children, families, friends, and affecting our economy. That is the first step in drug abuse prevention. I know we are never going to be 100 percent successful.

But we can make a concerted effort to let everyone know that if you choose that lifestyle, you are going to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, I will show compassion to anyone wanting assistance in overcoming his or her drug abuse addiction.

There are facilities and programs in Roswell that will assist and are low cost or based on your ability to pay. If elected your sheriff, anyone coming to my department wanting assistance (and not possessing drugs) will be assisted to an appropriate agency.


FLEMING: Start within the schools and try to instill in the kids the effects of drug use and hope they take that knowledge home and pass it on to their families. I would like to reinstate the deputies to the SRO programs within the schools. By working with the community, the sheriff will be more aware of what’s happening throughout the county, and can help slow the cycle of repeat offenders. The sheriff needs to be willing to work with the DA’s office and the courts to help put a dent in this issue.


RDR: What is your position on medical marijuana in Chaves County?


SNYDER: I do not have any resistance to medical marijuana. I believe if properly regulated, there could be some benefit to medical marijuana. I believe medical marijuana might be far less dangerous and offer fewer long-term side effects than some prescription drugs. I can also tell you it has been my experience most people arrested with drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, are very likely to also be in possession of marijuana. One bad choice seems to often be followed by others.

The most dangerous thing about marijuana is the greatly varying and ever-increasing levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the intoxicating property. This makes the effects of marijuana almost impossible to predict and therefore increases the danger to society. For these reasons, I would never favor the wholesale legalization of marijuana.


BARNCASTLE: I have taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution and Laws of the State of New Mexico and medical marijuana is the law in New Mexico. I had mixed emotions about medical marijuana until I saw the benefit it is to a relative with MS. They use it as prescribed at night in the privacy of their home. I believe that is only how it should be used. It is up to doctors to prescribe it responsibly and for the user to use it responsibly. However, anyone driving under the influence of medical marijuana will be treated like any other DUI and appropriate charges will be filed on them.


RDR: How would you build relationships with other agencies such as the Roswell Police Department and NM State Police? How would you build better relationships with the public? How would you better communicate with the press?


BARNCASTLE: In my current position as the lead investigator, I work with all law enforcement agencies, local, state and federal. I already have an excellent working relationship with all law enforcement agencies within Chaves County as validated by the endorsements by the Roswell Police Officer Association and the Pecos Valley Fraternal Order of Police. In addition, I also have a great working relationship with all the agencies in Southeast New Mexico including the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force in Eddy County and the Lea County Drug Task Force. This is an advantage in the event we need assistance from them or we have a case that crosses county lines.

One of my platform issues is Public Involvement. I have observed citizens afraid to come forward with information in fear of getting involved and being subjected to repercussions. Or, they report a crime and don’t believe anything was done. I want to empower citizens to report crime and know that it is going to be taken seriously and handled appropriately. In the Fugitive Apprehension Program I will be initiating with all local agencies, Roswell, Dexter, Hagerman Police Departments, Probation and Parole, NM State Police and others, we will be reaching out to the public to locate fugitives and clear the over 4000 outstanding warrants in Chaves County. These platform issues will be the theme throughout my administration.

I see the press as an asset and will be using them on a regular basis. The more the public is aware of the Sheriff’s Office’s activities, the more they will be assured that we are making every effort to address the public safety needs in our community.


FLEMING: I would like to ask members of the other command staff within the other agencies to have a weekly staff meeting to go over issues in our county and what we will do that week to combat those issues. This would be a start to the communication needed to build the bridges of trust and better working relationships.

The press would have designated liaisons within the sheriff’s department, as the Sheriff’s Office would need a designated point of contact to relay such information to ensure accuracy and reliability.


GRAVES: To build good working relationships with other law enforcement agencies, good communication between the various agencies will be established. It is the job of the sheriff to attempt to bridge gaps and work diligently to help the agencies in his county. A sheriff should respect the various agencies and be willing to work as a team when possible. As for better relationships with the public, the sheriff and his deputies should go out into the community and talk with the citizens regularly.

As sheriff I will make myself available to the citizens at all times. The sheriff’s job is not easy and it entails giving of himself to the public he serves. As for communication with the press I will maintain an honest and open policy. It is always best to involve the press when ever possible as they help get information to a community and this is another way of a sheriff communicating with the public he serves.


SNYDER: Being the only candidate in this race working in the Sheriff’s Office has allowed me to begin working on building real relationships with our fellow law enforcement partners. I already have a positive relationship with the new Roswell Police chief as well as the Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur police chiefs.

I have been attending the meetings of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association for many years and have built many good relationships with sheriffs from across New Mexico. The sheriffs understand the need to work together to meet all our challenges.

In order to build relationships with the public, I want to take Neighborhood Watch out to the entire county. I will dedicate resources as necessary to make this happen. We have to team up with our community because my staff alone can never begin to cover over 6,000 square miles without missing a few spots. The sheriff must drive this effort to help educate citizens on crime and criminals and employ their help in reporting suspicious activity.

I support the Constitution and our citizens’ rights to bear arms. While I do not suggest any citizen should confront criminals as they are very unpredictable, I do suggest citizens should always be prepared to protect themselves until help arrives.

