Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Red Light Camera's not infallible.

I had made a note to blog about this back in early May but it kept getting put off. After a KOAT TV employee got a red light camera citation which he felt he did not deserve he went back to the intersection and found a flaw in the timing of the camera which caused innocent drivers to receive citations. It would be interesting to see how many innocent people paid the $100 to $300 fine and never fought the ticket. Also how would the average citizen fight the ticket? As the news cast shows the evidence photo only shows the vehicle supposedly running the red light. The evidence is deceiving and would have held up to the yes or no, no room for argument hearing provided on these cases.

What is missing in this system besides reasonable fines is a human judge who can use common sense and compassion in making decisions. If you are taking your dying family member to a hospital and get pulled over for a traffic infraction by an officer, the officer can make a human decision whether or not you should be cited. If you are about to be rear ended by a driver who is not paying attention the officer who observes the incident can use his discretion to determine what really happened. The red light camera is a robot with no ability to use discretion or understand variables. Unfortunately the hearing officers unlike real judges in Albuquerque's red light camera civil process also are robots who only look at the photo and say yes or no.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dates and Times of Public Safety Courses Announced


Date Written: May 24, 2007
Contacts: Sheriff Greg Solano
Telephone Numbers: 505-986-2455

Safety Courses provided by Santa Fe County Sheriff

In response to recent events in Santa Fe the Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano will be proactive in providing the community with public safety classes. These classes will provide tips to protect yourself against crime and “what to do when you are attacked”. These tips will also be posted on our website; Class dates, times, and locations are as follows:

Genoveva Chavez Community Center - 3221 Rodeo Rd

May 29 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

June 1 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

June 5 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

June 7 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Arroyo Hondo Volunteer Fire Department #2 – #645 Old Las Vegas Hwy /Intersection of I-25//US 285

May 30 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Turquoise Trial Volunteer Fire Department – State Rd. 14

May 31 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Pojoaque Volunteer Fire Department - US84/285 Frontage Rd

June 6 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Edgewood Volunteer Fire Department - 25 E. Frontage Rd (I-40 & SR344)

June 8 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

There is also a ½ hour show on protecting yourself on Sunday May 27, 2007 at 6:00 pm on Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinosa’s show “Santa Fe Today” on the local channel 16, Comcast cable.

I would like all media outlets to please promote the class schedule throughout the duration of the dates listed.

Sheriff Greg Solano stated “Education of the public is paramount to fighting crime and the Sheriff’s office is committed to filling this need”.

Please assist us in keeping our community safe and educating the public to protect themselves.

Here are some more personal safety tips along with what to do if you are attacked. This is a pdf file, please feel free to print them and post them on bulletin boards, email them to friends and put links to them on your web sites etc. Please help pass on the class schedule also.

Sheriff Solano talks with KRQE's Dick Knipfing with Safety Tips for Women.

Here is a clip of Sheriff Solano discussing safety tips for women with Dick Knipfing of KRQE TV in Albuquerque.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Personal Safety Tips and What to Do if Your Attacked

Here are some more personal safety tips along with what to do if you are attacked. This is a pdf file, please feel free to print them and post them on bulletin boards, email them to friends and put links to them on your web sites etc.

Tips for Personal Safety

In light of recent attacks on women in the City of Santa Fe, the Sheriff's Office is purchasing advertisements in local papers with tips on personal safety. We will also be placing these and additional tips on our web site at


Always be aware of your surroundings--especially at night. When parking, walking or returning to your car, remain in well-lit and populated areas.

Wear sneakers if possible for extra mobility.

Be watchful – who is out there and what is going on. Keep your head up. Make quick eye contact with those around you and be observant of passing vehicles. Do not become distracted by talking on a cell phone or listening to an iPod/similar device.

Avoid walking alone late at night. Attempt to walk with people that you are familiar with.

Keep a whistle within reach. If you feel threatened, use the whistle to signal to residents that you need assistance. Yelling ‘Fire!” “Help!” and/or “”Rape!” as you are being assaulted also signals people to assist you.

Hold your car keys in your hand to use as a weapon against an attacker.

Carry a cell phone with you.

Call ahead to your destination to let them know that you are on your way. Make sure they expect you at a certain time, so that they may look out for you upon your arrival or will know to look for you if you do not arrive.

Walk with confidence. Be assertive – do not let anyone violate your space. Trust your instincts. Accept the fact anyone can be a victim of crime– do not simply assume "IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME."

Believe that if an unarmed attacker confronts you, you may be able to scare, distract, or even incapacitate the person enough to escape.

If you think that someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk toward an open store, restaurant or lighted house.

