Transparency Issues Continue Room for Law Enforcement Academy Leadership Changes

The Law Enforcement Academy Board decided the fate of 37 officers and telecommunicators at the April 14 meeting, but why those officers were disciplined is a mystery. Is new leadership at the LEA to blame?

The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) has been through a lot of change in the past month, with the departure of previous director Kelly Alzaharna who was replaced by an interim director. Department of Public Safety (DPS) Deputy Cabinet Secretary Benjamin Baker is acting as interim LEA director in the meantime and appeared at his first LEAB meeting in that role on April 14, just seventeen days after he took the helm at the state’s main law enforcement training bureau.

Baker, in his address to the LEA board, gave one of the most detailed reports of LEA activity that the board has heard in recent years presenting actual case numbers, and an update on the way the LEA plans to oversee police training but yet, under His leadership, there is a seeming lack of transparency.

Technology to the Rescue?

The LEA has been plagued for years with problems tracking police training, and delays in processing misconduct cases for officers, but Baker said that will improve soon, thanks to a technology roll-out. For years, the LEA has been working to move from a paper-based reporting system to a digital one, known as ACADIS. But Baker said the change is challenging.

“There are approximately 340, and growing, approved and trained agency ACADIS portal users statewide who can currently view their agency employment rosters and make changes to their employee’s profiles,” Baker told the LEAB. “Some of these changes include adding and subtracting addresses, contact information, and specifics to that employee.”

Baker said the next steps will be having individual agencies enter officer training directly into the state database. Enforcing biennium training compliance is one of the many goals for the LEA, which has failed for years to and completely track police training compliance, but it’s not all going to be easy, Baker said.

“This process has caused a significant amount of change in the business practices at the law enforcement academy as this has been a paper system historically,” Baker said. “And while a majority of agencies have been adapting well and are excited about the change we still have some folks that we are struggling to help.”

The move to create and maintain what equates to a transcript for officer training was welcomed by LEAB Chair Attorney General Hector Balderas.

“We knew the challenges that we were facing but it was also good reporting that really dove into the issues identifying the systemic problems and also some reporters, community leaders, as well as individuals like yourself that have really brought attention to both the complexity of the problems that have lingered for decades,” Balderas said.

Small Changes In the Police Misconduct Backlog

Baker also reported that there is still a backlog of misconduct cases at the LEA, but that the situation is improving. According to his report, there have been 15 cases of law enforcement officer (or telecommunicator) misconduct reported so far during 2022.

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