After a year of high-profile changes in Gov. Susana Martinez’s Cabinet, top officials from several of the most important departments in state government now await Senate confirmation hearings. But the secretaries of environment, finance and health are just of a few of the governor’s nearly 100 appointees on the agenda. With the long list, it is unclear how many appointees will even get a vote before the Senate adjourns March 18. New Mexico’s financial crisis will make confirmation hearings more difficult than usual. Staff members say the Senate Rules Committee only has enough money to conduct background checks on about half the appointees.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, who also chairs the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board, appointed a group to look into the policies and procedures behind investigations into shootings by police officers and use of force incidents in the state. The announcement of the review by a new subcommittee of the board came hours before a mistrial in South Carolina, where police officer shot Michael Slager shot Walter Scott, a black man, in the back as Scott ran away. Scott died. The April 4, 2015 incident was caught on video and quickly made news around the country after it happened. “Officer-involved shootings can have devastating consequences for both the civilian and law enforcement communities,” Balderas said in a statement.
A district attorney received responses after writing a letter to the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy (NMLEA) about concerns with police training. The overall message: Everything is fine here. Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg received responses in return to her letter regarding concerns about police training deficiencies, ultimately linked to a current whistleblower lawsuit. The first letter came from APD Chief Gorden Eden. Eden wrote that any allegations of improper police training are unfounded.
The City of Albuquerque and other defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit filed a request for a twelve-person jury on Monday. John Corvino, a former trainer for the Albuquerque Police Department, filed a suit against the city. This week City Attorney Jessica Hernandez filed a response to Corvino’s allegations and subsequent demand for a jury trial. The city’s response contested claims that Corvino faced retaliation by his superiors for bringing to light possible police training deficiencies in the police academy. The allegations date back to 2013 when Corvino, when he was a trainer for APD, notified his superiors that instructors were training officers without proper certifications.
The state director of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy (NMLEA) said he does not plan to make any major changes following a recent letter from the New Mexico Attorney General. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported on his remarks. Director Jack Jones, who oversees the training and certification process at the academy, told the paper that he does not foresee any changes to curriculum after Attorney General Hector Balderas outlined his priorities for the academy and its board. From the New Mexican:
Jack Jones, the director for the state Law Enforcement Academy, said he will continue to implement the lesson plan as state Attorney General Hector Balderas plans to review the academy’s curriculum. The academy, which is in Santa Fe and sets the tone for statewide police training, came under scrutiny last year after Jones made changes to deadly force training.
Weeks before a former Albuquerque Police Department trainer filed a lawsuit against the department with allegations of retaliation, Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg sent a letter to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas with concerns about possible shortcomings in police training. She said the issue was brought to her attention April 17. In her letter, dated April 21, Brandenburg wrote that police work from officers who may not be properly certified could be called into question by the public. “As you are already much aware, any defect in the certification of a law enforcement officer could call into question that officer’s authority to arrest, investigate, gain, and execute search and arrest warrants, and more,” Brandenburg wrote. A full copy of the letter is available at the bottom of the post.