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Top Ten Stories of 2010

SFR Revisits the top 10 stories of the year—and the conspiracy theories behind them

December 22, 2010, 1:00 am

Sometimes Crime Pays

It was a year of criminal activity—some of it by the cops

If the life of a cop is nine parts complete tedium to one part high excitement, some members of Santa Fe law enforcement adjusted that ratio this year by creating their own dramatic interludes.

Former Sheriff-about-town Greg Solano, who earned Santa Feans’ trust with his seeming openness and accessibility, unmasked himself in November 2010 as a white-collar criminal and apparent eBay addict. Solano copped to selling used county bulletproof vests and other equipment while “trying to keep my family afloat during these tough financial times." A state police investigation so far has discovered that Solano also sold new equipment that he stole from the county and other obscure items, netting approximately $40,000.

According to warrants that 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler recently unsealed, Solano used his county-issued computers, his father-in-law’s computer and that of a neighbor, whom he was supposed to be helping with computer problems, to post the items.

Chandler tells SFR that it will take investigators some time to comb through the fruits of the eight warrants.

If Solano’s shenanigans were characterized by discreet cunning, former Santa Fe Police Officer David Smoker’s violent assault on a handcuffed teenager last January seemed to result from a total lapse in self-control. Smoker was caught on video beating 17-year-old Brendon Singer.

The Santa Fe Police Department terminated Smoker and Officer Robert Hollingsworth, and suspended Officer David Rael, because Hollingsworth and Rael failed to stop the attack. The incident reverberated in the March city mayoral election, when the video was made public; the city police union supported Mayor David Coss challenger Asenath Kepler. The union had opposed the terminations.

Lt. Stephen Ryan, who conducted the internal investigation into the beating, was later put on paid administrative leave for a year and a half after being charged with driving under the influence. When his conviction was overturned in October, City Manager Robert Romero put him back in the internal investigations section, angering the Santa Fe Police Officers Association.

The SFPOA, a union of officers and sergeants in the department, on Nov. 8 voted no confidence in Romero and in Deputy City Attorney Mark Allen, complaining they were micro-managing SFPD.

Romero says replacing police union member Lt. Gerald Solano, who had taken Ryan’s place, with non-member Ryan was “a joint decision among management,” undertaken because “doing internal affairs investigations properly and in a timely fashion is important.” He wouldn’t say whether Solano’s work on internal affairs investigations was inadequate.

The no-confidence vote is just a symbolic way for the union to express its frustrations to the public and city elected officials. Public Safety Committee Chairman and City Councilor Ronald Trujillo says the City Council hasn’t discussed the vote yet.
“All parties need to come together and discuss what’s going on,” Trujillo says.

Romero says he has already started to address the problem by assigning more deputy city attorneys to handle labor issues, instead of having Allen handle all of them.

Mayor Coss says that because police work is one of the city’s biggest areas of liability, it’s important that internal affairs investigations are conducted promptly and thoroughly.

“In all of that, there’s plenty of opportunity for friction and misunderstanding, but we’re fixing that,” Coss says.

Meanwhile, agents of all local law enforcement agencies are trying to keep up with the steady increase of burglaries in the Santa Fe area. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office recorded 38 more burglaries so far this year than last, though state police’s numbers for the Santa Fe area are so far nearly identical to last year’s.

“It could be the cost of living—it’s hard to say. It could be the economy,” Sheriff Robert Garcia tells SFR.

The city also has seen an uptick of property crimes (2,119 this year versus 2033 last year).

City Police Chief Aric Wheeler says the department is considering electronic ankle monitoring for property offenders.

“There are a lot of re-offenders and I think we need to do a better job of keeping them from re-offending,” he says.

CONSIPIRACY THEORY: Local law enforcement personnel despair of ever appearing on Cops: Santa Fe. So, instead, they are trying to garner a spot on America’s Most Wanted.

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