New Mexico Governor Seeks To Protect Police From Lawsuits

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wants to introduce legislation that will protect police officers from lawsuits related to actions they take in the line of duty, including protecting them from charges of excessive force or wrongful death.

Steven Allen, public policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill would only impede attempts to hold police officers accountable for unnecessary violence, according to Newsweek. Allen pointed out that police have been accused repeatedly of using excessive violence without being held accountable.

New Mexico had 21 shootings in 2017, according to the Washington Post database, making it one of the highest-risk states in terms of police shootings, with an average of 10 shootings per million residents.

Martinez said she wanted to introduce the legislation to protect officers from unnecessarily second-guessing themselves in the line of duty. “I don’t believe that police officers should be under this constant threat of lawsuits that will often cause them to pause. If they’re following their training, there should be something that protects them,” she said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

She also said the bill would protect taxpayers by keeping them from footing the bill for large payouts awarded in lawsuits against police officers.

Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the proposal would help fill vacancies in the police department. Willoughby said less people are interested in serving as police officers because they fear the “huge civil liability,” according to Newsweek.

The Albuquerque Police Department was investigated by the Department of Justice in 2012 through 2013. The DOJ issued a report April 2014 that said based on their investigations, the department “has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force.”

The report indicated that officers were quick to use deadly force against minimal threats, and repeatedly used excessive violence in encounters with mentally ill people in particular.

Martinez also unveiled a plan Monday to “crack down on crime throughout New Mexico” in a press release issued by her office. The plan details her goal to introduce new business in New Mexico with more penalties on violent crimes and crimes against cops, reintroduce the death penalty for killing a police officer and introduce more legislation to criminalize assault and abuse of minors.