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Santa Fe newspaper seeks officer’s discipline records

SANTA FE – A Santa Fe weekly newspaper is asking a district judge to order the city of Santa Fe to release discipline records for an officer who was involved in a high-profile shooting last year.

The Santa Fe Reporter sent a request under the state Inspection of Public Records Act to records custodians for Santa Fe city government and the city’s Police Department for “any and all records showing the fact of discipline in any and all internal/administrative investigations into the conduct of SFPD officer Jeremy Bisagna” on Sept. 4, according to a petition filed in Santa Fe District Court on Friday.

Bisagna was one of two officers who fired a total of 17 shots at 24-year-old Anthony Benavidez at a Santa Fe apartment complex in July 2017. Two of the bullets struck Benavidez and killed him. Bisagna was placed on standard leave after the shooting but later returned to regular duty.

Santa Fe Police Department records custodian Greg Gurule sent the Reporter a response the following day that read, “Internal Investigations and their findings are considered Personnel Matters and are not subject to public review,” according to the petition.

Attorney Daniel Yohalem, who previously represented the Reporter in a 2013 public records lawsuit against outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez, argues in the petition that the SFPD was overly broad in its denial and that the department asserts that all internal investigations are considered personnel matters that are not subject to release under IPRA.

“In making this conclusory denial, Respondent ignored the particularity of Petitioner’s request, the plain language of the statute, and its mandatory duty to permit inspection of all non-exempt information (under state law),” Yohalem wrote. “… The fact that a police officer was disciplined, the reason for discipline and the specific discipline imposed are not matters of opinion and – as identified by Petitioner – a Notice of Final Action is not likely to contain any exempt opinion information.”

Santa Fe city spokesman Matt Ross said officials received the lawsuit Friday but could not comment on it.

Last December Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that Gov. Martinez’s administration violated IPRA three times by delaying records the Reporter had requested.