Today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and so I am dedicating this blog to all fallen officers everywhere. I had the honor and privilege of fighting for justice for one of our fallen heroes, Rio Rancho Police Officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner, who was brutally gunned down and left to die in the streets of Rio Rancho on Memorial Day, 2015. Thanks to my amazing prosecution team, support staff, the tireless work of law enforcement and the support of the community, including the brave witnesses to came forward to testify, Officer Benner’s killer is now in prison where he will spend the rest of his life. During this process I grew to understand and love his many friends, colleagues and family members, especially his beautiful widow, Julie and his mother, Glenda. We must never forget the sacrifices that all of these brave men and women as well as their families have made to keep us all safe.
With that in mind, I want to talk about a project that I have started with the help of one of our state representatives. We have drafted and submitted a bill in the State Legislature that would amend the Victims’ Rights Act to include crimes committed against police officers while on the job. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about Victims’ Rights in New Mexico. Shockingly, police officers are not included as Victims who are protected by these constitutional and statutory rights. The bill that we have introduced would simply give police officers the same rights as every other person in New Mexico who is similarly victimized.
The bill was first introduced in 2017, where I appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to argue for its passage, but it did not make it out of committee. I again argued in the legislature in 2018 and the bill passed the House Community Affairs Committee, but died there. The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee did not ever put it on the agenda. This past year, I was unable to attend the session, due to commitments trying a murder case in Valencia County. However, I am committed to pursuing this cause until it is passed. It is hard for me to understand why such a bill would not be supported by all legislators, given the fact that it does not cost the State anything, and it does not interfere with the rights of the defendants in any way. Nor is this a partisan issue. We are all affected by crime and our police officers are sworn to protect each and every one of us—regardless of party affiliation or political views.
It is simply unconscionable to me that our brave men and women in law enforcement are not afforded the same rights as any other crime victim when they are the ones out there fighting for all of us and assist other crime victims every day.
Today, we remember and mourn those we have lost in the line of duty. Today and tomorrow, remember and thank those who are still on the job, putting their lives at risk to protect us. Next January, I plan to be back at the Round House, as your District Attorney, to continue fighting for the passage of this legislation.