New Mexico sheriff refuses to enforce overreaching restriction orders that subvert constitutional rights

A New Mexico Democratic sheriff is responding to the state’s “overreaching” coronavirus restrictions by declaring that his office will not be enforcing them.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales explained in a video message that his officers will be focused on keeping New Mexico families safe from crime rather than on enforcing any stay-at-home orders that violate their constitutional rights.

The message, in a two-and-a half minute video posted to the department’s YouTube channel, Gonzales called out the government’s COVID-19 response in his state and its most populated county as “some of the most restrictive measures which significantly impacted countless New Mexicans’ livelihoods, health and well-being.”

He added that Bernalillo County, which includes the city of Albuquerque, has seen “more than its fair share of personal hardships and devastation” and that “we all agree we must do better.”


(Source: Bernalillo County Sheriffs Department/YouTube)

“This year, my office listened to numerous citizens concerned about what have been categorized as ‘oppressive lockdown mandates’,” he said.

“I sympathize with the families, business owners, children and houses of worship to the point that they believe that their civil liberties are being compromised,” Gonzales, who served in the United States Marine Corps,  continued.

The sheriff noted how the “vast majority of schools are closed to meaningful in-person learning,” while “New Mexico families are waiting in line for hours to buy foods and purchase other goods, and countless businesses have been shut down – many of which unlikely to open again.”

“Some elected officeholders have prioritized turning everyday citizens into villains for simply attempting to live their lives in the pursuit of happiness,” the Democrat, who has had a 24-year career within the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, continued.

“It is my opinion that the resources of the sheriff’s office should be focused on making our communities safe and more prosperous for everyday citizens. As the sheriff, duly elected by the Bernalillo County citizens, I choose to direct this agency’s time and resources toward the laws deemed to keep the people free of crime.”

Though he did not specifically call out New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, his video message came on the heels of an announcement by the Democrat on a statewide order shutting down in-person services for all nonessential activities.

The temporary orders are in place for the next two weeks, over the holidays, in order “to blunt the unprecedented spike of COVID-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state,” according to the state health department’s website.

Gonzales, who assumed office in 2014 and was reelected in 2018, contended that the “overreaching restrictions will only hurt our community.”

“For that reason, we will not follow along with any orders that subvert your Constitutional rights. Therefore, my agency’s focus will continue to be public safety, apprehending actual criminals, and not attempting everyday citizens attempting to make a life for themselves and their families in Bernalillo County.”

In the latest figures from New Mexico health officials, 278 of the 1,077 news cases of the coronavirus that were recorded on Sunday could be traced to Bernalillo County. Four of the 16 additional deaths related to COVID-19 across the state were also traced back to the county.

“Over 2,000 New Mexicans have been killed by COVID-19, including over 460 people in Bernalillo County,” a spokesperson for Grisham’s office said in a statement, according to KOB 4. “It is deeply disappointing, not to mention directly harmful, that any public official would take any action that undermines the health and safety of their community. All New Mexicans should agree on the importance of doing anything and everything we can to save lives.”

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Frieda Powers

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