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Senate confirms Kassetas as State Police chief

SANTA FE – Senators voted unanimously Wednesday to confirm New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas after an easy confirmation hearing.

By a vote of 40-0, the Senate confirmed the longtime officer as the state’s 21st police chief.

KASSETAS: Two-decade veteran of agency

PETE KASSETAS: Two-decade veteran of agency

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee voted to send his appointment to the full Senate after a short hearing that drew a number of law enforcement officers from around the state. They came out to support Kassetas, saying they liked what they’ve seen since he was appointed in August by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Among those who spoke on his behalf was Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel, who said Kassetas has risen above political agendas and will be held accountable.

“If you look under the hood of Pete Kassetas, what you are going to find is grit,” Marcantel said.

Kassetas faced no opposition and senators didn’t question the chief over recent shootings by State Police officers that have drawn criticism. He also wasn’t asked about officers’ salaries or concerns over training amid the shootings.

The agency drew national attention, for example, after a New Mexico State Police officer was caught on video shooting at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop near Taos. That officer, Elias Montoya, was later fired.

In addition, the agency has faced criticism because it investigates cases of police shootings themselves in most countries rather than submit the cases to independent task forces or outside agencies.

Kassetas, a two-decade veteran of the State Police, replaced Chief Robert Shilling, who retired.

As chief, Kassetas will be paid around $103,000 a year.