Ban on Racial Profiling Passes the NM Legislature

Press Release March 23, 2009
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Holly Beaumont at 505-660-5018

(Santa Fe) — With just one hour left in the legislative session, the New Mexico legislature voted to officially ban bias-based profiling, or racial profiling, in New Mexico. HB 428, the Prohibition of Profiling Practices Act, sponsored by Rep. Nathan Cote, D-Las Cruces, passed the Senate floor by a 32 to 10 margin on Saturday. The bill passed 62 to 0 in the House after an hour of impassioned debate from members.

The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Richardson to be signed into law. If Gov.Richardson signs the measure, New Mexico will be the 23rd state to ban profiling practices by law enforcement officers and agencies.

“HB 428 prohibits profiling on many bases, including not only culture, ethnicity, language, and race, but also disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and political affiliation,” said Doris Fields, speaking on behalf of the New Mexico NAACP. “The passage of HB 428 is reflective of the progress we as a nation, a state, and a people are making toward righting our world, making our state what we know it can be, making ourselves live up to our true potential as compassionate and fair beings.”

The legislation officially defines and bans bias-based profiling in New Mexico, and directs law enforcement agencies to develop policies, procedures, and training protocols to prevent and prohibit profiling from occurring. The bill also allows for oversight and investigation of profiling complaints by the Attorney General’s office.

“The criminal justice system disproportionally impacts people of color, and drug arrests are no exception,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “By banning bias-based policing, we are taking a step toward greater fairness and accountability.”

“We have great respect for law enforcement and we would never support anything that would tie the hands of our law enforcement officers,” said Holly Beaumont, legislative advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Churches. “Nothing ties the hands of law enforcement faster than losing the trust of the communities they serve. One of the quickest ways you shatter trust with your communities is through racial profiling.”

The NM NAACP and 18 other local organizations, including Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the NM Conference of Churches, Equality New Mexico, the Immigration Committee of the City of Santa Fe, Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), and Tewa Women United, support the legislation.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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