Refreshing our Short-term Political Memory


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.

Views: 51

Comment by misterhinkydink on October 23, 2008 at 8:45pm
Don't forget the disabled ex-Marine who was arrested and jailed for shooting down his helicopter. He was released nine months later when the rifle they confiscated proved not to be the one that fired the alleged shot.
Comment by Laura on October 23, 2008 at 10:05pm
And don't forget that the ACLU brought suit against APD and Bern Co for keeping protesters away from Bush, while allowing a gaggle of supporters to stand where he could see them.

When the suit was brought, Darren White said he could see protesters from the home at which Bush was visiting.

Photographer Mark Bralley did a great job disproving that with his photographs and blog post:
http://mgbralley-whatswrongwiththispicture.blogspot.com/2008/01/aclu-is-on-loose.html
Comment by Sarahjmd on October 23, 2008 at 10:05pm
Darren White is scary to me, and represents people who display inappropriate gut reactions to immoral/criminal behavior, or perhaps pretend to have that reaction, for their own gain. If I remember correctly, we are all innocent until proven guilty. For whatever reason he chooses t react in this manner, it is not what I expect from a professional in criminal justice, never mind someone who wants to represent me in the US Congress.
Comment by Laura on October 23, 2008 at 10:12pm
p.s. Mark Bralley, by the way, is a retired law enforcement official.
Comment by Kelsey D. Atherton on October 24, 2008 at 8:45am
@all of the above

thanks, firstly, for reading this, and adding in more relevant information. This is step one of preventing the "We got rid of Heather for this?!" nightmare which I've lost sleep over. Since I didn't want the post to be a partisan attack, I left out the whole "what do we do about it" bit, figuring that's an implicit and understood thing. And it more or less is, but now I'd feel negligent to mention it:

Vote for Heinrich. He won't criminalize environmentalists, and he'll make rational decisions.
Comment by Dan Ehrig on October 24, 2008 at 10:13am
You make a good point. Heather Wilson went into histrionics over the Janet Jackson partial-boob baring incident but was otherwise fairly moderate for a Republican. Darren White is on the far right fringe of the GOP.

Fortunately it looks like Heinrich will win CD1. Does anyone know if White will remain sheriff after he loses? When's the next sheriff election?
Comment by Duane W Bargar on October 24, 2008 at 6:45pm
If I'm not mistaken, was it not Darren that engineered the painfully heavy handed response to the protests on Central leading up to the invasion of Iraq? I recall at the time hearing that he was a big time Bush supporter (Campaign chair for Bernalillo County in 2000 if I remember correctly) and that was his way of showing his loyalty to the administration.

I just wish the whole election thing was over with and that we there isn't a count down to 2012 starting in February.
Comment by Dan Ehrig on October 26, 2008 at 2:17pm
Duane, White is definitely a pro-war right winger but afiak the thuggish police response was from AFD, not BCSO.

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