The New Mexico State Police just doesn’t care about the way society functions outside its little fiefdom.
Its inability to play well with others prompted the Rio Grande SUN to file suit against State Police April 27, for not releasing public documents, violating the 2004 settlement agreement and not responding to records requests. Two days later the state’s leading law enforcement agency allegedly ordered Santa Fe City Police to not release public documents regarding a City Police shooting of a man in Eldorado, on Santa Fe’s east side.
City Police were glad to capitulate, as it would give them time to cover themselves as an “investigation” begins into the shooting. It has become a pattern and practice every time any law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting, everyone runs for cover and the knee jerk reaction is to refuse to release information to which the public is clearly entitled.
The standard argument is “under investigation,” which is not an exception to release incident reports, video, audio and dispatch records. The next go-to excuse is that they haven’t notified next of kin. Notifying the next of kin of the shooting victim is not a valid reason to not release the name of the cop who shot the victim.
While State Police is grand prize winner for hiding the most records, Santa Fe County and Santa Fe City Police represent well too. Our local law enforcement is in more of a routine of speaking with the public about incidents and releasing records of all kinds.
Every year in the legislature more politicians step up to create new exceptions to the Inspection of Public Records Act. Law enforcement is always glad to help with that. Public officials trying to keep their jobs often join the fight for closing public records.
It’s wrong that an organization like the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) exists. We shouldn’t have groups in place to fight public employees and elected officials for access to records created by public employees for the public. Yet FOG’s phone rings regularly with callers from around the state having problems accessing public information.
And it’s wrong that bad actors, such as State Police hierarchy, use tax dollars to fight the public on access, when they know they’re wrong and are just trying to hide bad behavior or protect a bad cop. These guys are never out any money, taxpayers are.
We need a governor in place that will lead by example and put a cabinet in place that believes in working for the public, not the governor. We’ll have that opportunity November 2018 but until then, this governor is no friend to public access and State Police takes its direction from her.