Henry Perea, new LL municipal judge, is ready for work
The new Los Lunas interim Municipal Judge Henry L. Perea brings 24 years of criminal justice and four years of military experience to the position.
Perea was sworn in on July 30 by District Court Judge James Sanchez, and is currently busy with judicial training, learning how the department functions internally, as well as making sure the staff has all the tools they need to do their job, he said.
“I’m a person of systems. I like to build in systems so that things run more efficiently — step one, step two, step three,” Perea said. “I’m having them look at the different forms we have to see how we can work with those forms and maybe make it a little easier for the police department and for us as well, so that we don’t have this big paper trail going on.”
Perea’s goal is to make the court a smoother, more efficient operation, and to be a good listener and collector of facts as a judge, he said.
“I’m going to work with my staff as a team,” he said. “This is not a one person job. These folks have years of experience, and I want them to lend that over to me.”
Working in the prison system, Perea has heard every clever excuse and tall tale, but he is also a firm believer in prisoner rights, and treating everyone with respect.
“If I have someone coming in front of me over and over and over again, apparently that person is not listening — apparently they’re not getting the message,” Perea said. “So, maybe a stronger message may be necessary. But if you have first-timers who are coming in, begging, ‘Please don’t screw up my record,’ … I may send them to class, defer the sentence, so they’re being sent a message, but not compared to something that would be placed on their record.”
The Los Lunas native served four years in the Air National Guard after graduating high school. He then went on to a career in corrections.
He retired from his post as deputy chief of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in January 2010.
“It has certainly given me a lot of insight and experience ensuring the constitutional rights of inmates,” Perea said. “And (making sure) the well being of inmates and staff were being enforced properly.”
Perea started out as a corrections officer and worked his way up to deputy chief.
He has supervised more than 400 employees, and worked in internal affairs presiding over pre-hearings, reviewing incident reports and conducting investigations on inmate or corrections officer wrong doing, unethical behavior or policy violations. He has also functioned a mediator.
As a deputy chief, he gained experience with federal and district courts, and was involved in the McClendon case — a federal civil rights lawsuit over inmate conditions at the downtown Albuquerque jail.
Perea was charged with overseeing the case, meeting with the opposing attorneys and investigating inmates’ complaints to resolve them.
Perea is a graduate of Los Lunas High School and has taken courses in criminal justice, sociology and psychology at the University of New Mexico.
After retiring from the detention center, Perea planned to run for the Los Lunas Village Council in 2014, but when he heard the village was looking for an interim judge, he jumped on it.
Perea was inspired by his father, the late Henry Perea, who worked with the developmentally disabled for 30 years at the Los Lunas Hospital and Training Center, and was a village councilor for 20 years. His father taught him the value of community service, Perea said.
“I plan on doing the best job possible for the community of Los Lunas,” he said. “I want everybody, when they come in to the court, to feel comfortable. You know, everybody makes mistakes … I want to educate the defendants.”
He and his wife, Valerie, have six children altogether, five boys and a girl. Perea’s eldest son, Michael, followed in his father’s footsteps and is a corrections officer at the Metro Detention Center.
Perea has requested a special public swearing-in ceremony at his father’s namesake building, the Henry Perea building, owned by the state and located at 750 Morris Road.
The time and date is to be announced, but will be held later this month.
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