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SANTA FE – After months of planning, the Santa Fe Community Health and Safety Task Force held its first meeting Tuesday night, charged with the difficult task of reimagining emergency services in the City Different – specifically its police department.
City officials selected nine citizens to discuss possible police reforms in the wake of nationwide outrage over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May.
The nine-member committee met virtually Tuesday to discuss what topics concerning police reform they would like to address in future meetings. It soon became clear that some members were concerned about the power the group would have moving forward.
The group will make policy recommendations to the Santa Fe City Council, but will not pass any policies itself.
Michael Vigil, a former judge, said he had seen other reforms fail to make lasting impacts in preventing police brutality, adding that he hoped the new task force would be different.
“The real disturbing things that I’ve seen in doing this kind of work is … we’ve done a lot of Band-Aid approaches to police brutality,” he said. “They really didn’t change anything.”
Other members discussed what types of presentations they would like to see at future meetings of the task force.
Marcela Díaz of nonprofit Somos Un Pueblo Unido said she would like to see data showing where arrests by police are taking place in Santa Fe and what people are arrested for.
Use of force by police and which segments of the population were at the receiving end of that force was also discussed. Naja Druva, a behavioral health therapist, said she believed the city’s use of force policy didn’t go far enough.
“I am skeptical about these documents and their ability to keep the community safe,” Druva said. “Are there officers that repeatedly violate this?”
Members also stressed the importance of including the public in future conversations. Only one person spoke during a public forum at Tuesday’s meeting, which Councilor Renee Villarreal said was probably due to issues of timing.
Villarreal and Councilor Chris Rivera will serve as chairs of the task force. However, the city is in the process of hiring a facilitator to help guide the meetings and discussions, Villarreal said.
The Santa Fe Police Department recently came under scrutiny for its response to protesters who tore down the controversial Soldiers’ Monument in the Santa Fe Plaza. Police left the scene, citing the large amount of protesters that outnumbered them.