Jake Cordova doesn't see himself as a politician, but he hopes voters will see that as a strength. As a deputy with the Taos County Sheriff's Office for almost 10 years, a former business owner and a …
Jake Cordova doesn't see himself as a politician, but he hopes voters will see that as a strength.
As a deputy with the Taos County Sheriff's Office for almost 10 years, a former business owner and a man "who's done some living," he's a local with the street and life experience necessary to bring practical changes to the sheriff's office, he said.
In terms of criminal and social issues he wishes to tackle first, drug addiction, he says, is number one on his list.
"Drugs are too readily available," Cordova said, "and the lack of personnel to address the ongoing epidemic needs to be addressed."
Over the past six years, Taos County has recorded more than 50 overdose deaths due to opioids alone, including heroin and prescription painkillers. Cordova and his fellow deputies have responded to many drug-related calls. Most, Cordova said, correlate to the drug problem.
Staffing to respond, however, and to make the drug busts that can make some difference, has been lacking recently, according to Cordova.
Due to pending criminal charges against at least three of his fellow office members, injuries sustained in the field by others and factors he can't yet pinpoint, Cordova said the number of deputies available to cover their jurisdiction has dropped.
"We're down to about 10 people on the street, total, covering the county," he estimated, adding that the county allots about 19 spots total.
For the past six months, Cordova has experienced that lack of coverage firsthand as a shift supervisor at the sheriff's office.
With rare exceptions, he said, two deputies are on per shift, tasked with responding to calls in an area spanning more than 2,200 square miles.
Recently, he said he responded to a "heated" call in Costilla. When he called for backup, he learned the only other deputy on call that night was somewhere in Peñasco, more than an hour south.
"I don't think that's fair to the community," Cordova said, "or for the deputies to be having to work their butts off like that."
If elected, Cordova said he plans to approach Taos County Commissioners, asking each to "sponsor" a total of five deputies, bringing the total on staff to 25.
He believes relationships with other agencies have also been strained, another obstacle to addressing crime in a proactive manner.
"Back when I started in law enforcement, I remember that every other call got transferred to state police," he said. "It kind of doubled your force."
That support hasn't been as reliable as it used to be, Cordova said. He said he would work to rebuild that relationship with the state agency and with Taos Police Department, which abruptly asked the sheriff's office to no longer use its shooting range in 2015, he said. The agencies had shared the range since at least 2009, when Cordova became a deputy.
This year's race is Cordova's first. He's hopeful voters will stay focused on the issues and not dwell on his past.
According to New Mexico court records, Cordova was charged with battery against a household member in 2002 and pleaded no contest. In 2008, Chief Magistrate Judge Ernest Ortega reopened the case and revised the charge to disorderly conduct, on the basis that Cordova "had no legal counsel in the previous matter and was given incorrect information and advice by the previous magistrate judge assigned to this matter." Cordova was also convicted of DUI about 20 years ago.
Cordova says that's all in the past, and it doesn't change either his ability to serve as deputy effectively or what he brings to the table if elected sheriff.
"I've done some living before getting into law enforcement," he explained, adding that the charges came during a different time in his life. "I come to this position with a level head, with an understanding of what life actually is, and I don't believe that everybody should be crucified for an indiscretion here and there."
- John Miller
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