Bill would regulate use of force polices for police

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The state Legislature is working to implement changes to how law enforcement offices operate in New Mexico. 

A new bill would regulate use of force policies for police departments, sheriff’s offices, and any other agency. When lawmakers announced this piece of legislation, they invited New Mexican families who have lost loved ones at the hands of law enforcement to share their stories. 

“He was 18 years old – they always talk about how police fear for their life,” Father Keith Ritche said holding a photo of his son in front of the Roundhouse, “But now every day I fear for my life in the hands of police.” 

“Alicia did not just die a death. She died a violent death of 21 shots by the men that were called to help her.” Elaine Maestas said through tears as she remembers how her sister died. 

More than 200 luminarias lit up in front of the Roundhouse Wednesday. Each candle representing someone killed by New Mexican law enforcement in the last 10 years. 

“Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and children are left with so much grief and so many unanswered questions,” Maestas added. 

According to the ACLU New Mexico has ranked first or second nationally in police killings per capita for the last decade. 

“This is not just an Albuquerque problem,” state Rep. from Doña Ana County, Angelica Rudio said. “97% of New Mexicans live in a county where the police have killed someone in the last ten years.” 

Now she and other lawmakers have drafted a bill they say will hold New Mexico law enforcement accountable. 

“New Mexicans deserve a police force that is held to a high uniform standard when it comes to use of force regardless of agency or geography.” State Senator From Bernalillo County Herald Pope said. 

Senate Bill 252 would create that standard, laying out use of force training requirements for all law enforcement agencies in New Mexico, and creating penalties for officers who do not follow those guidelines. 

“I’m confident the standards in this bill are rigorous but also realistic. We are going to require officers to exhaust all de-escalation tactics before resorting to force,” Pope said. 

This bill would limit what kind of force officers could use, including prohibiting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as banning choke holds. 

Pope and Rep. Angelica Rubio say they created this bill using already existing policies across the state. But, they want those policies to apply to every law enforcement body in New Mexico. 

The bill also requires law enforcement to report any colleague who violates the rules laid out. 

Just recently Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced the department is revising its non-lethal use of force policies.

He says he believes this will lead to fewer shootings by officers – plus the department of justice has approved those new policies. 

Officers will start getting trained over the next few weeks.

Track SB 252 during the legislative session.