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Santa Fe to form task force to review police department

SANTA FE, N.M. — While there’s a national movement to defund police departments, the city of Santa Fe is looking for ways to “re-imagine” the way its police department conducts business.

During his weekly news conference on Monday, Mayor Alan Webber announced the formation of a task force that he said is intended to “improve and re-imagine” the fundamental services provided by the Santa Fe Police Department. He said one thing the task force will do is to look for opportunities where the department could collaborate with public health agencies when appropriate.

Chris Rivera, who will co-chair the committee with fellow City Councilor Renee Villarreal, said the task force will work to see how to “reinvent” the department with the goal of providing the best service to both residents and visitors alike. The review could result in changes to ordinances or police policies, he said.

The task force will convene for a minimum of three months, though Rivera said depending on what is accomplished during that time period, it’s possible the work of the task force could be extended.

The mayor and Rivera said the task force would review training of police officers, their workload, the duties they’re tasked with, procedures and policies, including the department’s no-knock warrant policy.

Police Chief Andrew Padilla said that SFPD rarely executes a no-knock warrant — it hasn’t done one in several years, he said — and that when it is used, it is done to give police a tactical advantage or to preserve evidence.

Rivera said how the department deals with people with mental health issues will also be addressed. He brought up the highly publicized shooting death of James Boyd by Albuquerque police officers in 2014, without mentioning the 2017 killing of Anthony Benavidez by Santa Fe police. Like Boyd, Benavidez suffered from mental health problems.

The formation of the task force comes several months after another review of the department was conducted.

The National Police Foundation released a report in September highlighting the department’s staffing shortage. It found that SFPD was operating with 18% fewer officers and 26% fewer civilian staffers than it was budgeted for and as a result has had to be reactive, as opposed to proactive, when it comes to policing.

The task force will be made up of nine people, with at least one person from each of the city’s four council districts and at least three at-large members.

“We’re looking for as diverse a task force as possible,” Rivera said.

Anyone interested in serving on the task force is asked to submit a letter of interest and résumé to the City Clerk’s Office.

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