The Associated Press
Updated: June 16, 2020 09:54 AM
Created: June 16, 2020 09:52 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Leading Republican legislators in New Mexico say they won’t stand in the way of initiatives to require police body cameras and prohibit chokeholds.
Lawmakers are preparing for a special session on Thursday to rewrite the state budget amid a rapid decline in estimated state government income and to consider possible reforms on policing and emergency election procedures.
Republican House minority leader Jim Townsend and Rod Montoya said Monday that most public safety agencies in New Mexico already prohibit chokeholds and they voiced qualified support for mandatory police body cameras.
Democratic state legislators are discussing a range of potential policing reforms in response to local concerns and mass demonstrations nationwide over the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans.
A new initiative being unveiled on Tuesday would steer evaluations and investigations into the use of deadly force by police away from local prosecutors who can be reluctant to review them and toward specially appointed prosecutors with greater independence.
The governor and the state attorney general would be notified within 24 hours of all police actions resulting in significant injuries or death under the proposal.
In Washington, D.C., the Democrat-led U.S. House is working toward a vote on its own sweeping policing reform bill as soon as next week, as President Donald Trump and the Republican led Senate are developing their own plans.
Montoya said his only hesitation regarding mandatory body cameras might be in mandating new spending by cash-strapped state and local government. Townsend had no reservations.
“Mandatory body cams — I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Townsend said.
Legislators are at odds over plans to close off direct public access to the Statehouse when the Legislature convenes as a precaution against the coronavirus.
Democratic House and Senate leaders want that the public listen to committee hearings and comment by video or telephone conference, while nearly two dozen rank-and-file legislators want to retain direct public access to the state Capitol.
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue Tuesday.
Townsend noted that recent legislative meetings by video conference have been marred by bad internet connections and other blunders.
“So when legislators can’t even get in (to a Zoom meeting), how much public input do you think there’s going to be?” he said. “It is going to be a mess.”
Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf said the Legislature will consider allowing some of its members to participate in the special session remotely.
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