ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The state Law Enforcement Academy board has delayed a decision to terminate Attorney General Gary King's role as its legal adviser.
The board was set to consider the matter Tuesday. King serves as legal counsel, prosecutes officers in disciplinary hearings, advises the hearing officers and defends its decisions at appeals court hearings.
Board member Nate Korn proposed the move. The Albuquerque Journal reports (
http://bit.ly/HTHsMm) he asked, without explanation, that the proposal be set aside.
The proposed elimination of King's role has been contentious because he heads the board as chairman. The board certifies law enforcement officers and can revoke the certification for wrongdoing.
Korn has been a leading board critic of King's office, and in December pushed other members to oust the assistant attorney general who prosecuted administrative cases involving police officer certifications. Board members have blamed King for allowing a large case backlog to develop.
King has said turnover in the academy director's office, including a period when there was no director, is largely to blame for the backlog, because the director initially reviews misconduct cases.
At the board's March 1 meeting, Korn also blasted King's office for a number of perceived conflicts of interest.
When the academy is notified that an officer has been convicted of a crime or been disciplined for conduct that "indicates a lack of good moral character" or dishonesty, the academy director is to have an informal meeting with the officer to try to agree on sanctions. They could range from probation to suspension of certification to revocation of certification, which would effectively end a law enforcement career in New Mexico.
When no agreement is reached, a hearing is held before an administrative officer.
For years, the AG's Office has supplied both a lawyer to prosecute the case, and another lawyer to advise the hearing officer and to write up the hearing officer's recommendations, which are forwarded to the board for a vote. The hearing officer's counsel then advises the board in a closed session about what action to take.
"If we were an accused officer, would we feel very comfortable with the fairness of the process? And the answer is no," Korn told the board in March. "I mean, would we want to be in a process like that? The answer is no. And yet the board has allowed this to happen for years."
Attorneys in King's office advised the board in March that the practice has been upheld by the state Supreme Court in a similar situation.
After the meeting, several other board members said they wanted to provide new Law Enforcement Academy Director Louis R. Medina a chance to work with the Attorney General's Office before making any changes.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.