Our relationship with the news media is vital to many parts of our operation. The news media can be a great asset in carrying our message to the public. I will work diligently to provide the best possible access for the news media. Under the Freedom of Information Act, all department records are public with few exceptions.

As sheriff, it is important to know and understand the law and to ensure your department is complying with it at all times. My office staff should be well trained and properly supervised to also ensure compliance. I have worked very closely with the news media for many years and I believe I have a very positive relationship built on mutual respect and trust.


RDR: What safeguards and training do you propose to ensure the appropriate use of force by deputies?


FLEMING: Updated computer systems are needed in the car in order for deputies to get the most current information on the individual(s) they are about to encounter. The deputies need to receive advanced training in such areas as mental illness. There should be a policy written on the mandatory use of lapel cameras, dash cameras and recorders to safeguard the situation at hand.

The current non-working or improperly working dash cams need to be fixed or replaced, and tested and routinely maintained to ensure the equipment is functionally properly.


GRAVES: I believe that the sheriff must first set an example to his deputies and require that deputies treat the public with respect at all times. A deputy should be taught to use only the force which is necessary to effect the arrest or stop the situation from escalating. Deputies will be taught to be mindful of the suspect they are dealing with and treat the suspect, as they would wish to be treated if they were in the position of the suspect. I will not tolerate excessive force nor will I allow my deputies to become heavy handed. Deputies will be afforded all training possible to teach them to deal with suspects accordingly.


SNYDER: Appropriate use of force is something police officers begin training on as soon as they are hired. We have very strict policies and procedures in place to govern their application of force and we train them on an on-going basis. As sheriff, you have the duty and responsibility to review each occurrence and determine whether or not the action was appropriate. You must hold all deputies to high standards of conduct and apply discipline as necessary to enforce those standards.

We must continue to train our deputies specifically on dealing with the mentally ill. I believe mental health services are seriously lacking all across New Mexico. This brings law enforcement officers into contact with people who are in the depths of a mental health crisis far too often. As a state, we must do a better job addressing mental health services.


BARNCASTLE: As I already mentioned and stated at the Leadership Roswell Forum, I would like to see all officers have lapel cameras for their safety as well as the perpetrator. The lapel cameras assist in keeping a situation from escalating and are a proven safeguard from civil law suits. If a person knows they are being recorded, they are less likely to conduct negative behavior. This applies to the officer and the perpetrators. While waiting on funding, digital recorders for every officer will be one of my first purchases and it will be my policy that they are in use anytime they are assisting, addressing or arresting anyone.

The Roswell Police Department has on staff an instructor in “verbal judo,” which is a type of verbal persuasion. These types of techniques are designed to prevent situations from escalating. With training and equipment, many situations can be defused before they reach an unwanted outcome.


RDR: Why are you the best candidate for sheriff?


GRAVES: First, I fully believe in the principles of my God. This country was formed on these principles and it is time we return to our fundamental beliefs. I am the only proven sheriff and I will be able to provide the most effective level of law enforcement to the citizens of Chaves County. I will utilize the hard earned tax dollars of the citizens effectively.

I will not take federal money or sign agreements with the government that will allow the government to infringe upon the constitutional rights of the citizens. I will uphold the Constitution at all costs. I will provide proactive law enforcement to prevent crime before it becomes a reality. I will work with all the various groups of people in Chaves County to provide fair, honest and dependable law enforcement. As sheriff, I will communicate with the citizens so we as a community will build a safer place to live. Please vote and please vote for Gary W. Graves.


SNYDER: I believe I am the best candidate for Sheriff for several reasons. The most important of which is my many years of experience in the operation, management and administration of your Sheriff’s Office. I believe in leading by example and I am not a politician. I am fair, honest and a Christian man who can be trusted to lead your Sheriff’s Office in a positive direction. I will always put the needs of our citizens first. The future of our Sheriff’s Office is something I take very personally as you could imagine. I have spent my career trying to make everything about the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office the best I could. I believe the citizens deserve a sheriff who is unselfish, committed to the position and trustworthy. I am that person. Thank you and I am asking for your vote on June 3. Early voting starts May 17.


BARNCASTLE: The plan I have for the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office will move the department from reactive to proactive. Officers will be working to get drugs and fugitives off the streets and out of our community, all while interacting with our citizens to encourage a positive lifestyle. I have been the only candidate who has publically outlined my priorities and stated when I will implement the programs, within the first month of my term. I have the most law enforcement experience with my 37 years, including 27 years in a supervisory position. I have experience in officer management, complex criminal investigations, case management, departmental budgets, and all other aspects of managing a law enforcement agency. I have the experience, proven integrity, Christian family values, and dedication needed to provide the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office leadership for a new direction.


FLEMING: I am the best candidate for sheriff because I have the firsthand perspective from the side of a working citizen in a private industry and the perspective of an officer who is out working amongst the citizens. My current supervisory position gives me the administrative experience that will help me be a better sheriff. There will be equality amongst all citizens to be treated fairly and with respect. I will have an open door to anyone who feels they need to speak with me personally. I have the leadership skills that are needed to lead the deputies and the citizens to a safer Chaves County for your family and mine.

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