AP NEWS

Lawmakers advance package of criminal justice initiatives

February 11, 2020 GMT
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New Mexico state Reps. Bill Rehm, left, R-Albuquerque, and Dayan Hochman-Vigil, right, D-Albuquerque, speak Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, on the steps of the state Capitol building in favor of public safety legislation. They are co-sponsoring a bill with other Albuquerque-based lawmakers that aims to increase penalties for some felonies involving firearms, provide financial bonus for local law enforcement training in community-oriented policing and facilitate more treatment of first responders suffering from post traumatic stress. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
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New Mexico state Reps. Bill Rehm, left, R-Albuquerque, and Dayan Hochman-Vigil, right, D-Albuquerque, speak Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, on the steps of the state Capitol building in favor of public safety legislation. They are co-sponsoring a bill with other Albuquerque-based lawmakers that aims to increase penalties for some felonies involving firearms, provide financial bonus for local law enforcement training in community-oriented policing and facilitate more treatment of first responders suffering from post traumatic stress. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state House has endorsed a bill that combines penalty enhancements for felonies involving firearms with helping emergency first-responders cope with job stress and funding local law enforcement to pursue community policing strategies.

The bipartisan proposal was co-sponsored by Albuquerque-based legislators including Republican Rep. Bill Rehm and Democratic Reps. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Marian Matthews. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate in 2018, according to federal crime statistics released last year.

Hochman-Vigil wrote the provision that would provide up to $7,500 toward bonuses and training for local law enforcement officers to engage in community-oriented policing to help prevent crime.

“It will allow law enforcement to have the training to get to know the specific communities where they are on the beat,” she said.

Rehm said the proposed sentence enhancements respond to demands that legislators take action against violent crime. The bill would strengthen penalties for the use or possession of a firearm in the commission of certain felonies.

Paul Haidle, senior policy strategist for the ACLU, said the stiffer sentence options would send a political message to constituents but are unlikely to deter violent crime.

“If your theory is deterrence, it does nothing,” Haidle said.

He noted that federal law already prohibits possession of a firearm by convicted felons.

Another provision aims to automatically open greater access to medical treatment for post traumatic stress among emergency medical service workers and law enforcement officers.

“It removes a barrier for these folks that have a lot of stress in their life, in their work, to get the help they need,” Matthews said.