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Las Cruces City Council discusses Police Department public oversight commission

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- In response to an ongoing local call for more accountability, the Las Cruces City Council is set to discuss the potential creation of a Civilian Policy Oversight Commission for the Las Cruces Police Department.

For over a year, several community members, including Peter Goodman, Earl Neissan, and Bobbi Green, have urged the council to consider the establishment of a police oversight board. Their advocacy campaign gained significant traction following the controversial police shooting of Amelia Baca in April 2022.

The council, however, remains divided on the issue, with the key question being whether a public board should oversee the police department. Additionally, if established, the powers and responsibilities of this board are yet to be defined. It's also uncertain whether a civilian oversight commission could prevent or reduce incidents of police-related fatalities.

District 6 Councilor Yvonne Flores, who first proposed the special meeting, will be joined by Councilors Becki Graham, Becky Corran, and Johana Bencomo, who have all previously voiced support for such a discussion.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima, however, has expressed opposition to the proposed process, arguing that it should first pass through another committee before earning a work session. His position has been met with criticism from other councilors, including Bencomo, who believes that the mayor seeks a majority in the public safety committee.

Currently, the city contracts with the OIR Group of Playa Del Rey, California, an independent police auditor that reviews complaints submitted to the Internal Affairs Division of the Las Cruces Police Department. These audits are presented to the City Council and City management semi-annually.

The meeting takes place amid rising property crime rates and recent controversial police incidents that have resulted in costly lawsuit settlements for the city. Las Cruces has seen a 33% increase in burglaries and a staggering 500% increase in vehicle thefts over the last decade.

Furthermore, the city recently approved a $519 million budget that allocated funds to add 18 more police officers to the force. This significant increase, from 202 to 220 officers, forms part of the context in which today's meeting is taking place.

Community members can follow the proceedings live on YouTube, as public comment is not usually permitted during these work sessions. This meeting marks a pivotal point in Las Cruces' ongoing debate over police accountability, and its outcome could have a profound impact on the future of the city's police department.

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