NM public safety secretary ‘dismissed’ by governor

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office confirmed Friday that the state’s head of public safety was “dismissed.”

The news site Northern New Mexico Independent first reported that Lujan Grisham fired Public Safety Secretary Mark Shea. In response to the report that Shea notified his, now former, employees in an email, NM Political Report inquired with the governor’s office for further confirmation. 

Lujan Grisham’s office did not reply specifically to the request, but it did release a statement saying the Lujan Grisham administration “is taking the opportunity of a leadership change to strengthen the mission of the Department of Public Safety to deliver vigorous and smart-on-crime statewide law enforcement, with a renewed emphasis on community police work and the unequivocal protection of New Mexicans’ civil rights.”

“I want to thank Secretary Shea for his service to the state,” Lujan Grisham said in a prepared statement. “The Department of Public Safety plays an essential role. Our employees and officers are duty-bound to equitably protect and dutifully serve New Mexicans, and I am confident they will continue to meet and exceed the expectation of communities all across the state.”

In its announcement, the governor’s office said New Mexico State Police (NMSP) Chief Tim Johnson will serve as interim secretary while the state looks for Shea’s permanent replacement. NMSP Deputy Chief Robert Thorton will take on the role of interim state police chief, according to the announcement. 

Shea’s employment termination comes during a time of both local and national calls for reforms of police departments and civil rights laws.

Bipartisan package of public safety bills advances in House

New Mexico lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday advanced a bipartisan package of public safety measures that proponents said are aimed at reducing violent crime in communities across the state and aiding law enforcement officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Provisions in the omnibus package that would provide funding to train officers in “community-oriented policing” and ease access to treatment for officers with PTSD received broad support from the law enforcement community, advocacy groups and committee members. Suicides nationwide among law enforcement officers were higher last year than the deaths of those killed in the line of duty, several proponents noted, referring to studies by national nonprofits showing a surge in officer suicides in 2019. To address the issue, the omnibus package includes a provision that would make it easier for commissioned officers to get PTSD treatment covered through workers’ compensation. The package, which combines House Bills 6, 35 and 113, was approved by the committee Saturday on a vote of 13-0 and has the support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.