The City of Rio Rancho announced Tuesday that it won’t release police records on the gunshot death of 2-year-old Lincoln Harmon in December until a lawsuit filed against it has been decided.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) and Santa Fe New Mexican filed the lawsuit earlier this month.
The Observer has been fighting with the city over the release of police reports involving juveniles as suspects or victims for about 2-1/2 years. The city cited the state Children’s Code as the reason for not releasing records.
The question came to a head when multiple media organizations requested preliminary police reports and the recording of the 911 call in Lincoln’s death, and were denied the records.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and his office have issued opinions that the Children’s Code doesn’t apply to law enforcement records. The city still refused to release the records, then said staff members were processing the requests.
Tuesday afternoon, city spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia sent a press release announcing the city would not release records in the Harmon case until there was a court decision.
“In the event that a court rules that the requested records and information are releasable to the general public, which includes media entities, the city will not only comply with the court order and rule of law, but also continue to work with legislators in order to update and modernize IPRA (Inspections of Public Records Act) and other sections of New Mexico law,” the city stated in a press release. “This is the city’s final statement related to the investigation, IPRA requests and the pending litigation. No further comment will be provided until after a court decision is rendered.”
The Rio Rancho Police Department has released little information regarding the Harmon case, under the city’s policy.
“Upholding the law and protecting children is paramount to the City,” the city said in its press release. “It has been the city’s position, citing the confidentiality clauses in the New Mexico Children’s Code, NMSA 1978, Sections 32A-2-32 and 32A-4-33, that when a case involves a child and has been referred to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), all the materials and records relating to the investigation are not subject to public release, and doing so would be in violation of the law. Furthermore, the city believes crime scene evidence and imagery of children should not be available for public consumption, as protecting sensitive information involving our youngest and most vulnerable population is one of the purposes of the New Mexico Children’s Code.”