New Mexican lawmakers are reacting to the galvanizing calls for police reform around the country by introducing legislation to clean up the state’s law enforcement academy regulations. The legislation focuses on transferring and creating deadlines for some of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy’s (NMLEA) responsibilities.
The NMLEA currently has two primary responsibilities: training officers and suspending or revoking certification to serve as a peace officer.
Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, highlighted the clear contradiction of those responsibilities, noting that misconduct often goes unreported or without a hearing.
Maestas is sponsoring a bill that would transfer the law enforcement academy’s authority to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (NMRLD).
The NMRLD regulates more than 30 different professions, with a unique board and commission with their own rules and requirements specific to each trade. According to Maestas, the department is capable of handling officer licensing as well.
Additional legislation focuses on implementing a procedure and deadlines for taking police shooting cases before a judge in the form of a preliminary hearing.
“The Law Enforcement Academy gets complaints about officers and are supposed to deal with them, but they are so overworked and backed up that they may have complaints sitting there for over a year,” Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said. “Meanwhile, an officer is fired by one department in one county and is hired in another county, because nobody knows about the misconduct as it wasn’t dealt with. It is actually dangerous.”
Additionally, the bill would address a conflict of interest within the department.
“It is an apparent conflict, because the district attorney's office counts on law enforcement,” Chasey said. “If suddenly one of them is accused of excessive use of force or wrongful death, the same district attorneys that have to count on them to make their conviction now have to prosecute a former and potential ally.”
Maestas said that the proposed bill would create deadlines for investigations and transfer the case from local district attorneys to the state attorney general, who would present it in a preliminary hearing. The judge would find probable cause to either indict or absolve the officer.
“A lot of cop shooting cases remain open for two to three years.The cop is in limbo, and there is no finality,” Maestas said. “This bill deals with the issue instead of sweeping it under the rug.”
Nikita Jaiswal is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @NikitaJswl