On Wednesday, the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee met to consider S.B. 227, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has dubbed the most extreme or “the strongest” anti-police “use of force” standard instituted in the nation. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Bernalillo).
After massive public outcry, the bill’s sponsor tweaked the bill slightly in a committee substitute to take away the bill’s ban on pepper spray, rubber pellets, take out a provision mandating a 45-second delay before an officer can enter a premise, and a section making the bill mandatory not only for police officers but for corrections officers also.
Despite the small concessions by the bill sponsor, the “expert witnesses,” Barron Jones and Paige Fernandez, both from the ACLU who lauded the bill, invoking the name of the late George Floyd, a felon and drug addict who died over the summer during an arrest where a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Fernandez claimed the new regulations encompassed in the extreme bill would institute new “tactics” and “de-escalation techniques” that would cripple officers in how they can do their jobs by removing the “reasonable” use of force standard.
Multiple police unions, officers, and pro-law enforcement groups testified in support of the bill,
Douglas Ford, Chief of Police at the Clovis Police Department testified that the bill’s removal of less lethal options would be “sending us back thirty years in law enforcement. These are the tools we use to help in de-escalating and not using the force that is unnecessary.”
Roger Jimenez, the Chief of Police with the Española Police Department echoed these statements, talking about how because of the less-lethal force available, his officers were able to tase “and subdue” a man who was wielding a knife instead of using lethal options. He said if his officers did not have those tools at their disposal, “this gentleman would have been shot and killed.”
On the other side of the argument, many social justice advocates invoked George Floyd’s name and “community activists” with dark money Mike Bloomberg group “Moms Demand Action,” an organization with a mission to disarm America.
Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez called this bill “important” to “transform” the bill, which she said compliments another anti-police bill she is sponsoring. Sen. Lopez responded, “We have to look at the totality of the system.”
Sen. Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe & Torrance) took exception with the use of “totality of the circumstances” in the bill, which Sen. Lopez had her “expert” Paige Fernandez explain away. He repeatedly made the point that he wants police officers to be able to have the ability to respond with appropriate “discretion” so they can do their jobs appropriately.
Sen. David Gallegos (R-Eddy & Lea) emphasized the need to tailor this bill to all communities in New Mexico, not just high-crime areas like Albuquerque. “The rural communities have a different relationship with their safety officers, and I think we could cause them harm by including them in the same scenario that you would in Albuquerque because that seems to be where the problem is.”
The extreme anti-law enforcement bill passed the committee on a vote of 4-3. Sens. David Gallegos, Gregg Schmedes, and Bill Tallman (D-Bernalillo) voted against the bill. If Sen. Stuart Ingle (R-Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Lea, and Roosevelt), who was excused, had been present, the bill would have been tabled. S.B. 227 now moves forward to Senate Judiciary Committee.