- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Senator voted unanimously Wednesday to confirm New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas following an easy confirmation hearing.

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

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 and deputies from around the state. Those supporters came out to support Kassetas and said 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 so far 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 from some advocates. 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.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said the committee should have asked Kassetas harder questions but believed senators wanted to save time to question appointees to the state fair - a political hot topic as election season approaches.

“They were loading up for the dog and pony show later,” Moores said, who also did not ask any questions over shootings and officer pay.

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.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras


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