Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
A musician, an attorney, a retired judge and community activists. These are just some of the finalists that will be considered for the city of Santa Fe’s proposed Health and Safety Task Force. The Santa Fe City Council will consider and vote Wednesday on the approval of the nine finalists, who were selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants to serve on the committee tasked with recommendations for changes to policing and emergency services in New Mexico’s capital city.
The city announced the creation of the task force in July, after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd after pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck, sparking protests around the country for racial equality and reform in local police departments. Councilor Chris Rivera, who will co-chair the task force with fellow-councilor Renee Villarreal, said he, Villarreal and Mayor Alan Webber went through applications and interviewed candidates over the past month before settling on the finalists.
“We have a diverse group,” Rivera said. “I think we have a group of people from all over the city.”
Raashan Ahmad, one of those considered for the task force, is a musician and community activist. He said Santa Fe is not immune to the policing issues he experienced in other communities.
“I also work with youth on the Southside of town and know their experience with police sounds a lot like my experiences growing up in (Los Angeles) – being looked at as troublesome based on how you look,” he said.
The task force will also examine other areas of the city besides its police department.
Emily Kaltenbach, another candidate who oversees the Drug Policy Alliance in the state, said she’s hoping the task force will address the criminalization of drugs and how it can contribute to people entering the criminal justice system.
Those considered for the task force also include former District Judge Michael Vigil, who served on the bench from 1994-2013. On his resume, Vigil also said he represented clients in cases against police departments while serving as a private attorney.
It remains unclear just how much power the task force will have in implementing change in Santa Fe. Rivera said members can recommend changes, but that the City Council has final say on all legislation that becomes law.
Ahmad said he’s not confident that the City Council will implement any recommendations but he’s still happy such a task force exists, given the need in the community.
“I’m a Black man in America – it’s hard to believe that any governing body is going to do anything that will support any change,” he said. “I believe I’m going to try.”
Other finalists for the task force include Bruce Finger, a retired law enforcement officer; Monica Ault, a Santa Fe-based attorney; Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido; Naja Druva, a therapist at Las Cumbres Community Services; Mary Ann Maestas, campaign organizer for Earth Care; and Mary Louise Romero-Betancourt, Santa Fe Public Schools restorative justice coordinator.