Report faults N.M. police, sheriffs on racial profiling

ALBUQUERQUE – A large majority of law-enforcement agencies in New Mexico aren’t in compliance with a state law intended to combat racial profiling, according to a report released Thursday by civil-rights groups and an immigrant-advocacy organization.

The report said fewer than a quarter of all agencies surveyed were in compliance with the 2009 law banning biased policing.

The report unveiled at the Albuquerque offices of the American Civil Liberties Union also said around 20 percent of agencies have no written policies against such policing and about 24 percent refused to provide their policies, a violation of state law.

Only the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Fe and Socorro police were in full compliance with the law, according to the report.

New Mexico’s NAACP and Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigrant-advocacy group, released the report funded by the Berkeley Law Center for Human Rights.

Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said the report was not an attempt to find out the departments’ record on racial profiling but rather what their status was in connection to the 2009 state law.

Aimee Villarreal, a research fellow at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the one who conducted the survey, said most of the agencies that did not respond to the survey seemed short staffed or did not know who to go to in order to find the agency’s policy. “Others did not take it seriously at all,” she said.

Jack LeVick, executive director of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, said sheriffs know departments need to keep up on the law and the issue is on the agenda for an August meeting. “We will address it,” LeVick said. “We just finished mental-health training. Sheriffs’ offices are not in the business of racial profiling.”

Diaz said the report’s findings have been forwarded to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office over concerns that law-enforcement agencies may also be violating the state’s open-records law.

Earlier this month, six people filed racial profiling complaints against the Farmington Police Department and San Juan County Sheriff’s Department over accusations that the agencies used race and ethnicity to inquire about immigration status.

Somos Un Pueblo Unido also submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and its office for civil rights, claiming that local DWI checkpoints have been used as immigration checkpoints.

San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said federal immigration agents have been invited to the Four Corners area to help battle Mexican drug cartels, not to find illegal immigrants. He denied that deputies and immigration agents were profiling immigrants or pulling over suspects based on race.

LeVick said federal authorities were invited to San Juan to help short-staffed departments go after “the worst of the worst” and not look for illegal immigrants.