Strengthening Law Enforcement Professions

Senate Bill X: Strengthening Law Enforcement Professions

2023 NM Legislative Session

The Problem:

Law enforcement officers and public safety telecommunicators (LE professionals) are trained and certified by the NM Law Enforcement Academy and its satellites by statute. For decades, these facilities have been understaffed and underfunded, resulting in out-of-date curricula. Failure of local law enforcement agency reporting results in a lack of data on compliance with requirements. Leaders across the state report difficulty attracting high-quality candidates and retaining their best people. National leaders in law enforcement identify “police training” as a national crisis of underinvestment in our first responders, resulting in demoralization, lack of respect from the public, high suicide rates among LE professionals, and unacceptable violence.

Moving Forward:

In 2022, NM legislators authorized two new law enforcement policy and oversight bodies: The NM Standards and Training Council, and the NM Certification Board. Building upon this, and filling gaps in recent legislation and existing statutes, a citizen group (Indivisible SOS Santa Fe) set out to partner with leaders in the law enforcement professions across the state, and with their input, and data from the Department of Public Safety, to propose legislation in 2023 to establish a SYSTEM for law enforcement training, oversight, and accountability. The “system” is designed to meet the needs of LE professionals and the public, to support and reward career aspirations, increase the stature of the LE professions, to attract and retain the best people, and to keep everyone safe. Its outcomes can and must be measured, so that problems can be identified and solutions proposed.

The Proposed Legislation:  Strengthening Law Enforcement Professions

Senate Bill X (filing date and number to be determined—Antonio Maestas, primary sponsor) defines the structure, authority, and responsibility for the Standards and Training Council and the Certification Board, defines outcomes for the System, and requires data reporting for accountability, including consequences for non-compliance.  

The Standards and Training Council, administratively supported by the NM Law Enforcement Academy (a division of the Department of Public Safety), will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the requirements for all LE professionals immediately and every 5 years. It will recommend modernization and revision of the curricula, using national evidence-based research, best practices, the latest technology and methods, and in compliance with evolving law. It will cover all levels of training from basic, through advanced, supervisory and instructor. It will establish a program for individual-level professional development, both career advancement and corrective action plans. The entire system will produce law enforcement capacity that integrates knowledge and necessary skills to generate the following outcomes:

  1. Effective interventions in high-risk and crisis situations to protect officer and public safety and minimize liability;
  2. Use of force that is objectively reasonable under the totality of circumstances and, when feasible, is least restrictive, to protect officer and public safety;
  3. Respectful treatment of everyone regardless of racial, ethnic or cultural differences, physical or mental capacities, appearance, language, or gender, that avoids civil rights violations;
  4. Pride and professional demeanor in protecting all persons and communities;
  5. Courage and skill to intervene in inappropriate conduct regardless of rank;
  6. Sensitivity to collateral damage in the wake of trauma resulting from law enforcement interventions;
  7. Equitable enforcement of state and local laws/ordinances;
  8. Consistent preservation of evidence, clear and complete documentation, and truthful testimony to support judicial processes;
  9. Law enforcement agencies that prioritize wellness and behavioral health for professionals, including access to supportive services; and
  10. Law enforcement agencies that coordinate and cooperate with other community services.

The Certification Board is an independent agency, administratively supported by the Department of Public Safety. It will set policy and standards for certification of LE professionals and training centers, interacting with the Standards and Training Council. It will receive and investigate complaints regarding denial of admission for training, denial of certification, and misconduct. It may suspend/revoke certification for failure to comply with required in-service training (with allowed exceptions and 60 days to comply). It has necessary authority to investigate and collect evidence, and it will adjudicate cases. Investigative data are exempt from release under Inspections of Public Records Act requests until adjudication is complete. 

All law enforcement agencies employing LE professionals will be required to report data on individual LE professionals to document their status, changes in status, training and compliance with training requirements, in format determined by the Law Enforcement Academy. Failure to report as required can result in withholding of Law Enforcement Protection Fund distributions.

The legislation asks for appropriations for modernization of curricula, professional development programs, and professional staff to carry out the functions of both policy and oversight bodies.

Please join us in helping support our first responders!

From the men and women who answer 911 to those who respond to emergencies and put themselves between us and the bad guys, don’t we owe them the best training? Don’t we owe them our respect and regard for the risks they take and the stress of their jobs? Don’t we want to attract and retain people who aspire to protect and serve, and need to see a career path and support to build their skills and pursue their goals, regardless of where in the state they live and work? With a modest investment, NM can leap over its decades of being out-of-date, into the future of professional accountable law enforcement.

Call or email the Governor, your representative and state senator and ask them to support this legislation.

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