Jerry Hogrefe, a native of Cushing, Oklahoma, won the election for Taos County Sheriff in 2014, pledging improved interagency cooperation, additional training for deputies, speedier response times …
Jerry Hogrefe, a native of Cushing, Oklahoma, won the election for Taos County Sheriff in 2014, pledging improved interagency cooperation, additional training for deputies, speedier response times and satellite stations in some of the county's tough-to-patrol outposts, among other improvements.
He's running for re-election this year on a similar platform, now touting a long list of changes he's brought to the office since he's worn the star, while acknowledging "there's a lot more to be done."
"I think the community should see, from everything we've accomplished, that we've been doing a pretty darn good job in the last two to three years," he said.
Hogrefe started as a dispatcher when he moved to Red River in the mid-1980s. He has worked as a volunteer firefighter and Red River Town Marshal. He later served as patrolman, detective, lieutenant and interim police chief with Taos Police Department, rounding out his career in public service.
Since embarking on his first term as sheriff in 2015, the Democrat developed the first-ever SWAT-modeled "special response team" at the sheriff's office, training eight members in basic and advanced SWAT tactics. The team has been employed in several high-risk searches, standoffs and arrests in the years since.
The SRT team has also been trained in tracking, Hogrefe said, allowing the office to take on search and rescue missions solo, which, in the past, were often supported by New Mexico State Police and Taos Search and Rescue. Tracker training yielded one of Hogrefe's proudest achievements last fall when he and his team followed a tip and found the likely remains of Frankie Martin, an Arroyo Hondo man who had been missing for more than a year.
Hogrefe oversees 26 staff members, including an undersheriff, 16 deputies, four sergeants and two animal control officers as well as administrative assistants and tech personnel.
The incumbent said he corrected longstanding pay discrepancies when he became sheriff and created a tiered incentive system, where staff could expect better pay with additional training, which Hogrefe has also expanded.
He has also equipped his street staff with the option to use protective vests and helmets and replaced an aging vehicle fleet with new Dodge pickups, three motorcycles and an all-terrain-vehicle, allowing his team to perform "forest patrols" for the first time, he said.
The sheriff adjusted scheduling early on to keep at least two units on patrol every shift, supported by a sergeant at certain hours of the day. However, he says reaching the county's outlying areas and digging deeper into calls remains a challenge.
"Right now, quite frankly, deputies go from call to call to call," Hogrefe said, adding that he would like his staff to have the time to get to the "core" of a caller's problem.
Hogrefe said he would open substations in Questa and Peñasco within his first 90 days in office, but has yet to do so.
Response times were also to be reduced - from 47 minutes to 10 minutes. In a recent interview, Hogrefe estimated response times have been cut to around 15-20 minutes on average, while other calls still take as long as 30 minutes.
According to Taos Central Dispatch records, the sheriff's office has responded to 3,140 calls in the last five months alone. With that rising call volume, Hogrefe is pushing for six additional deputies from the county commission.
Staffing has also been hurt because three members of the sheriff's office are currently facing pending criminal charges, two for perjury and one for battery.
Still, Hogrefe said liabilities on the whole have been reduced, which he credits with a new policy manual he crafted with Undersheriff Steve Miera and other counsel.
This June, Hogrefe is also facing competition from two of his own, but he isn't sweating it. He said he's supported by the majority of his office.
- John Miller
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