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New Mexico AG calls for police body cams, ban on chokeholds after Las Cruces officer charged in death

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — New Mexico's state Attorney General Hector Balderas on Wednesday called for police reforms amid protests throughout the nation over excessive force and a recent case in Las Cruces that has resulted in an officer facing manslaughter charges.

Balderas said state lawmakers should create uniform use of force policies that would be codified within state law to require body cameras and ban chokeholds, among other things.

"The problem is that you have every department doing something a little differently and it is important to put these approaches into state law so we can all follow one type of community policing," Balderas said in an interview with ABC-7.

Balderas said "increased transparency and accountability" is good for everyone, particularly when it comes to police body cameras.

"They're not mandatory and that is very frustrating and almost backwards," he said. "Using cameras protects good cops and community citizens."

Balderas told ABC-7 that he is proud of the way New Mexicans have peacefully protested for police reform over the past two weeks and said he is now putting a plan in place to answer their call to action.

His hope is that the new policies can be adopted fast.

"I would hope everyone is laser focused on this right now and we can have the best standards in place in less than a year if we all work together," he said.

Balderas also weighed in on the death of Antonio Valenzuela from a neck restraint used to subdue him after a traffic stop. The incident led to an involuntary manslaughter charge being filed late last week against former Las Cruces Police Officer Christopher Smelser.

"The district attorney should be commended," Balderas said. "When this case was prepared for prosecution, the district attorney wrote to me asking me to look at the law enforcement practices for the state of New Mexico. We are working together to make sure this case is managed correctly."

Balderas ducked directly answering questions about the contention made by the Valenzuela family attorney that a murder charge - as opposed to manslaughter - should have been brought in the case.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is a former ABC-7 reporter who co-anchored Good Morning El Paso weekends.


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