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Rio Rancho to choose officer for Attorney General’s crime committee

The Rio Rancho Governing Body added a police officer working on the streets to the list of people designated to work with the state attorney general looking into what led up to Officer Gregg Benner’s murder and what needs to be changed.

Benner was fatally shot after a traffic stop May 25 and Andrew Steven Romero, who has a long criminal record, is charged with murder in the case.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has announced his intention of bringing together representatives from entities that dealt with Romero to determine the circumstances that allowed him to be out of jail and what should be changed.

At their meeting Wednesday, governing body members unanimously approved a resolution naming Rio Rancho Police Department as the leader in developing a permanent memorial for fallen police officers and expanding the existing public safety monument on Pinetree Road. The temporary memorial for Benner has been moved across Pinetree Road to the Regional Public Safety Monument at Veterans Monument Park for safety, so people don’t stand in the street when they visit.

The resolution also designated the mayor, city attorney, police chief and a police representative appointed by Julie Benner, widow of Benner, as the people to represent Rio Rancho on Balderas’s commission. Balderas is already including Julie Benner.

“There’s a level of politics here and we’ve got to make sure that this level of politics doesn’t get hijacked for other people’s personal benefit or maybe a career in politics down the road,” said Councilor Shelby Smith, a retired RRPD sergeant.

Smith said he had confidence in Police Chief Michael Geier and the mayor, but he and others wanted representation of a rank-and-file officer who worked on the streets instead of behind a desk and so would face the same risks Benner encountered.

Smith said Julie Benner was chosen to appoint that person because he believed she was the most influential person in the state if it was going to change its broken judicial system and no one would turn down her request for a front-line officer.

The resolution also specifies that monetary donations for a memorial should go to the Rio Rancho Community Foundation. Mayor Gregg Hull said he’d received a lot of calls from people wanting to help with different efforts.

“It creates a lot of things to keep track of,” he said.

Having one place for donations simplifies the process and helps prevent fraud, governing body members said.

The public can offer input on the memorial by email to Memorialinput@ci.rio-rancho.nm.us.

“We have put this forward because we want to make sure that we come together in unity to come up with the best memorial we can,” said Councilor Dawnn Robinson. “We also want to clarify where the family wants the funds to go.”

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