- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s top prosecutor is asking a panel of experts to review the policies and procedures that law enforcement agencies around the state use when investigating shootings involving officers or other incidents involving the use of force.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Monday that as the chair of the state’s Law Enforcement Academy Board, he has appointed a subcommittee to review and audit the policies of more than 190 police departments, sheriff’s offices and state law enforcement agencies.

The panel includes State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, Ramah Navajo Police Chief Darren Soland and two citizen members. They’re expected to deliver a report and recommendations to the full board next summer.

Balderas said his office has reviewed the issue for over a year, meeting with effected families and looking at what agencies in other states do.

“We believe that following an incident, officers, families and the public deserve a process they can trust, starting with the investigation,” he said. “Good investigations depend on sound, consistent policies, and that is why I called for this review.”

Balderas’ announcement comes after allegations were raised that Albuquerque police altered or deleted video recordings from officers’ lapel cameras. The city’s police overnight board has called for either the FBI or New Mexico State Police to investigate the allegations. The city also plans to hire an independent investigator.

The concern stems from comments by former police records custodian Reynaldo Chavez, who said in a nine-page sworn affidavit that the department trained certain units and command staff to edit videos of interactions with civilians beginning in 2013.

Chavez, who was fired in 2015, said videos were altered at the time of two fatal shootings by police. His affidavit was filed as part of a lawsuit over one of those shootings.

Following a string of shootings, the U.S. Justice Department in 2014 released findings from a more than yearlong investigation into Albuquerque police that faulted them for using unreasonable force with the mentally ill and others who could not comply with officers’ commands. The city reached a settlement that spelled out numerous reforms.

Albuquerque police learned of Balderas’ policy review Monday and did not immediately comment.

The attorney general’s office said it expects full participation from departments around the state and that participation records will be disclosed as part of the panel’s report.

Balderas said he sees the statewide review as the first step in a collaborative process. “There is no simple way to address this critical public safety issue, and I am committed to promoting consistent processes that advance integrity and transparency across New Mexico law enforcement agencies,” he said.

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