Published reports indicate that the Albuquerque Police Department has implemented a new use-of-force policy, per the reforms mandated by the federal Department of Justice. Through the policy, APD officers have been advised to use the “minimum of force necessary” to resolve confrontations with alleged criminals and others who interact with the police. The new methodology also reiterates the position that officers should work to de-escalate potentially violent situations whenever possible. The new policy was fostered by a DOJ investigation which revealed a pattern of excessive force at our local police department, as well as a “culture of aggression” that contributed to events at which APD officers shot at over 40 individuals during a five year period. These actions also resulted in the City of Albuquerque paying out more than $25 million in legal claims during the same time period. Police union officials remain skeptical about the new procedure's implementation, saying that only 77 officers have so far been brought up to speed and that tension between the administration and rank and file officers exists because of the lack of training. The DOJ settlement with the city requires that all officers be able to use the policy by June 2, 2016.
NM Senate Votes Down Legalization
A legislative measure to place marijuana legalization on the November ballot in New Mexico has died after being voted down in the state Senate by a vote of 24-17. Senate Joint Resolution Five (no pun intended) was introduced by Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque). If the legislation had made it through the law-making process and then been approved by voters, it would have called for legal weed for those over the age of 21 as well as taxation on production and sales of the herb. Revenue acquired from the production and use of cannabis in the state would have been earmarked for use in funding the state's medicaid program or drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Measure sponsor Ortiz y Pino is convinced that if the measure reaches the ballot, New Mexicans will approve of it. Opponents of the constitutional amendment, contrariwise, believe the legalization of marijuana will result in more crime. Ortiz y Pino plans to pursue similar legislation in coming years.
Abortion Foes Continue Attacks
In a move Congressional Democrats have denounced as a danger to medical privacy and safety, the chair of the US House Selective Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has called on her panel to subpoena two New Mexico organizations involved in women's health and reproductive choices. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) wants information about alleged fetal tissue use from the University of New Mexico and Southwest Women's Options. Though the latter provider has been fully cooperative with the panel—and a recent investigation into fetal tissue gathered during abortions resulted in legal trouble for the accusers while clearing those accused of impropriety—Blackburn has continued to press her case. She said, “Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry.” Meanwhile Democrats on the panel, including Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) have said that the chair of the committee is abusing her power. State officials indicated in New Mexico Political Report that they “will continue to be responsive to the panel’s inquiries and will do so in a manner that protects individuals’ safety and privacy.”