Grim news has emerged from Taos County, New Mexico, where a squalid, makeshift compound was raided in early August. Eleven malnourished children and the body of another child were discovered in the community of Amalia.
The public safety officers of the Taos County Sheriff’s Office – members of AFSCME Local 2911 (Council 18) – were among a team that included federal authorities who entered the compound and brought the children to safety.
“The Sheriff Response Team (SRT) – members of AFSCME Local 2911 – were instrumental in securing the compound. After receiving a search warrant, SRT created and implemented the tactical plan to secure five adults and emancipate 11 children without incident or shots fired,” said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.
Connie Derr, executive director of AFSCME New Mexico Council 18, said: “By the time the Amalia case broke in the national news last week, the Taos County sheriff’s deputies of AFSCME Local 2911 and State of New Mexico Child Protective Service investigators of AFSCME Local 2890 had been working the case non-stop for days.”
In addition, the Taos County Detention Center officers of AFSCME Local 1193 eventually had custody of those arrested.
“We may think about the exhaustive physical work that our members put in, but we don’t always think about cases like this, where there is an incredible emotional toll as well,” Derr said. “These officers and case workers can’t unsee the loss of a child’s life, the starvation in the faces of 11 other children, and (they) realize the potential devastation had they not uncovered the compound and taken action when they did.”
While the quiet northern New Mexico community, known for its artists and its skiing, doesn’t often appear in the headlines, its public safety officers go to work every day prepared to do whatever they must to keep their neighbors safe. These recent events only highlight the risks that AFSCME members, no matter their jobs, take to protect and serve their communities.
Derr echoed that point, saying: “This is an excellent reminder of the good but difficult work that all of our AFSCME members do daily in large cities and in small out-of-the-way communities. The work may sometimes go unrecognized, but it always deserves our appreciation and utmost respect.”