A top city official’s assertion that police had to to put Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters just a few feet from each other is wrong, the ACLU says. And the ACLU’s national website says that “police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated” when it comes to public protests. But Mayor Richard Berry’s Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montaño, apparently didn’t know that on Monday when he told an Albuquerque Journal reporter just the opposite. According to the Journal’s story, “Montaño said police determined it would be against the law to force Trump supporters and protesters into separate areas. Previous case law, he said, calls for them to have the ‘ability to be right next to each other.”
But Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said case law doesn’t restrict police departments as much as Montaño claimed.
An old adage goes “nothing good happens after midnight.” Some New Mexico lawmakers are attempting to make that adage into a law that would allow local governments to implement a curfew for anyone under 18. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, filed HB 29 last month partly as an answer to two violent crimes that took place in Albuquerque last year. One instance involved a group of teenagers who were charged with the murder of an Albuquerque homeless man and the other involved a teenager who was shot and killed at an Albuquerque park late at night. Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who is a cosponsor of the curfew bill said he wanted to give local governments “the local authority to bring the curfew forward.”
The idea of the state giving authority to cities and counties is not new and also stems from a New Mexico Supreme Court decision from 1999. In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico successfully challenged a curfew implemented by the City of Albuquerque.
Two reports released on Thursday have different views of the Albuquerque Police Department’s compliance with a consent decree between the department and the U.S. Department of Justice. A status report by James Ginger, the federal monitor appointed to oversee APD’s reforms outlined in the consent decree, warns that the police department is not developing a new use of force policy fast enough. “The monitoring team have twice worked with the APD to provide guidance regarding the pending APD use of force policy,” his report states. “As of yet, no use of force police has been developed that can be approved by the monitor.”
The report from APD, however, painted a much rosier picture in its own status report, maintaining that “methodical planning, innovation and hard work” have led to “considerable gains.”
The consent decree is the result of a federal investigation that concluded in April 2014 that the police department’s practices of use of force repeatedly violated the U.S. Constitution. A settlement agreement between the DOJ and APD last fall outlined the reforms the police agency must follow through the consent decree.
The New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union launched an app on Friday that will store bystander cell phone videos of local police incidents. ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson described the Mobile Justice App’s purpose as empowering citizens “to hold our local law enforcement accountable when they have encounters with the public.” He added that technology is allowing the public to hold police use of excessive force more accountable than ever before, mentioning the widely publicized deaths of Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Anastasio Hernandez Rojas. “It’s not something that’s new when it comes to police practices,” Simonson said. “But it seems to have been getting ever more scrutiny as video technology makes it more possible for the public to see exactly how police interact with the public.”
Most law enforcement agencies in New Mexico don’t require that officers wear video cameras. The Albuquerque Police Department still hasn’t fully implemented guidelines for their body cameras.
Indiana has been at the center of a firestorm after Gov. Mike Pence signed a “religious freedom” bill into law that critics say would legalize discrimination against LGBT customers. Pence, and other supporters, have been on the defensive about the law and one talking point they have used is that many other states have such “religious freedom” laws, as does the federal government. Using this talking point, the Washington Post wrote that 19 other states already have similar laws on the books and so does the federal government. Included on that map? New Mexico.