Updated: September 14, 2020 06:14 PM
Created: September 14, 2020 06:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State lawmakers with the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee held a virtual meeting to discuss legislation that aims to bring more transparency and accountability to use of force investigations.
“The current process is 100 percent untransparent and broken,” said Elaine Maestas while addressing a panel of lawmakers during the Monday meeting.
Maestas’ sister Elisha Lucero was shot 21 times by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputies in July 2019 while she was suffering a mental health crisis. Deputies said Lucero charged at them with a knife.
The Attorney General took over the investigation earlier this year.
“Our family has been waiting for over a year now for answers and about what happened to Elisha and getting some accountability and transparency,” Maestas said.
During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers plan to reintroduce a bill that will move use of force investigations into the public eye and avoid conflicts of interest.
“And I believe that local district attorney’s offices almost have an inherent conflict of interest when they’re dealing with the local police departments and the local sheriff’s office because they work so closely together,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-District 16).
Sen. Sedillo Lopez, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it will require a law enforcement agency to notify the district attorney within 24 hours of any officer use of force resulting in great bodily harm or death. From there, the district attorney would have to notify the New Mexico attorney general and the governor.
“And then what the bill does is it allows the option of the local district attorneys to let the attorney general take over, but if not, they work on the case together,” she said.
The bill will also require the prosecutor looking into the use of force case to provide public quarterly reports on the status of the investigation and a final report about whether the use of force was justified and why.
“I think that this is a small step in addressing what I perceive as a problem is the lack of accountability, the lack of transparency and the lack of timeliness in these investigations,” Sen. Sedillo Lopez added.
The family of Elisha Lucero reached a $4 million settlement after suing BCSO over the shooting.
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