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Police academy to release curriculum

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The state Law Enforcement Academy’s curriculum should be released by the end of next week, according to State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, who said Wednesday he would release it in both his capacity as chief and as a member of the state academy board.

“We were always going to release them,” Kassetas said. “I think releasing them is a good thing so people can see what we’re doing. I stand behind our training, and I’m always open to changes. I take pride in the training of our officers.”

He said it was academy Director Jack Jones’ responsibility to get the curriculum online.

The curriculum was approved in December, and a rule passed by the state law enforcement academy board in September mandated it be put online.

Kassetas said lesson plans associated with the curriculum would be examined by the board at one of its upcoming public meetings.

The Journal submitted a public records request for the curriculum two weeks ago. At least one other news outlet has also attempted to get copies, and on Tuesday the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called for its release.

The new curriculum shortens cadet classes from 22 weeks to 16 and changes what cadets are taught about use of deadly force, but it has not been clear exactly what those changes are.

All this comes at a time when at least two agencies – the State Police and the Albuquerque Police Department – have come under scrutiny for their use of force.

The Law Enforcement Academy, located in Santa Fe, provides required training for law enforcement agencies around the state that don’t have their own academies.

But even those departments with their own academies, such as APD, must include the New Mexico Law Enforcement minimum standards in their training.

“I’m encouraged by how seriously (Kassetas) is taking the matter and how responsive he’s been to multiple requests that they’ve received,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “He made it clear to me that he appreciates the importance of complying with the public records laws and satisfying the public right to know. We’ll just wait to see what he provides next week.”

Kassetas said two of the lessons – defensive tactics and officer survival – will be reviewed by the board and redacted before they are released because he said they might disclose confidential training methods.

“I don’t want to put out patrol tactics that will endanger my officers,” Kassetas said. “We want to make sure not to release lessons that we don’t want the bad guys to get a hold of. It’s not that we have anything to hide, but there are certain safety issues.”

Kassetas said he didn’t know if there were similar restrictions on what was released from the old curriculum and lesson plans.

Greg Williams, president-elect of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said he was glad the curriculum was going to be released but was concerned about the potential for redaction.

“The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is pleased that the Department of Public Safety has announced its intention to release the curriculum and lesson plans,” Williams said. “We think it has been their duty to do so all along. However, it remains to be seen whether DPS will in fact release the full and complete documents as we think the law requires them to.”

Two of the lesson plans have not yet been written, Kassetas said, despite the fact that the state academy is currently hosting a class of cadets under the new curriculum.

Kassetas said the academy was using old lesson plans when necessary.

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