New Mexico Cops No Longer Protected From Civil Lawsuits Amid Police Brutality Concerns
Police officers in New Mexico will no longer be protected from civil lawsuits amid ongoing concerns over the issue of police brutality.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed civil rights reforms on Wednesday, April 7, that will now eliminate police immunity against prosecution in state courts.
Liability for misconduct that is found to be in violation of individual rights will now fall upon government agencies rather than individual public employees, with damage awards set to be capped at $2 million.
The bill, dubbed the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, was backed by various high profile advocates, including the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and the non-profit group Americans for Prosperity, supported by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Charles Koch, AP News reports.
Governor Grisham said in a statement:
This is not an anti-police bill. This bill does not endanger any first responder or public servant — so long as they conduct themselves professionally within the bounds of our constitution and with a deep and active respect for the sacred rights it guarantees all of us.
Under the new legislation, a person may now sue the state, city or county when their constitutional rights under the state of New Mexico have been violated. For example, during instances involving police misconduct, meaning officials who commit wrongdoings can now be held accountable.
New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, the person who initially introduced the bill, tweeted:
This is a historic moment for New Mexico, as we ensure that all public bodies in our state are held accountable for violations of civil rights.
I am honored to have been part of this historic effort to bring justice to our system and thank
[Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham] for recognizing this measure’s vital importance and signing it into law.
Today, New Mexico makes history as a national leader in ensuring civil rights and guaranteeing that all victims of violence and discrimination in our state have a road to justice.
Innocence Project State Policy Advocate Laurie Roberts said in a statement:
The new law puts a price tag on police misconduct and creates a strong incentive for agencies to adopt and enforce policies that prevent abuses which can lead to wrongful convictions.
It also provides exonerees with the financial justice they deserve after having their rights violated by government officials and having their freedom unjustly taken away.
New Mexico is now the second US state to implement a ban on qualified immunity, after Colorado enacted legislation to cease the practice back in June 2020.
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