There’s finally a light at the end of the police-reports-involving-minors tunnel.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas called me last week after reading my column on the Observer’s and other news organizations’ struggle to get police reports involving kids from the City of Rio Rancho, and how the AG’s office hadn’t been responsive to complaints about that.
AG Balderas told me the issue had caused “heartburn” for him and his staff because of its complexity.
Last fall, he probably would have sided with the city, he said, but more nuances came to his attention.
Because of a lack of case law in this matter, Balderas said, he and his staff had to practically hold a mock trial to figure out how laws and their applications would play out.
Then, law enforcement and the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office asked him to provide an opinion in the handling of the December gunshot death of 2-year-old Lincoln Harmon, son of a Santa Fe Police officer. Balderas said he has to maintain certain boundaries with that case.
He apologized for the lack of communication that would have informed me of the reasons for the delay in getting a decision to me. He also said I could say what I wanted about him, but his staff members are just civil servants trying to do their jobs.
By the end of March and possibly as soon as the next week or two, Balderas expects to provide answers for the general question of whether police reports involving minors are public record and the specific question of how to handle Lincoln’s case.
He said he feels an urgency around the issue of children’s safety, and it is a priority for him, including how it relates to transparency in reporting.
“Definitely, I take it to heart,” Balderas said. “That’s the one I thought, for me, is a greater value.”
I appreciated AG Balderas’ personal phone call and his explanation of the complications and delays with these issues. I’m also very pleased, not to mention relieved, to learn we’re going to get answers soon.
Even if I don’t get everything I want from the legal opinion, at least there will be a decision, although I’m obviously hoping that decision will land on the side of transparency.
This is progress, and it’s a good thing.