The Albuquerque Journal recently ran an Op Ed outlining its concerns over proposed House Bill 4. As the Journal points out, the bill may initially sound like a good thing. However, there’s a great deal of concern in the details of the bill, which has been labelled a proposed civil rights law, but really may just be at a great cost to the taxpayer.
The bill would abolish what’s called qualified immunity in the state cases as a defense for police officers, teachers and other government workers completing their day-to-day duties. Plaintiffs would no longer have to show that government employees violated constitutional rights when filing lawsuits. These claims are usually settled in federal court, the Journal notes, where they are probably best handled.
The Journal’s study of the bill concluded that legislation would increase settlement values of a case, putting cities, schools and other agencies at further risk of expensive litigation, in many cases when the only true benefactor is the opposing attorney. There is also great concern that this bill, if it passes, could affect the insurance of law enforcement agencies.
Most recently, this bill was rolled into the House Judiciary committee and is set to be heard there on Monday. As the Journal concludes, the current New Mexico Tort Claims act struck a balance in this complicated issue. Disrupting this balance will only hurt the taxpayer.
Another Bill, SB 227, is also being opposed by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Coalition. This bill removes a number of important tools used by law enforcement agencies and allows the state full jurisdiction in all investigations into officers. It provides no money for training in de-escalation. While we certainly support improving the standards of our police officers, we need to do so in a way that makes sense. For information on how you can help with opposing these bills, please visit https://p2a.co/iLudKLv and https://p2a.co/ZpoJaPn. You can also text “No-HB4” and “#SupportOfficers” to 52866.