ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – After publicized police shootings across the state, a civil rights group wants to know when officers are trained to use deadly force.
But they say the board responsible for that training isn’t giving up that information easily, so they’re threatening to take them to court.
“At the heart of this, really what we’re talking about is the public’s right to know,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of New Mexico’s ACLU.
On Oct. 28 of last year, New Mexico State Police officer Elias Montoya opened fire at a minivan speeding away near Taos.
A week later in Santa Fe, a New Mexico State Police officer shot and killed 39-year-old Jeanette Anaya after she wouldn’t stop her car. Other police shootings throughout Albuquerque have sparked a department of justice investigation.
Now, one group wants answers.
“The ACLU is always concerned about the use of force in our state by law enforcement,” Simonson said.
To get those answers, Simonson has filed a public records request to learn more about how officers are trained.
“We also are concerned about basic transparency,” Simonson said. “That’s a matter of good government, a matter of our basic democracy.”
Simonson’s concerns stem from a Santa Fe New Mexican article last month detailing new training procedures at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
The paper says LEA director Jack Jones now has full control over training and is teaching cadets they have more leeway to use force. When asked if he’d turn over his training materials, Jones says he’d rather burn them than make them public.
He says he fears criminals would get their hands on the information.
“I would encourage him to retract that statement and follow through with his duty as a public official and respect the rights of concerned citizens, that pay the taxes, that pay his salary, to know how were training our officers,” Simonson said.
KRQE News 13 couldn’t reach Jones directly for a comment, but a spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety says, “DPS has always and will continue to fully comply with any IPRA requests we receive.”
State Police and APD both use their own training programs, but the LEA establishes basic courses. The training time was recently cut from 22 weeks to 16 weeks.
Under state law, the academy has 15 business days to make the requested material public. Again, the ACLU says if it doesn’t, they’ll go to court.