In 2004, there was a mysterious fire in the bosque, and our fire department responded to it. Also in our bosque was a device for converting vegetable oil into biodiesel. Because of the suspicious nature of the fire, our sheriff brought APD to the scene of the crime. Sheriff Darren White ordered a lockdown of the scene because of the biodiesel converter, and two things happened: one, a media circus, documented here
. Two, the arrest and vilification of two sensible people who just happen to really like alternative energy
. And while this is old news, it's relevant news. When faced with an unclear situation, White chose bravado and a get-tough attitude that not only made a situation far more complicated than it needed to be, it led to unnecessary fear. Fear that riles people up and gets the better of their reason. And fear that is directed at a perceived internal enemy. A willingness to jump the gun is not something I want in my representative, and it is especially bad when that representative is part of the body that declares war. And this aggressive grandstanding isn't a solitary phenomenon.
Also back in 2004, Darren White reacted viscerally to a story
about a con-man. To be fair, what the con-man did was wrong (if it were right, he wouldn't be a con-man). But we have laws and procedures to deal with con-men. And we, as the United States, grant criminals some basic rights. Not the full rights of citizens, but rights as human beings, and I believe these rights are a key part of our society. How we treat our criminals does not reflect on how repulsed we are by their actions - it instead reflects our degree of civilization, and our willingness to pursue justice under law instead of the justice of the mob. It's one of those things that marks us as civilized.
Darren White holds a different perspective on the issue. As quoted in the Alibi story
, Darren White, in his capacity as Bernalillo County Sheriff, said "I'd like to kick his ass. Seriously, let me have five minutes alone with him." Understandably, he was reacting to the appalling actions of a criminal. But this was no rapist, nor murderer. This was a con-man, who simply swindled taxpayer money, and who was under federal investigation. A five-minute off-the-record beating is not an appropriate sentence. While I respect the right of Darren White to free speech in his personal life, in his capacity as sheriff he should know that what he says in public can have consequences. At the same time as this quote, local media was remarking
...our new Metropolitan Detention Center has already earned a reputation for illegal brutality, and that guards were caught on surveillance camera pummeling three handcuffed inmates for 17 minutes earlier this year. The episode is very likely going to cost the public large sums of money once a fat settlement is reached. Do you think the lawyers for the inmates might have clipped and saved White's remarks?
Here's two incidents from early in Darren White's role as sheriff that undermine his judgment. Fear mongering in the first, and weakening our city's record on human rights in the second. Plus, both mistakes (no matter what perspective you have on the morality involved) were costly, and undermined public faith in the Albuquerque Police Department. This isn't the record of a man who is tough on crime, and it isn't the record of a man who supports inexpensive government. This is a record of grandstanding, bravado, and recklessness. And if elected to the house of representatives, this man will get a vote about whether or not our nation goes to war.