‘We are not Supermen’

[CAPTION:  Last week, deputies responded to a disturbance at Clark Heights, and the rifle shown above was confiscated. Deputies were called to try and calm down the subject living at the house, who had ransacked several rooms. This is only one example, says Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, of the numerous and unpredictable calls the department receives, not to mention, the potentially deadly circumstances officers encounter on a daily basis.  Photo courtesy Sheriff’s Office]

Sheriff tells deputies that deputies are overwhelmed


Commissioners on Monday listened to Sheriff Oscar Carrillo plead for more deputies.

Mr. Carrillo outlined in detail that the current number of officers (The Advocate will not publish the number.) was not sufficient to address the growing number of incidences that have taken place over the last year. As Mr. Carrillo explained, Van Horn has experienced a burst in population, whether temporary or permanent, probably as a result of the oil and gas drilling speculation.

As is the case in those towns and cities experiencing the current oil and gas boom, a higher crime rate can be attributed to the proportionate growth in population.

“We’re not supermen,” said Mr. Carrillo. “It’s gotten to the point that we’re overwhelmed. It’s not a matter of scheduling. You can only schedule [our deputies] for so long. I’m responsible for providing 24-7 law enforcement.”
Mr. Carrillo said that his deputies are not interested in compensatory time (days off) or overtime because “our deputies simply want to spend time with their families.”

Culberson County sheriff’s deputies work 12-hour shifts. Mr. Carrillo added that it is not uncommon for him to relieve an officer when several deputies are needed in a county that spans 3,800 square miles.

“When I take a call and drive out to Kent or to the drilling rigs near Orla, that doesn’t leave any back up for me,” Mr. Carrillo said. “We’re burning the candle at both ends. My concern is that now my deputies are facing losing their vacation time. It’s their privilege to receive vacation time.”

“I’m their backup. When one [of the deputies] takes a day of vacation or calls in sick, I fill those shoes. Where’s my backup? I have no one else to call. We had a lot of parties and celebrations this weekend. Our guys are so overworked right now that they’d rather have time off than comp time or overtime pay.”

Mr. Carrillo said that he had just been called to Pecos to a meeting with the Reeves County Sheriff and  the Eddy County (Carlsbad, New Mexico) Sheriff. Those sheriff’s departments have been handling a multitude of calls for the outskirts of Culberson County because there are many occasions that our deputies cannot answer a call in northeast Culberson County, said Mr. Carrillo.

“This is your backyard,” said Mr. Carrillo, quoting one of the sheriffs. “We’re fielding your calls and we don’t mind taking your calls.” Mr. Carrillo said that the two sheriffs want a memorandum of understanding signed between the two counties and Culberson County because of the potential liability involved with another sheriff’s office handling the calls for a different jurisdiction.

Essentially, Mr. Carrillo said, the two sheriffs issued a mild ultimatum to Culberson County:  We’re glad to help you when we can, but at some point, you’re going to have to do it yourself.   As Mr. Carrillo explained, many of the calls to northeast Culberson County have to do with theft related to the oil and gas drilling. According to Constable Bruce Jackson, Precinct 3, last year, Eddy County reported more than $2.5 million in oilfield-related theft in Culberson County. He said that number to date is around $800,000.

Response time from Carlsbad to the Orla area, Mr. Jackson said, is 30 minutes, while it takes about an hour and a half response time from Van Horn.

“That part of the county is under some major changes,” said Mr. Jackson.

Following Mr. Carrillo’s presentation, commissioners went into closed session to discuss salaries and compensation. After a few minutes, commissioners went back into open session to announce that they will review the numbers with County Auditor Mark Cabezuela as soon as possible so that commissioners can discuss at a later date the hiring of one new officer before the new fiscal year in October.

In other action, commissioners took action on the following items:
• Approved preliminary plans and specifications for the fire station on  Broadway. History:  The new fire station that has never been used, must be renovated to widen the doors to allow the fire truck to easily enter and exit. When the original plans were drafted around 2009, no one measured the fire truck from  front mirror to front mirror to allow the sufficient amount of access into the building. The architect said it was the county’s duty to provide accurate measurements. In addition, the more than $250,000 building was not finished out. This grant will pay for improvements such as flooring, restrooms and other essentials.
•Approved sale of property on Broadway, the former Bud’s Diesel, to Vance Cottrell, for $25,000
•Approved purchasing an electronic time clock system for county employees
•Discussed proposal from Williams Companies for a tax abatement to be provided for construction of “Panther Project and Investment,” a natural gas cryogenic processing plant. County Judge Carlos Urias said that the company is shopping around to find the best deal that best fits the company’s objectives. Culberson County is only one of the counties in the so-called Delaware Basin, where the gas would be extracted. Other counties include: Eddy County in New Mexico, Reeves, Loving and Pecos counties.  According to the presentation made available to commissioners, the project would employ more than 12 “permanent “jobs and approximately 150 temporary construction jobs, ranging from six months to 18 months, during the construction phase. Commissioners at a later date will discuss whether a tax abatement is feasible.



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