In more ways than one, Jani Davis is a standout candidate in the race for Taos County Sheriff. She is the only female running as well as the only Republican. But being an outsider and challenging …
In more ways than one, Jani Davis is a standout candidate in the race for Taos County Sheriff. She is the only female running as well as the only Republican. But being an outsider and challenging expectations is familiar territory for the longtime law enforcement officer and sometimes stuntwoman.
Davis was raised on a ranch in Vale, Oregon. From the time she was young, she wanted to become a police officer. She took a series of criminology classes as a freshman in college and could sense that law enforcement might be somewhat of a "boy's club," but that didn't deter her from making it a career later in life.
After working on a series of movies as a stuntwoman, including "Titanic" and "Being John Malkovich," she worked as a site supervisor building homes in Texas. In the late 2000s, she moved to Taos and was hired by the Taos Police Department in 2009.
There, she gained experience answering challenging calls, priding herself on her handling of numerous domestic violence incidents, in particular. She said she would impart to battered women the message that they deserved to be happy and well-treated, she recalled recently.
In 2010, she assisted in the arrest of a "criminal" fugitive that had escaped from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another achievement, she said.
From 2011 to 2013, she left to work for the New Mexico Special Investigations Division, before returning to Taos Police Department later that year. In 2014, she became the first woman at the department to be promoted to sergeant.
In February 2015, she was recognized as Town of Taos Employee of the month, but that summer, her law enforcement career was derailed when she was charged with allegedly kneeing and kicking a man during an arrest in Taos.
"I was just doing my job," Davis still contends, but administrators at the town of Taos fired her the day her trial began.
A jury reached a verdict of not guilty, and Davis' charges were dropped.
In the time since, Davis has fought her termination in court and still has a whistleblower and discrimination lawsuit - based on age, gender and sexual orientation - pending in Taos District Court.
In the meantime, she returned to school to finish her bachelor's degree, worked again on homes and acted as a stuntwoman on the film "Jason Bourne." She has also worked at Questa Police Department as a sergeant and supervisor of training and operations.
But this June, she's eyeing an opportunity to get into a position where she believes she can make a greater difference.
Davis says she would bring strong and steadfast leadership to the Taos County Sheriff's Office and elevate the welfare of deputies, whom she says are "understaffed, overworked and underpaid."
Aside from raising staffing levels, Davis said she would also add a "swing shift," which has also been implemented at Taos Police Department, adding a period of overlap, where an additional officer is on call to provide extra support.
Davis points to the ongoing drug epidemic, homelessness and domestic violence as major criminal and social issues Taos County faces. Repeat offenders, particularly when it comes to commonly committed misdemeanor crimes, is another problem that requires closer cooperation with the court system and the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Overall, Davis believes communication is a key to serving any community.
"As an elected official in charge of law enforcement for a large county, I believe the sheriff and the undersheriff need to be proactive in hearing the needs of all the communities and citizens," she said.
- John Miller
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