On Jan. 20, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that "law-enforcement organizations haven't expressed outright opposition" to a bill that would prevent convicted domestic violence offenders from becoming police officers.
However, the New Mex reported, the police organizations have some reservations—including the fear that officers could be decertified just for yelling at their wives.
But as New Mexico Domestic Violence Czar Sharon Pino tells SFR, law enforcement is effectively opposing the bill, HB 17. Pino says the New Mexico Police & Sheriff's Association is fighting the bill, as is the New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police.
More on the DV bill—plus a video of what is likely the most horrific story told inside the Roundhouse so far this session—after the cut.
Pino (pictured above-right) calls the police opposition "sad" and "a shame," saying that "it takes a lot more" than yelling to get convicted of battery against a household member.
The law enforcement lobby has also argued, according to Pino, that if police officers get decertified for domestic violence, so should doctors, dentists and lawyers. That argument, Pino says, is "ridiculous."
"At 2 am, you don't call your dentist," Pino says.
FOP lobbyist David Heshley tells SFR his organization probably won't take a position on the bill, or show up to the committee hearings on it. "We opposed the bill last time it was there because it's an unneeded bill. To be a certified police officer, you can't be involved in domestic violence," Heshley says. "Why do we need to have another law?"
The law as it is forbids certification for officers involved in crimes of "moral turpitude." Heshley says the state Law Enforcement Academy interprets that to include domestic violence. SFR is awaiting confirmation on that from Academy Director Art Ortiz.
"If you're on the domestic violence [advocates'] side of the argument, you don't want somebody who's involved in a DV situation to respond to a call of domestic violence. But I don't know what that means, really," Heshley says. "What happens if they're not convicted—does that make a big difference? They could still be involved in a DV."
Heshley also questions the premise behind the bill.
"What we're also doing with this law is saying because this officer has been involved in a domestic violence situation, that his judgment is going to be tainted," Heshley says. "I don't think that's the case either. Our officers are more professional than that."
The Police & Sheriffs' Association is not a registered lobbying association; neither is its director, Jim Burleson, former Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Corrections Department. SFR left a message at Burleson's office asking for his comment.
HB 17 goes next to the House Judiciary Committee. Pino thinks the bill's chances are better than last year, when it was first introduced only to die on the Senate floor without a vote.
Pino spoke to SFR following a press conference at the Roundhouse, staged by New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence executive director Pamela Wiseman. Citing the long-term effects on victims—of whom there were 20,000 across the state in 2008—and child witnesses—of whom there were 4,000—Wiseman called domestic violence "the most devastating and costly problem facing New Mexico today."
The underlying message, was, of course, for greater funding for cash-strapped anti-domestic violence programs, where advocates "are paid fast-food wages—or less," Wiseman said.
"We're talking death or taxes," Wiseman said. "People are going to die if revenue is not increased."
Two women spoke of their experiences: Kim Reid and Penny Ochoa, whose daughter was brutally murdered in 2007 by her-exhusband. It is the kind of case which, as SFR reported throughout last year, is both commonplace and preventable.