Memo calls into question what courthouse security officers can do in emergencies
February 23, 2018 11:23 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – They sport badges, and have handcuffs and guns attached to their belts.
From the looks of it, the security officers that can be seen stationed at the district courthouse look like Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies.
"To us, there's no difference. We're merely assigned to the courthouse," said PJ Montoya, one of those very deputies.
Montoya has walked up and down the halls of the courthouse as a court security specialist for nine years. A commissioned sheriff's deputy, he is trained to do the same things as BCSO deputies patrolling anywhere else.
That's why it was a surprise for Montoya when he received a memorandum sent out this month that labels their duties and responsibilities, saying, "law enforcement authority granted to court security specialists is limited to the specific job functions."
Montoya calls the memo "insulting," saying it calls into question the authority of deputies should an emergency arise.
The memo reads that "specialists shall not conduct investigations, make arrests or perform law enforcement activities outside of the specified areas."
It leads to an important question for deputies stationed at the courthouse: In those certain areas, can they protect the public or are they only civilians?
On Friday a judge granted a temporary restraining order on the memo.
"This memo creates safety concerns, not only for the officers themselves but for all the people that come to this courthouse," said James Montalbano, an attorney for Youtz & Valdez.
But Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales says the memo is nothing new, and doesn't limit or restrict responsibilities.
"All that is is a reminder – they're the same duties," he said. "The responsibilities haven't changed any, the duties haven't changed any, nor has the job description."
Another hearing regarding the memo is scheduled for early March. At that point, a judge will decide whether or not to continue that injunction.
The goal for the union is to get a declaration from the court saying the memo is illegal.
Updated: February 23, 2018 11:23 PM
Created: February 23, 2018 10:11 PM
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