Finally an attack is a horrific experience however the sooner you report an attack the better chance we in law enforcement have of catching and bringing to justice the suspect. Law Enforcement and the media make extreme efforts to keep victims identity's from being published in order to protect them from further trauma.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Riding the Bell Ranch Part 2

In my last post I blogged about day one of my three days of trail rides at the Bell Ranch. On day two, Friday May 18, 2007 I awoke at about 6am, at least I think it was about that time. After a cell phone became permanently attached to me I stopped carrying a watch. Now without a cell phone I also was without a watch or clock of any sort. I started the day with a cup of campfire coffee. This was absolutely the best coffee I ever had, Starbucks eat your heart out. Then came one of the most amazing sites I ever saw. Ranch hands rounded up the 25 or 30 horses for the ride and a stampede of ranch horses came thundering into camp. I took a quick video with my small digital camera and you can see it below.

After a great breakfast of blue berry pancakes, eggs with green chili, bacon and rolls I gathered some snacks and we saddled up the horses.

I was on Casino again, and we headed out for about a four hour ride. It was the roughest ride I had ever been on. This was no Girls Scout or Dude Ranch Ride (no offense Girls Scouts). We traversed ravines, rivers and went up and down canyons that I was sure either the horse, I or both would be tumbling down any minute. Casino however had no problem, no fear and handled the terrain like a mountain goat. It was exciting and great fun, I have been on several trail rides but none like this.

The clouds hinted of rain but the rain never materialized. We saw herds of antelope and cow elk along with a snake, tons of bird species and even a few fish. Unfortunately between the horse and the quick animals I never managed to get a photo of them.

Only one person lost their horse and I know today, days later he is still sore. He was riding along side me when all of a sudden his horse reared up. Since he had a cigar in one hand and a beer in the other he quickly became airborne flying about four feet higher than the horse before crashing down flat on his back. I could swear I felt the ground tremble as the dust rose into the air and his body slammed into the ground as though Hulk Hogan had just evicted him from the wrestling ring.

After the long ride I was sore again and once the saddles were put up and the horses set free we settled in at camp while the cooks began dinner. We were treated to a roping show from a great roper which I really should have gotten his name but unfortunately I did not. Here is two video's of the cowboy which was just great.

After the roping show there was an auction of cowboy clothing and accessories with the proceeds going to the cooks.

Then it was another massive steak dinner. The food rivaled some of the best restaurants I have been to in my life. Then we were treated to more great cowboy musicians who led a sing along and played requests. About 1 am I hit the sleeping bag. Seems as though my shirt pocket finally stopped phantom vibrating making me think the cell phone I left in the car was still in my pocket ringing.

(Read part one of Riding the Bell Ranch here.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Riding the Bell Ranch.

On Thursday morning I was awakened to the news at about 5am that David Giba the accused sex offender had hung himself in his cell. A few phone calls later I turned it all over to Under Sheriff Robert Garcia and headed up into the mountains of Bell Ranch. I was on the way to a trail ride which had been planned for months. Bell Ranch is located East of Santa Fe in Harding and San Miguel Counties. It borders Conchas Lake and includes 290,000 Acres, 250,000 of which is for sale for only 115, Million Dollars. The ranch includes over 3,000 herd of cattle and over 50 ranch horses, an airstrip, several homes and campgrounds as well as a corporate headquarters. Part of the ranch is in the town of Solano. Each year the ranch hosts an invitation only trail ride and I was honored to be invited this year.

The yearly ride is a labor of love for Jeff Lane part owner of the ranch and son of William N. Lane II of Chicago, chairman and CEO of publicly traded General Binding Corp., a maker of office supplies and equipment who purchased the ranch in 1970 and died in an auto accident on the ranch in 1978. I brought home a ton of pics and short videos and many story's from this trail ride so I will blog about this great experience in 2 or 3 posts.

Early Thursday morning on May 17, 2006 found me at Bell Ranch Head Quarters with about 30 other men saddling up and raring to ride. This ride was men only, the Ranch hosts a couples ride on the following weekend each year. My good friend Gary Bland and I along with his friend Larry from Seattle met with ranch hands who gave us our horses which would be our partners for the three day event.

I was given a beautiful horse who was aptly named "Casino". We bonded immediately and I could not have been given a better partner.

The clouds were rolling in as we saddled up and rode off. It began pouring rain about one and a half hours into the three hour ride to camp. I could not find my rain slicker on Wednesday and I was sure glad I went and bought a new one on the way home from the office. It poured buckets as we rode on to camp. The Slicker and the straw cowboy hat kept me dry, only my boots and pants from the knee down were soaked.

At camp we choose a tent unpacked dried up and settled down to a great dinner. The camp cooks were awesome and rustled up some great grub.

Having not saddled up on a horse since August of last year I was sore, wet, cold, and hungry. The large fire pits sure took care of half of those problems. In a few hours I was just sore. There was plenty of drinks, great musicians, and about 30 men getting acquainted or re-acquainted with each other.

There was no cell service, electricity, phones, Internet or any means of communication with the outside world without trekking back to the headquarters. I left my cell phone in the suburban but yet I had what I can only describe as phantom vibrating emanating from my shirt pocket where I usually keep my cell phone. Every now and then I swear I could feel my phone vibrating even though it was miles away. About midnight I headed to my tent, took three Tylenol, crawled into my sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep. As I fell asleep I remembered the tent which was next to mine. It had tears which had been repaired but were visible. I was told by a ranch hand that one succumbed to a bear attack last year. My tired and sore body over came my mind and in no time I was sound asleep.

Part 2 of Riding the Bell Ranch

Thursday, May 17, 2007

By The Way, Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is Hiring !

After my last post was done and published it dawned on me that I should remind you all that The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is hiring ! We have competitive pay, a 20 year retirement, a challenging but rewarding job and best of all the boss is a great guy to work for! :-)

Call Sergeant Ken Johnson at 986-2400 and tell him the Sheriff sent you!

Badge, Gun, and Green Card?

San Miguel Policia

I was surprised but somewhat intrigued when I read in yesterdays paper that the City of Santa Fe Police were toying with the idea of hiring immigrants as police officers. Public Schools, the Military, and Hospitals have all tried to fill hard to fill job vacancies such as nurses, teachers and soldiers by recruiting from outside the United States Borders. With the promise of a green card and a better life many would be eager to come live the American Dream.

When the City Councilors began to put immense pressure on the Chief to fill vacancies then it was time to "think outside the box". Too bad the City did not have a runaway bride incident to use to their recruiting advantage. All law enforcement agencies are having trouble recruiting and the pressure from city councilors is probably taking its toll on the recruiting officers at the city. They needed to show up to Tuesdays Public Safety Meeting with some answers so the immigrants idea was just one of many thrown at the councilors and the public safety committee. Unfortunately something like this garners a lot of attention and is bound to generate negative reactions such as this one from Joe Monahan.


Will someone please do something about the over-the-top Santa Fe police department? A crime wave has swept the city and now they want to hire Mexican nationals to fill cop vacancies? Actually, the department needs more vacancies--including the top brass. Where is the mayor? Hiding in a booth at Tiny's waiting for it all to go away as this story breaks nationally? Mayor, you are supposed to be safeguarding an American treasure, our nation's oldest capital city. But you already knew that.

In all reality the idea will go no where, it would require an act of congress to allow for expedited green cards for those wanting to work as police officers. Background checks would be a nightmare and would be highly inaccurate. On the other hand Spanish speaking officers would help greatly in this immigrant friendly community. They are highly sought after by all law enforcement agencies including mine. Schools have had the most success recruiting Spanish speaking teachers through programs such as the proposed one by the City Police.

I had an interesting conversation the other night with a former Police Academy classmate. We were discussing the recent increases in salaries all police agencies are having to implement in order to hire and retain officers. He said something enlightening. While wages for officers have gone up considerably since the two of us started in 1988 and we were making six something an hour they have not reached "market rate". That is they have not reached a rate that is equal to what is required to make the job a "sought after job even when the risk is taken into account". When parents speak of success for their children they look to doctors, lawyers, the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's of the world. Yet what is the risk versus reward factor in law enforcement vs these jobs? Even police officers often say they hope their kids grow up to be successful and do something else.

Law Enforcement must be elevated to a respected and well paid profession and not just a job you can retire from in 20 years. We all love to watch "Cops" and "Law and Order" but how many say it looks cool but I wouldn't risk my life for $13.50 an hour. Yes, the starting pay for most officers is between $11 and $13.50 an hour. Officers with experience and whom are State Certified start at $17 an hour. Although, ....... that hourly pay with benefits probably looks really good to someone from Mexico.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

When One of Our Own Gets Arrested.

Today I was attending the first meeting of the Governors Tribal DWI Task Force at the Tamaya Resort located on the Santa Ana Pueblo. Governor Richardson appointed me to the task force which is charged with helping tribes combat DWI. Shortly after lunch my cell phone and every other cell phone belonging to a law enforcement officer began ringing and beeping with text messages. Word spread quickly, City Police Sergeant Steve Altonji and Detective Danny Ramirez were arrested by the F.B.I. on numerous charges. We all see arrests every day, we see bad guys, repeat offenders, and some times good people who do bad things. What we don't see often is one of our own in handcuffs. Its depressing and demoralizing. I could see it on the faces of the other officers at the meeting. A couple of us worked with Danny years ago at the City Police. Although we were in separate divisions, Danny in Narcotics and I in Juveniles I would have never expected to see him charged in a crime.

