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State Police chief pushes for more transparency

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas

The New Mexico State Police chief made a push on Tuesday to make a board that has the power to suspend or revoke police officers’ certifications more transparent.

Chief Pete Kassetas asked the director of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy to see if and when the academy could put records on officer discipline into a searchable database that the public could access on the academy’s website.

Currently, such records are only available after someone files an Inspection of Public Records Request with the Department of Public Safety.

Kassetas made his suggestion during a Law Enforcement Academy Board meeting. The board took no action on the request.

“What I’m trying to do is make the decisions that the board comes to a lot more accessible to the public, the (law enforcement) agencies and the media. I think it’s the right way to go,” Kassetas said. “The certification process is public, and it’s important that the public knows what the outcomes are.”

Kassetas said by making such discipline action public, it would be less likely for officers who have had problems and been fired from law enforcement agencies to get hired at other agencies around the state.

He said he has fired officers from State Police, only to later learn that they were hired within weeks to other policing jobs around the state.

“Maybe (the chiefs or sheriffs) don’t choose to look at a personnel file, which is somewhat beyond me, but I think if it’s there and it’s transparent … that (chief or sheriff) has to answer to it,” he said.

The Law Enforcement Academy reviews cases where officers around the state were disciplined, and the Law Enforcement Academy Board then votes on what action to take after meeting in a closed session. There is often very little public discussion before the board votes on whether or not to suspend or revoke a law enforcement certification.

But the board often will review documents before reaching a decision. And Kassetas said he thinks those documents should be available to the law enforcement academy’s website, without requiring people to file a records request.

“I think it’s very important that there is exposure, and people need to know that we are dealing with these issues,” he said. “Whether you believe it or not, chiefs and sheriffs around the state are dealing with these issues head on. They are sending their issues and problems with officers to the Law Enforcement Academy … to look at their certifications.”

Stephan Marshall, the director of the academy, said he would give the board a presentation on what it would take to make the records publicly available at the next board meeting.

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