ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Under the direction of the Trump Administration, federal authorities may be sending more federal law enforcement officers to the streets of Albuquerque, according to a CBS News report. It comes as Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is expected to meet with the President on Wednesday.
Ahead of that meeting, news of the potential deployment of federal resources has been met with strong rebukes from top Albuquerque city officials and one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators. Democrat Senator Martin Heinrich called for Sheriff Gonzales’ resignation Tuesday, saying in part, “the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque.”
According to a memo obtained by CBS News, the Department of Homeland Security is eyeing Albuquerque as one of a few cities where more than 175 federal officers could be deployed. The memo comes as the Trump administration has faced criticism for its deployment of federal officers in Portland, Oregon amid more than 50 days of protests following the death of George Floyd.
Sheriff Gonzales has continued to partner with the Trump Administration on several different initiatives over the last year. In November, Gonzales welcomed U.S. Attorney William Barr to Albuquerque to announce the results of “Operation Triple Beam,” focused on drug-related arrests. In February, Gonzales was appointed to a DOJ working group tasked with assessing the effect that mental illness has on policing.
In April, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was awarded a $1.4 million DOJ grant related to “Operation Relentless Pursuit.” Gonzales said the money, in part, would be spent to buy equipment and train deputies. Operation Relentless Pursuit also promised a surge of federal law enforcement resources in Albuquerque among other U.S. cities.
“We want to look at this as a long-term strategy to address violent crime, we need more accountability in the criminal justice system,” Gonzales said in a video recorded and published by BCSO in April 2020. “We believe we’ll get that accountability with the federal prosecution, that’s why we’re willing to collaborate.”
DOJ officials told KRQE News 13 Tuesday the White House is expected to announce an expansion of a newer violent crime initiative this week. The initiative, called “Operation Legend,” has already started in Kansas City, Missouri. According to the DOJ, the initiative includes a surge of FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshals on American streets.
It’s unclear if Sheriff Gonzales’ presidential meeting is connected to the expected expansion of Operation Legend. The Sheriff has made it clear in recently published media that he continues to welcome federal partnerships.
“The focus should always be on what’s best of the community, it should never be focused on one entity,” Gonzales said in April, speaking of federal law enforcement support. “This is a collaborative effort and a community effort. We should always do what’s in the best interests of everyone, and this is what’s in the best interests of the citizens of Bernalillo County and Albuquerque.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D- New Mexico) is calling for Sheriff Gonzales to resign, saying the Sheriff doesn’t represent the County when he voices opposition for body cameras. State law now requires all law enforcement agencies to wear them, but BCSO deputies will instead use smartphones, claiming they will be better than cameras.
“To us, this is an archaic piece of technology,” said Sheriff Gonzales about body cameras in a press conference earlier in July. Senator Heinrich is also calling for Gonzales’ resignation because the Sheriff is “inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque,” the Senator said in a press release.
The Sheriff released a statement, saying in part in a press release: “Regrettably, Senator Heinrich couldn’t be more political and out of touch with the local social problems and the great work being done by our deputies and the other first responders.”
Meanwhile, the most recent deployment of federal officers in Portland, Oregon has been tied to recent, continued protests, the President so far hasn’t made any public comments about Albuquerque’s protests follow George Floyd’s death.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller sent a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying in part, “there’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city.” The full statement is as follows:
“There’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city. If this was more than a stunt, these politicians would support constitutional crime-fighting efforts that work for our community, not turning Albuquerque into a federal police state. We will not sell out our own community, or our own police department, for this obvious political agenda; as they try to incite violence by targeting our city and our residents.” –Mayor Tim Keller, City of Albuquerque
“I truly hope this is not just a cheap political stunt that will only make our city less safe. We coordinate with our federal law enforcement partners every day. What is being described is not real crime-fighting; it’s politics standing in the way of police work. Contrary to the claims of the politicians in Washington, D.C., we came into long-standing challenges with crime in Albuquerque and have worked closely with our community to make the city safer. Homicides are down this year and protests have been mostly peaceful in Albuquerque and much less violent and destructive than other cities because of our focus on reform and community policing.” –Chief Mike Geier, Albuquerque Police Department
“Federal agents in Oregon are snatching protesters off the street without identifying their agency or establishing probable cause. It is an unconstitutional affront to representative democracy. These forces do not abide by the constitutional crime-fighting reforms implemented under the DOJ and will break the trust APD and our community have invested years in rebuilding. We did not request this and do not need it. If the Sheriff really wanted to help, he would be here following APD’s lead, not in DC for a photo-op with Trump. We will use every legal tool at our disposal to protect our residents and keep our community safe.” –Esteban Aguilar, Jr., Albuquerque City AttorneyQuotes provided by Jessie Damazyn, Public Information Officer, City of Albuquerque Mayor’s Office
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D, Albuquerque) provided the following statement in response to President Trump and Sheriff Manny Gonzales:
Our communities are not combat zones, but President Trump and AG Barr are trying to deploy federal law enforcement officers into Albuquerque to harass our communities and divide us. Sheriff Manny Gonzales is their accomplice. We will stand united against this thinly veiled threat that works to silence dissent and hurt our communities. Sheriff Manny Gonzales will have to answer for taking President Trump’s side instead of the side of New Mexico families.
“In Albuquerque, we will not abide by any secret police force, dressed in camouflage, coming to kidnap our people, violate their due process and First Amendment rights, and disrupt our beloved city. They are not welcome and we will hold the Department of Justice accountable.Congresswoman Deb Haaland, (D) Albuquerque
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver released the following statement regarding the news that the president may send federal officers to Albuquerque:
It’s tremendously disturbing that President Trump is considering occupying New Mexico’s largest city by sending federal troops into Albuquerque just over 100 days before the General Election. Any federal troop presence in New Mexico will have an intimidating effect on our citizens and disrupt the free exercise of their democratic rights. We’ve already seen the secret abductions of citizens by these troops in Portland and New Mexicans have no assurance that such unlawful actions would not occur in Albuquerque. The right to the free and fair functioning of our democracy cannot and will not be set aside in New Mexico for a Washington political stunt, or worse, a takeover of state and local democratic processes. We do not live in a country where voters need to fear going out on Election Day to exercise their right to vote. As Secretary of State, I will continue to advocate for New Mexicans to be able to cast their ballot in November without obstruction or intimidation.Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver