New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new public safety initiative could roll back bail reform laws and lead to jail overcrowding and excessive use of force by police, according to a New Mexico safety coalition called SAFE.
The Democratic governor has proposed spending $100 million to hire an additional 1,000 new “community oriented” law enforcement officers statewide and create new standards for pretrial release among people accused of certain crimes who are presumed to be dangerous, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“Those proposals could increase the number of people held in county jails who are prone to Corona virus contagion, and might initiate or exacerbate over-policing of minority communities,” SAFE members told a panel of legislatures.
This proposal comes at a time when Albuquerque’s police force is in the midst of sweeping reforms aimed at reining in police brutality with guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and court oversight, under a consent decree initiated in 2014.
In 2016 voters approved a constitutional amendment that did away with money-based bail for indigent defendants.
Kim Chavez Cook, an appellate attorney for the state Public Defender, urged legislatures to be wary of any proposed “rebuttable presumption” of dangerousness for people charged with certain crimes.
She warned that a rollback of bail reforms might flout the state Constitution and could put more people behind bars before conviction and exposing them to COVID-19, according to the Nov. 9, 2021 article.
“It’s a tool that we want to use sparingly and only when necessary,” Chavez Cook said.
On proposals to vastly expand police forces, Barron Jones of the ACLU cautioned legislators to avoid any regression to policing practices that lead to excessive force, or that might disproportionately target minority communities.
Jones spoke highly about a pilot program that leaves Albuquerque police out of some emergency responses for mental health emergencies.
“Figure out ways to set up law enforcement for success and reduce some of those roles,” Jones said.
Complete details on the governor’s proposals are not yet available but the upcoming 2022 legislative cycle promises to include some new alternative policing strategies that could hinder progress, according to the SAFE coalition.