Defunding the police “not on our radar,” says Truth or Consequences Mayor Sandra Whitehead

by Kathleen Sloan | July 15, 2020
5 min read
The City of Truth or Consequences City Commission has received many requests to defund the police.

The City Commission received five emails, revealed in an Inspection-of-Public-Records-Act request, and an unknown number of calls from constituents, reported by two City Commissioners.

The issue was brought up by two City Commissioners at the July 8 meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Brendan Tolley and Mayor Sandra Whitehead.

“I’ve been bombarded with calls and emails to defund the police,” Tolley said. “We are lacking in social services and the police are called on to do so much.”

Tolley asked that people asking to defund the police come up with “viable solutions” and not just “find fault” with the current state of law enforcement.

Whitehead said she also got calls and emails, but defunding the police “is not on our radar.”

“You can read the paper and see what they’re doing,” Whitehead said, probably referring to the Sierra County Sentinel’s regular listings of arrests.


The Truth or Consequences Police Department will spend $1,560,619, according to the 2020-2021 preliminary budget, nearly a 25-percent increase over the budget three years ago, which was $308,296 less or $1,252,323.


Data on types of crime for Truth or Consequences and other cities in the state was last compiled by the FBI in 2017.

Truth or Consequences had the lowest numbers of crimes compared to Aztec and Raton, which have similar populations. Truth or Consequences had a population of 5,949 in 2017, Aztec 5,836, Raton 5,983.

Among “violent crimes,” Truth or Consequences had 20, Aztec had 33 and Raton had 8.

None of the cities had murder or manslaughter crimes in 2017.

Aztec was the only city that had rapes, 4 in 2017.

Truth or Consequences had no robberies, Aztec had 3 and Raton had 1.

Truth or Consequences had 20 aggravated assaults, Aztec had 26 and Raton had 7.

Truth or Consequences had 163 property crimes, Aztec had 191 and Raton had 234.

Truth or Consequences had 37 burglaries, Aztec had 41 and Raton had 83.

Truth or Consequences had 117 larceny-thefts, Aztec had 142 and Raton had 128.


The number of people in jails and prisons has been reduced due to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham requesting nonviolent offenders be released because of the COVID-19 crisis.

There are 27 county jails among the 33 counties in the state. From March 13, when the first cases were reported, to May 27, the number of people in county jails went from about 6,000 to 4,000, a 43-percent capacity, according to the Santa Fe Reporter’s, “New Mexico Jail Populations Plummet,” by Jeff Proctor.

The prison population, according to Proctor, was not reduced as much, and was at 81- percent on May 27.

The police and sheriff’s deputies, public defenders and prosecutors, as well as judges have cooperated as never before during the crisis, Proctor said.

People normally arrested for “technical violations” while on parole or probation for failing drug tests, missing appointments and other infractions, were kept out of jail or prison by mutual agreement of those parties.

One-third of those incarcerated in 2017 were on such technical violations in 2017. The current release of those prisoners during the crisis will probably change the thinking on who should be locked up, according to authorities quoted in Proctor’s article.

Before recent years, however, Sierra County had the greatest increase in its county-jail population among the 33 counties in the state, according to a study done by the Vera Institute of Justice, “Incarceration Trends in New Mexico.”

From 2005 to 2015 the Sierra County jail population increased 342 percent, according to the study.

The Sierra County jail rate was 12,932 people per 100,000 from 2005 to 2015.

Sierra County had the fourth-highest prison rate in the state, with 499 people incarcerated per 100,000 from 2005 to 2015.


There was no data available on race and ethnic groups jailed in Sierra County, but the Vera study provided statewide data. People of color were over-represented in the jail population, while whites were underrepresented.

The study provides race and ethnic breakdowns for those in county jails in New Mexico in 2015:
–26 percent of the jail population was white; whites comprised 39 percent of the state population.
–60 percent of the jail population was Latinx; Latinx comprised 48 percent of the state population.
–13 percent of the jail population was Native American; Native Americans comprised 9 percent of the state population.
–4 percent of the jail population was Black; Blacks comprised 2 percent of the state’s population.


Truth or Consequences Chief of Police Michael Apodaca, in an interview with the Sun, said, “As far as military equipment goes we received a Humvee and three night-vision scopes several years ago. The Humvee has been inoperable for several years and we are in the process of sending it back. The scopes were issued to night shift officers who use them as needed.”

A records request on school arrests revealed the Truth or Consequences City Police Department had the contract for several years up until school-year 2018. It provided one officer at $30,000 a year at the high school. For the last two years the Sierra County Sheriff’s Department has had the contract.

There were six student arrests over 2017 and 2018, according to records. Two were for alcohol possession, one was for marijuana possession and having a folding knife, one was for aggravated battery, one was for possession of an unnamed controlled substance and one was for burglary of a concession stand.

The ethnicity or race of the students was only reported in three of the six arrests. In two of the arrests only one student was involved and both were white. In the third arrest two students were involved and both were white.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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