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Sheriff Vigil to run for second term

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By David Giuliani

Sheriff Benjie Vigil plans to run for a second term, saying he has a plan to strengthen the Sheriff’s Department if the County Commission goes along.

Vigil, who has 35 years in law enforcement, is the third person to announce his intention to run. Las Vegas Police Department detective Roy Pacheco and district attorney’s office investigator Tony Valdez have already announced they’re running.

“I want to continue protecting and serving the citizens of the community. I have always enjoyed working with the people,” the sheriff said.

Over the last year, Vigil has pushed for his department to get approval to use electroshock weapons known as Tasers, but the County Commission has yet to agree.

Also, Vigil has publicly criticized County Manager Les Montoya and the commission for failing to give him authority to hire more deputies. As with some other counties in northern New Mexico, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Department is historically small, with nine deputies, including the sheriff.

As such, the state police handles many law enforcement calls in the rural areas, while local deputies spend much time transporting inmates and serving papers. In other areas of the state, sheriff’s departments have detectives and around-the-clock dispatchers, none of which Vigil’s department has.

“The people I have working for me are great. They go out of their way to get the job done,” Vigil said. “I go out to calls, and the state police helps us a lot with calls. They take care of most of the calls in the county.”

Now, Vigil said he is trying to get the county to approve his plan to hire two transport officers who could take inmates and serve papers. These officers don’t have to be certified, he said.

Hiring the two officers would free up the deputies to provide law enforcement services, Vigil said.

Besides his differences with the commission, Vigil has drawn his share of headlines in other instances.

Three years ago, the sheriff charged three protesters outside the district attorney’s office. The men said he was infringing on their First Amendment rights; Vigil maintained they were being disorderly. One of the men has filed a federal lawsuit in the matter.

Last year, one of Vigil’s uniformed, on-duty deputies was charged by the state police with attacking a man inside his home. The sheriff called the state police’s charges false. But a day after making that statement, he fired the deputy, Inez Bolivar.