Law Enforcement is hit hard when something like this happens. Officers authority does not come from the badge or the gun, it is the public that bestows that honor upon them. Its a big responsibility to live up to, but in the end officers are human first, cops second. When one of the officers fail we all fail. Now we all have to work twice as hard to redeem the profession and restore the honor. To all of you who are not officers I ask you to not pull out the big brush and start painting. In law enforcement we make the arrests and the courts and a jury make the decision. I await the jury's decision and withhold judgement until the evidence is out. In the mean time all law enforcement suffers. To the families of Danny Rameriz and Steve Altonji, especially their young children, our prayers are with you.

P.S. The Free New Mexican Web Site has been posting updated information all day and now has posted the actual indictments.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sheriff Solano Assumes Presidency of State Sheriff's and Police Association.

This last month I assumed the Presidency of the New Mexico Sheriff's and Police Association
(the web site needs updating). The Association began in 1935 and has grown and gone through many transformations over the years. Currently the organization provides training to law enforcement state wide, lobby's the legislature for laws to enhance law enforcement and address crimes statewide, and promotes networking with chiefs, sheriff's, and officers state wide as well as other missions. Members include federal officers, state officers, and local officers as well as many retired officers. One of my goals is to visit each of the 33 counties and introduce the organization to new officers and deputies whom may not have heard of us. I would like to increase membership and bring younger new officers on board.

I am also a former Vice-President of the Santa Fe Fraternal Order of Police, a nationwide police organization which is now rooted more in labor organization than fraternalism. Today's generation of young men and women are not interested in fraternal and networking associations. The "me generation" is busy with their own lives and families and fraternal organizations are just not in the mix. For these organizations to survive they must serve purposes that make them invaluable to individuals. Hence the move from less of a networking organization to promoting law enforcement in government circles and a greater emphasis on training and conferences that are geared towards career advancement.

Organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles, The Elks, Alumni groups and others are all facing the same issues. Trying to ensure their survival by finding a place in today's generation. Many Fraternal Organizations in New Mexico survived by having halls and a bar which catered to its members and funded the organizations charities, and other functions of the group. However the old Cheers type bar where "everyone knows your name" is not surviving. I remember when I first became an cop, many officers would only drink with their spouses at the F.O.P.. You knew who was there and there was little chance you would have someone you arrested at the table next to you. Today's young officers drink less alcohol and as a consequence the fraternal organizations are not doing as well as in the past. Hall rentals are down as well and charitable bingo's which once funded not only fraternal organizations but churches as well are being decimated by the Indian casino's.

So now as President I need to work on moving this organization into the next phase of its life and ensure it is relevant for many years to come.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Council Demands City Police Fill Vacancies?

When I read this story at about 3:30 am this morning I was surprised and dismayed. It is well known that all law enforcement agencies, jails, prisons and military are having problems recruiting new officers. The City Council provided funding last year to raise salaries and provide hiring incentives to hire more officers after then City Manager Asenath Kepler declared a crisis. After much grumbling the councilors gave part of what the City Manager was asking and then later fired her for this and other reasons.

Now some councilors want to know why the police department has not filled all their positions. They have demanded that the city police do a better job of filling positions. It sounds great on the front page of the morning paper, but what does it really accomplish? The truth is all law enforcement agencies are having trouble recruiting. Both the Santa Fe City Police and the Sheriff's Office are quickly becoming Rio Rancho Substations. More and more of our officers are moving to Rio Rancho. It wont be long before more and more decide to stop commuting and just work in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, or Sandoval County. The commute would be less and the pay is comparable or better. The City of Albuquerque has literally over 130 vacancies. They will gladly take any or all of our officers.

So why did some of the councilors decide to grandstand now? How will this help recruiting? The last thing the city needs right now is another change in leadership at the top. Each time there is a change there is a period of adjustment and a new direction that takes time for buy in and time to determine whether the change will be successful. The City Police are still in that transition time now after the departure of Beverly Lennon as chief last year. Chief Johnson jumped right into the fire with federal investigations, loss of personnel and department that is in flux from a growing city to a large city busting at its seams. A city that can hardly afford its growth but at the same time has no choice but to continue to grow.

We need to come up with new solutions to our recruiting problems. If any of us knew the quick answer we could write the next bestseller that would be used by law enforcement, corrections and the military as the bible of this century. We can't give up, we need to continue to work hard at convincing a new generation that Law Enforcement is a great career where you can make a decent living, retire in only 20 years regardless of age, and make a difference in peoples lives everyday. We don't need grandstanding and rhetoric that can only hurt the City Police in its quest to fill positions.

Chief Eric Johnson has his heart in the right place, a good head on his shoulders and the ability to turn things around. Give him the tools and the time and I belive it will happen.