Editor’s note issued below:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An anti-abortion billboard along I-25 in Albuquerque is getting a lot of attention; Not for its message but for who is on it. The billboard changes every few seconds but one image has caught the eye of some drivers, an Albuquerque Police officer in uniform alongside an anti-abortion message.
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A billboard right off I-25 in Albuquerque has people taking. It shows Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets in his APD uniform holding two children. The sign reads ‘My favorite right is life.’ Abortion views aside, some say they were surprised to see it. “It seemed like it was crossing into the realm of like, church and state and how it’s supposed to be separated,” said Dakota Lopez, an Albuquerque resident.
The billboard is paid for by the organization Right to Life Committee of New Mexico. Its executive director says they chose Officer Holets for a reason. Holets gained national attention in 2017 when he was on duty and met a woman addicted to heroin while eight months pregnant.
Officer Holets ended up adopting her baby, the same baby who is on the billboard and helping get the mother to rehab. In a statement, an APD spokesperson says months ago, the group asked Officer Holets if they could use those photos.
APD says he told them it would violate policy to provide an image of himself in uniform for a political campaign but that the group used it anyway against his wishes. “No that’s not true. I’m not calling them liars just to be real clear but they have not contacted me and Officer Holets never told me that I couldn’t,” said Ethel Maharg, executive director of Life is Right New Mexico.
Maharg also says she didn’t need his permission because one of the children in the photos is her grandchild and because the photos were already on the internet. “It’s just that I know if they’re online they’re public domain so you can borrow them,” Maharg said. Below is APD’s full statement.
“We are aware of the billboard and we addressed it with the officer, who said he was approached several months ago about the use of his image in uniform. The officer informed the group that he would not give permission because it would be a violation of APD policy for him to provide an image of himself in uniform for a political campaign. The group used the images anyway, without permission and contrary to the wishes of a police officer who has distinguished himself for his integrity,” said Gilbert Gallegos, Director of Communications for APD. KRQE News 13 asked Maharg if APD has asked her to take the billboard down and she says they have not contacted her.
Editor’s note: KRQE quoted Maharg speaking about “public domain” images on the web. Not every image online, however, is in the public domain. KRQE has not verified the legal status of the photo in question.