New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez opened a Law Enforcement Summit Tuesday to address gun violence.
The summit was Tuesday afternoon at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
“As the chief law enforcement officer in the state, I have a duty, I believe, to try and help elevate the voice of frontline police and prosecutors, and in many respects, the debate the conversation that has transpired in this community and in the state over the last several weeks, I think obscures some important facts and realities that the people of this community and the people that every community in New Mexico deserve to hear,” he said.
Torrez added that he has a special interest in addressing the gun violence problem that he said seems to be endemic to Bernalillo County because he was born and raised in Albuquerque and is raising his family there.
“I am profoundly upset and frankly angry about the lack of progress that has been made specifically with regard to the reduction of gun violence,” Torrez said.
Those who attended the nonpartisan summit heard what officials described during the press conference as unfiltered voices of working law enforcement from communities across the state, at all levels and political parties.
“But if we’re going to solve the problem of gun violence we need to start by talking to the people who know the most about gun violence, how this system is working, and more importantly, how the system is failing,” Torrez said.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen spoke at the press conference about the diverse conversations that would be had at the summit.
“Today we’re going to have some tough conversations but it’s so important to understand and contrast, differences of opinion, different ideas and different areas of need,” Allen said.
Another speaker was Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe, who has served that community’s police chief for more than nine years. Earlier this year, a gunman killed three women near downtown Farmington.
Hebbe said he felt frustrated that the conversation about gun violence has happened over the last few weeks in the way that it has.
“When you look at where we are, how we got to a moment, a spot in time where we think there’s a public health crisis that requires some sort of very broad reaction,” Hebbe said. “It begs the question, how do we get to that? We weren’t there nine and a half years ago. So what has changed in New Mexico over the last nine and a half years that has us feeling like gun crime and violent crime is less in control to the point that it’s almost a crisis?”
He also asked about why law enforcement recruiting and retention is needed so much right now.
While trying to fix the recruiting/retention issues, the bigger picture was missed, Hebbe said.
“So from the time I got here nine and a half years ago to where we are today, there’s been a lot of steps so there is no panacea. There is no one solution that we’re going to come up with or that Santa Fe can come up with (to fix these issues).”
There are going to be more steps to get New Mexico to a point with less violent crime, one of these Hebbe said, is accountability.
“If you don’t have accountability for bad guys who are committing crimes, and wrecking our communities and hurting innocent people, if there is no accountability, there will be no improvement,” Hebbe said.
The summit comes almost three weeks after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order declaring gun violence a public health emergency. The order included a clause that many have called unconstitutional since it barred firearms in Bernalillo County for 30 days.
This is the first law enforcement summit hosted by the NMAG since Torrez took office with more summits in the planning stages. Upcoming summits are scheduled to cover mental health and drug addiction resources.