Editor’s note: Tom Gossett is running against Darren Hooker for the Republican nomination for Roosevelt County Sheriff in the June 6 primary.
Background: Has been in law enforcement since 1968. Served in the Navy from 1961 to 1967. Served as a police officer for the Clovis Police Department from 1968 to 1972. Served as deputy for Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department from 1972 to 1974. Served in the Border Patrol from 1974 to 1997. Has served as Roosevelt County Sheriff since January 2003.
Q. How can night patrol and short-staffing problems be solved in Roosevelt County?
A. The current authorized strength of the Sheriff’s Office has 12 enforcement personnel, including the sheriff. There are staffed day and evening shifts. Each shift has a minimal number of deputies in order to cover the other shifts and days off. To my knowledge, the Sheriff’s Office has never had 24-hour coverage. To place a deputy on “call out” requires compensation. The budget restraints on additional positions and overtime money restrict additional coverage. This has been a problem throughout my administration as well as prior administrations.
Q. What is the biggest challenge for the sheriff’s department and why?
A: Lack of staff and funding to do everything required by law. Law enforcement is only one of the tasks assigned to this office. Others include court security, civil/criminal paper service and transporting prisoners. This county encompasses approximately 2,500 square miles, with a minimal amount of deputies. Backup is usually miles away. Providing for protection of the public should be a basic need and high priority of county government. We should be able to rely on ourselves first and request assistance from other jurisdictions when needed. We shouldn’t expect another agency to do our job.
Q. What are the best ways Roosevelt County deputies can combat meth and other drug problems in the county?
A: In my opinion, we currently have the best approach to combat the drug problems in the county and city of Portales. The joint task force formed among the Sheriff’s Office, Portales Police Department, Eastern New Mexico University police and probation/parole has resulted in 121 drug arrests in a year. The task force continues to operate with positive results and benefits our home area. Again, we are relying on ourselves first. In 2003, we shut down seven meth labs. Today drug users are buying from sources outside Roosevelt County. The key has been to share information and act upon the information together.
Q. How would you deal with patrolling the county with the rising costs of fuel?
A. I realize the cost of fuel is going up. However, I would not take the limited amount of deputies off patrol or reduce responding to calls because of fuel costs. If the budgeted amount for fuel was to be depleted, I would ask for more funding from the commission for fuel. I have and would continue to provide the best service possible with the personnel and resources I have available. It would be nice to be able to station deputies in specific areas to cover calls, but the personnel is not available to accomplish this.
Q. What approach would you use in getting information out to the community?
A. I have always tried to make myself available to the public, either by phone or in person. It would be nice to talk with the public via radio or through the newspaper. I initiated a Web site, www.rcsonm.org, that gives valuable information on current registered sex offenders, wanted persons, services available, public feedback and the K-9 unit. There will be more information as the site continues to develop, such as current cases, crime trends and safety tips. I am serious about illegal drugs and in January, purchased a K-9 with Law Enforcement Protection funds provided by the state.
Q. Describe the management style you would use in this office.
A. My management style has always been:
• to provide training to the personnel
• teach them the correct procedures to do things within the law
• share information with co-workers to solve crimes together, to be professional
• to follow-up on calls, as there is more to law enforcement that just taking a report
• to eliminate individual competition and work as a team.
I hold my personnel accountable as the public holds me accountable. I use my resources to the best of my ability without expecting deputies to work without a backup. I want to take care of my personnel as well as the public.