So said Mr. Nate Korn (Aka Nathan Kornfield) during the August 28th, 2012, meeting of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy monthly board meeting. Mr. Korn's comments came in response where APD's Chief Schultz just presented a policy change that decimates the rights of law enforcement officer's statewide and relieves employing department's of virtually any obligation of due process to their employees. This past Tuesday, October 23rd, the LEA board accepted and adopted this policy change by a unanimous vote thereby making the policy effective.
For those that don't know, the policy change that Chief Schulz proposed and Mr. Korn proselytized, concerns the revocation of a New Mexico law enforcement officer's certification to be a law enforcement officer. Think of the certification as one's license to drive, or to practice medicine, or to practice law. In order to be employed as a police officer/deputy in this state (and almost any state) you needed to have the necessary certification to do so as under 10.29.1.1 NMAC et seq. Until this past Tuesday, in order to have an officer's certification revoked, they needed to have been found guilty of violating felony law, certain misdemeanor laws, or have been shown to have committed acts which display an absence of moral character, dishonesty or fraud. Now, thanks to adoption of this new policy, an officer's license is in jeopardy upon being charged with a crime or act of moral turpitude..NOT upon conviction or confirmation of such an event.
Chief Schultz expressed his reasons for this change in policy in no uncertain terms. "There was really no incentive for the officers or their attorneys to expedite the process and get it resolved." "...more importantly to move the burden to that officer to give them a reason to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible..."
But Chief Schultz displays his ignorance, or misunderstanding of the Constitution, when he stated, "It's not uncommon for your driver's license to be suspended prior to that due process."
For reasons unknown, law enforcement labor unions across the state failed to represent their membership by fighting this change in policy. Imagine if upon being issues a speeding ticket, or upon arrest, your driver's license was suspended. No court, no forum to challenge the charge, just immediate suspension of the privilege your license provides to you after having earned it. In other words, the interest in your license--a property interest--has just been taken by the state without any opportunity to challenge it until after it has been taken. Perhaps it is the stunning arrogance of this change in policy that has left police and sheriff unions in silence. Perhaps they simply don't understand what has occurred.
But there's an even more troubling concern to this matter. This new change in policy not only shifts the responsibility of proving guilt from the state upon the officer to prove innocence, but it also actually relieves employing agencies from any burden of investigation at all. Since this change in policy results in the immediate suspension of an officer's certification they will now simply be terminated by their department. You see, having a valid NM certification is a mandatory component of being employed with any accredited police/sheriff's department. Now that the troubled officer has had their certification yanked, the department has no reason to do any administrative investigation and can simply terminate the officer for cause. And what if the charges are show to be unfounded or dismissed? Too bad for the officer with this new policy, they now have to not only fight to get their job back but they have to fight for their certification.
And what if an officer is targeted by their chief or sheriff for wrongdoing that involves untruthfulness? The same policy applies, where that department head simply files the necessary paperwork to the LEA board, and poof! the employee's position is terminated upon suspension of their certification. If you think officer's are hamstringed to do their jobs in APD, thanks to Chief Schultz and Mr. Nate Korn, they now have impaired the ability of officers state wide.
But this change is not without irony...it now invites the scrutiny of the LEA board upon all law enforcement certification holders--including chief's of police. Is there anybody we know that is a holder of New Mexico law enforcement certification that has been shown:
(3) making false statements or giving any false information to the
academy in connection with an application for admission/certification;
(4) committing acts which indicate a lack of good moral character, or
which constitute dishonesty or fraud, and which adversely affects an officers ability to
exercise the duties of a certified law enforcement officer;
Does anybody know of a certain chief of police who is in such violation of these elements that the US Department of Justice is investigating his department? If so, let the LEA board know: http://nmlea.dps.state.nm.us/