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Former New Mexico State police captain is candidate for Doña Ana County sheriff in Democratic primary


Retired New Mexico State Police (NMSP) Capt. James Frietze is a candidate for Doña Ana County sheriff in the June 7 Democratic primary.

Frietze, 51, said he was a public servant throughout his 25-year career with NMSP, and would like to bring that knowledge and experience to the sheriff’s office (DASO).

At the state police, Frietze rose from patrol officer to sergeant, assistant district commander/lieutenant and district commander (Doña Ana and Otero counties)/captain. During his tenure, Frietze served on the NMSP tactical and crisis negotiations teams and as a detective. 

“The experience I have over others is a huge advantage,” said Frietze, who retired from NMSP in October 2019.

His training, level of rank, leadership and experience in law enforcement far surpasses that of any recent sheriff when or she first took office, Frietze said.

If elected sheriff, Frietze said he will focus on enhanced training for DASO commissioned and non-commissioned staff, improved relationships with other law enforcement agencies, better service to the community and mentorship for DASO deputies to ensure their individual success and the overall strength of the department.

Frietze said certification for deputies could include training in incident command, accident reconstruction and the use of drones, which he said could also help them excel in careers after law enforcement.

Because he began his career as a patrol officer, Frietze said he understands and empathizes with what deputies experience in the performance of their duties. He knows what it’s like to draw a weapon and was even forced to kill a man in the line of duty in 2006, Frietze said.

“I know what they’re going through,” he said. “To see people excel is what you want,” Frietze said.

As a supervisor, assistant district commander and district commander, Frietze said he also has the administrative experience to lead DASO successfully.

“I’ve got my boxes checked,” Frietze said.

Frietze said his NMSP experience has made him an advocate for law enforcement and for responsible gun ownership and has given him empathy for crime victims and their families and also for those accused of committing crimes. Even a career criminal, he said, is still a human being and a husband,  father, son and brother to someone.

Frietze said he has particular compassion for people with mental health issues who come into contact with law enforcement personnel but aren’t criminals.

“I have empathy for people on the street,” he said.

In many cases, Frietze said, “people want to be listened to.”

‘Networking is huge in law enforcement,” Frietze said, and that includes backing up other agencies as a “force multiplier.” But at the same time, he said, it’s important to “know where our boundaries are.” For example, Frietze said, it is not DASO’s job to enforce immigration laws. As sheriff, Frietze said he will evaluate each request DASO receives for backup from the Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will always respond when public safety is an issue.

Frietze said part of his role as sheriff will be to work with the county commission and the county manager, but “I will not let you set my agency up for failure,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to serve this community.”

Frietze said a sheriff’s candidate has to select a political party, but the office “should not be political,” he said. “Why don’t we do what’s right for everybody? I lean toward common sense,” he said.

Frietze is a Las Cruces native who was raised in Mesilla and is part of an old-line Mesilla Valley family. He graduated from Las Cruces High School and from New Mexico State University, where earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He and his wife, Oralia, have been married for 25 years and have two sons, ages 18 and 21.

Frietze said his goal as sheriff will be to help DASO “reach its full potential” and “raise the bar.”