Editor’s note: The legislative session ends Saturday. Senate Bill 227 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will die if it doesn’t get passing votes from that committee, the full Senate and the House of Representatives by the end of the session. To read the original bill and its committee substitute, visit https://nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=227&year=21.
Our state is in a legislative session and making decisions that impact everyone. We have a duty to ensure these decisions are in the best interest of our community.
On the surface Senate Bill 227 seems like a bill that will enhance transparency for law enforcement and prevent the use of deadly force. However, when you dig, you’ll find that SB 227 will limit law enforcement’s ability to protect our community, making it harder to keep dangerous criminals off the streets.
Any law enforcement professional who has studied the bill will agree it will increase crime in a state that has made poor decisions that have led to a steady increase of violent crime over the last few years. SB 227 is not going to do anything to keep you or your family safe.
Here are my main concerns:
1) This bill is about politics and a haphazard attempt to correct a complex problem that requires subject-knowledge experts and research.
2) This bill appears to be an attempt to vilify dedicated law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect the very legislators and citizens of the state.
3) This bill uses vague terminology dictating what officers should and should not do. Law enforcement situations don’t happen in steps; they happen in split seconds. There is no time to check off boxes on a checklist. We rely on training, experience and common sense to make the best decision available in that moment.
4) This bill says a vehicle cannot be considered a deadly weapon, although vehicles have been used by extremists to kill people in crowded areas, setting a precedent that lacks common sense.
5) The use of a law enforcement dog assists in the safe apprehension of an assailant and is commanded by its handler. This bill refers to law enforcement using a highly trained police service dog that “attacks a person.” This verbiage is poorly chosen and very deceiving, again vilifying what this essential less-lethal option actually provides to law enforcement.
6) Eliminating no-knock warrants for all circumstances is a broad-brush approach to a problem, regarding drug operations that have gone bad. To eliminate the tactic for all circumstances is again a poorly thought-out, ignorant approach to a problem.
7) The removal of valuable tools such as shotguns or rifles, which when used properly minimize injury to individuals during the execution of a search warrant, is again an example of a knee-jerk reaction to one or two insistences out of thousands of police operations that ended in the safe execution of search warrants due to the use of these tools.
Transparency and accountability is paramount in law enforcement. Throughout the world, the record shows that rushed legislation in order to capitalize on media attention lacks the benefit of clear research, will not make us safer and will fail to address the core problem.
I encourage everyone to reach out to their state representatives to say, “Vote no on SB 227.”
Jesse James Casaus was elected as Sandoval County sheriff in 2018.