The Law Enforcement Academy board of trustees decided the fate of 37 officers and telecoms at the April 14 meeting, but why those officers were disciplined is a mystery. Is the new leadership of the LEA to blame?
The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) has seen many changes over the past month, with the departure of former director Kelly Alzaharna who has been replaced by an acting director. Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Benjamin Baker, serves as Acting Director of the LEA and appeared at his first LEAB meeting in this role on April 14, just seventeen days after he head of the main formation of state law enforcement. office.
Baker, in his address to the LEA Board of Directors, gave one of the most detailed reports on LEA activity the board has heard in recent years, featuring actual case numbers and an update. on how the LEA plans to oversee police training, but still, under its leadership, there is an apparent lack of transparency.
Technology to the rescue?
The LEA has been plagued for years with issues tracking police training and delays in handling misconduct cases for officers, but Baker said that will improve soon, thanks to the deployment of technology. For years, the LEA has been working to move from a paper-based reporting system to a digital system, known as ACADIS. But Baker said change was difficult.
“There are approximately 340 licensed and trained ACADIS Agency Portal users statewide who can currently view their agency’s job listings and make changes to their employee profiles,” Baker told LEAB. . “Some of these changes include the addition and subtraction of addresses, contact information and details about this employee.”
Baker said the next steps would be to have individual agencies enter officer training directly into the state database. Enforcing biennial training compliance is one of the many goals of the LEA, which has failed for years to accurately and completely track police training compliance, but not everything will be easy, Baker said.
“This process has caused a significant shift in business practices for the law enforcement academy, as it has historically been a paper-based system,” Baker said. “And while a majority of agencies have adapted well and are excited about the change, we still have people we struggle to help.”
The decision to create and maintain what amounts to a transcript for officer training was welcomed by LEAB President Attorney General Hector Balderas.
“We knew the challenges we were facing, but it was also good reporting that really got into the issues identifying the systemic issues and also some journalists, community leaders, as well as individuals like you that really grabbed the attention. both on the complexity of the issues that have been going on for decades,” Balderas said.
Small changes to police misconduct backlog
Baker also reported that there is still a backlog of misconduct cases at the LEA, but the situation is improving. According to its report, 15 cases of law enforcement (or carrier) misconduct have been reported so far in 2022.
“Twelve of them [misconduct complaints] are under review and in the Notice of Investigation process, two are due for adjudication at today’s meeting, and one is in the Notice of Intended Action process,” Baker told the advice. “In total to date, LEAB has 79 total active cases.”
Baker said these numbers are an improvement over the previous backlog, and the cases reviewed were much more contemporary than in previous meetings.
“We find ourselves in a place where discipline cases, due to the diligent work of all parties mentioned, are far more achievable in number and far more contemporary and timely in number, especially for a state the size of New York. Mexico and the people we serve,” Baker said.
Disciplined, but why?
Following Baker’s remarks and other matters, LEAB disciplined 37 officers. The list includes officers from almost every corner of the state, but unlike previous stories, this time, The paper. cannot say what kind of misconduct these officers have been accused of committing. That’s because the LEA, under Baker’s leadership, failed to provide the records despite being well past the deadline to do so under the State Public Records Inspection Act. .
On April 11, The paper. submitted a public records request for information (board packets) sent to LEAB members for the April 14 board meeting. This is a standard information packet that details misconduct cases LEAB adjudicates and includes the original misconduct complaint submitted to the Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) along with a written summary of the case. by the LEA Director, and any settlement agreement an agent may have signed.
Do records even matter?
These records are essential for our police reports, as they are the only clear and accurate representation of the cases reviewed by LEAB. Information packets on previous LEAB meetings obtained by The paper. gave rise to two recent stories: Who has the power to arrest dangerous cops? and The police chief says the misconduct is “completely ignored” by the law enforcement commission. Both stories detailed allegations of misconduct against officers and their outcome.
Some of those filings also detailed allegations against Chaves County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ricardo Delgado, who was accused of excessive force by his former employer, the Roswell Police Department. Delgado and the LEA were later named in a lawsuit brought by the family of Oscar Najeera, which Delgado and another CCSO deputy shot down in July 2021.
All this to say that access to these public archives is vital for The papers police surveillance reports. It has been more than three weeks since the LEAB package was requested, and the Ministry of Public Security still has not provided it.
Is the leadership change to blame?
According to a DPS records clerk, the records were received and redacted by their department on May 4 (well past the 15-day window to provide the records) and were due for release later that day. Unfortunately, later that day, the Records Department sent a message stating that the records had been provided to the Attorney General’s office for review prior to release, and that they had not yet been approved for release.
It’s the first time that The paper. received such a response from the DPS archives service.
More than the reports at LEAB seem to have changed at LEA following the departure of former director Alzaharna, since on January 31, 2022, The paper. requested the same board records for all meetings from January 2019 to December 2021. Minutes from previous meeting years were received only 14 days later, within the timeframe required by the Board Inspection Act. public records.
Now, however, with Baker acting as interim director, it’s been over 24 days, and still The paper. did not receive the requested lone board package.
Not me, said the attorney general
Jerri Mares, director of communications and legislative affairs for the attorney general’s office, said it was important to make a distinction between the open government division of their office and the office itself.
“First of all, it’s not the attorney general’s office, it’s basically the attorney general, who is our office staff,” Mares said. “Because our open government division is the board counsel for many boards and commissions, so we reached out to DPS regarding the response, but in essence it’s a general counsel who they asked to examine the [public records].”
She said she could not say whether or not the previous request had been reviewed by LEAB’s general counsel, and the lawyer fulfilling that role has changed positions since the January request.
“I’m still waiting for confirmation that our general counsel has one of the packages and is reviewing, but there’s no need for us to review anything,” Mares said.
She later confirmed that LEAB’s general counsel had received and was reviewing the package. Still, she couldn’t say whether or not that review took place before Baker took command at the LEA.
“It’s something you should ask the director of the LEA,” Mares said, regarding the seemingly novel procedure.
No response from Academy
Acting LEA Director Baker did not respond to requests for The paper. for more information, and DPS spokesperson Herman Lovato’s response was brief and gave no details regarding the recordings.
“The Law Enforcement Academy Board (LEAB) attorney, an employee of the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, is reviewing all board records prior to release,” Lovato wrote. “This practice was put in place about 20 years ago.”
Lovato has not responded to requests for additional information or evidence from the practice before, and DPS’s public records policy says nothing about the need for the general counsel to review versions of LEAB filings.
For now, the public will have to wait, as well as The paper.to find out what misconduct more than three dozen officers were accused of and the April 14 LEAB meeting, and to understand the outcome of these cases.