Farmington City Council unanimously passes resolution opposing use of force bill

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington Police Department Chief Steve Hebbe

AZTEC — Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said a bill that is aimed at reducing use of force by law enforcement officers and increasing accountability could lead to more officer-involved shootings and place police officers' lives in danger.

After hearing Hebbe's comments on Feb. 23, the Farmington City Council unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to Senate Bill 227, the Inspection of Police Misconduct Investigation. A recording of the council meeting can be viewed online at fmtn.org/AgendaCenter.

Hebbe said there are things in the bill that law enforcement may agree with and that are well meaning, however, in total, he said he opposes it.

"It would be priority number one for us to not pass this bill," Hebbe said. "This will change radically the way that we do business and not for the better."

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Instead, Hebbe said more funding for police training is the correct way to address the issue. 

Hebbe said the bill would lead to consequences like police chiefs choosing not to do as many internal affairs investigations. He also argued that many of the internal affairs investigations include things that should not be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act, such as officer relationships.

It would also ban less lethal measures like stun guns and rubber bullets, or even the use of a canine to bite a subject. 

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Hebbe spoke about his department's most recent officer-involved shooting. He said the suspect had broken into a neighbor's apartment and pistol-whipped him before running back to his apartment. The suspect then doused himself in gasoline and got in an altercation with police, Hebbe said. 

"When you're not giving us options short of either leaving or shooting, you're going to drive up the number of officer-involved shootings," he argued.

The bill was scheduled for discussion during the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee meeting on Feb. 24. It is sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque.

The legislation comes following nationwide criticism of law enforcement's use of force sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died while being restrained by police officers.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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