Since the boys in blue with the Santa Fe Police Department have continued to bust people for pot possession, despite a recent ordinance decriminalizing the herb in small amounts, city officials have decided the force should be retrained on how to handle these types of offenses.
According to a report from the Santa Fe New Mexican, the city’s governmental forces are sending the local police department back to school in hopes of getting their cops’ heads on straight when it comes to dealing with people in possession of a little bit of weed. The new mandatory refresher course on Santa Fe’s decriminalization ordinance will also include some much needed training on the state’s medical marijuana laws.
In 2014, Santa Fe voters approved an initiative to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana – making the offense a civil infraction punishable with a $25 fine. However, while Santa Fe moved forward with this bit of modest marijuana reform, its local police force ravaged on with brute force, sending first time pot offenders, those who should have only revived a ticket, to jail.
Fortunately, this back-biting grind against the will of the people has caused concern among some influential members of the Santa Fe brass, especially City Councilor Joseph Maesta, who reportedly instructed Police Chief Patrick Gallagher to start following the path of the decriminalization ordinance rather than leaning on state law.
Gallagher has since agreed to put his department through some extra training to get cops up to speed on the local and state pot laws.
“As per your recommendation, I have directed that additional training on the ordinance be provided for all officers,” Gallagher said in an email to Maesta. “This will take place over the next several months as staffing levels permit.”
That means beginning in December, all of the cops with the Santa Fe Police Department will have to attend training sessions to learn how to not bust people for minor pot possession. A spokesperson for the department told the SFNM that officers are now even instructed during roll call as to when to issue a citation and when it is appropriate to make an arrest.
City Councilor Maesta says that not only does he want officers to abide by the ordinance, but also he wants them to understand the impact the prohibitionary standard has had on the community. It is for this reason that he is requesting officers go through marijuana “sensitivity” training, as well.
“I’ve asked that he add another element to the lesson plan for the training and that is informing them on the impact, particularly on young people, of an arrest or conviction in terms of getting public housing or public financial aid in college,” Maestas said. “I want them to be sensitive to the impacts of having an arrest and or a conviction record.”
Over the summer, an investigation by the Santa Fe Reporter found the local police department has been sending an average of one person per month to jail for holding small amounts of marijuana – using state law, which considers anything up to one ounce a criminal misdemeanor, to back up their actions.
It was this analysis of the department’s attitude toward marijuana that has been largely credited for the city’s decision to retrain its officers.