Most Cases In State Police Albuquerque Surge Dismissed, New Mexico Aims To Foster Trust In Census

Dec 13, 2019

Most Cases Involving State Police In Albuquerque DismissedKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Most of the cases involving a so-called surge of New Mexico State Police fighting crime in the Albuquerque area have been dismissed, 

An analysis by KOAT-TV found that 52% of them were tossed for a variety of reasons, including shoddy paperwork or a lack of evidence, KOAT-TV reports.

The station discovered that some of the cases were dismissed because state police officers didn't bother to show up to court hearings.

State Police launched "Operation Surge" earlier this year in New Mexico's largest city following high-profile homicides of a mail carrier  and a University of New Mexico baseball player.

Operation Surge was touted as a way to crack down on violent crime in Albuquerque by bringing in state police officers from rural parts of the state.

State Police Chief Tim Johnson called "Operation Surge" a success despite the high dismissal rate,

Johnson said he plans to meet with the district attorney to get charges refiled in 49 of the cases. He also said he would hold officers accountable for not going to court dates.

Prosecutors said the rate of the dismissals in Operation Surge is not unusual when compared to the thousands of felonies filed every year in Bernalillo County.

New Mexico Has Goal To Boost Rural Art, Culture Partnerships - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A top priority for officials who oversee New Mexico's system of museums and cultural offerings will be forming more partnerships with rural communities and Native American tribes over the next year.

The secretary of the state Cultural Affairs Department recently testified before a legislative committee that oversees crafting of the state budget. She's asking lawmakers for more money, saying expanding access to arts and culture is the goal.

New Mexico has enjoyed back-to-back revenue surpluses because of the ongoing oil boom. But legislative budget hawks are warning that spending should be kept in check to weather a future downturn.

Brazilians Arrive In Waves At The US-Mexico Border - Cedar Attanasio and Philip Marcelo, Associated Press

A patchwork of Trump administration policies has virtually ended asylum for migrants from Central America but left what immigration officials call "loopholes" open to migrants from non-Spanish speaking countries.

In New Mexico and West Texas, that's led to an unexpected trend: Brazilians now make up about a quarter of the migrants apprehended by Border Patrol agents.

This week, a top immigration official vowed to stop "catch and release" of Brazilian migrants after more than 18,000 were apprehended on the Southwest Border in the past year. 

Officers Report Busy Night Of Births At US Border CheckpointAssociated Press

It was a busy night for officers stationed at a U.S. border checkpoint in New Mexico, where three women in labor turned up for help in a matter of hours.

One woman arrived in a Mexican ambulance and officers at the Columbus port of entry provided an obstetrical kit for the emergency delivery. A U.S. ambulance crew was able to transport the second woman to a hospital before she gave birth.

The last woman arrived before 5 a.m., only to drop to the sidewalk and go into delivery. Customs and Border Protection officers helped deliver the baby girl. The head of the Columbus port of entry commended the officers for their quick responses.

Man Pleads Guilty In Death Of Navajo Nation Police OfficerAssociated Press

The man accused of gunning down a tribal police officer in a remote corner of the nation's largest American Indian reservation has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Kirby Cleveland faces a possible life sentence in connection with the death of Navajo Nation Officer Houston Largo. The killing happened March 2017 on a dark road in western New Mexico while the officer was responding to a domestic violence call.

Cleveland said during a hearing in federal court Thursday that he didn't know the person he was shooting at was a police officer.

New Mexico Aims To Foster Trust In Census To Protect Funding - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Authorities in New Mexico are turning to firefighters, religious leaders and rural irrigation associations to instill trust and promote participation in the 2020 census. 

About 41% of New Mexico residents live in hard-to-count areas. An Associated Press analysis of government data shows that's the largest proportion of any state in the nation. 

The census determines the allocation of $1.5 trillion in federal spending. New Mexico officials estimate that a 1% undercount would cost the state more than $700 million in federal aid over the course of a decade.  

New Mexico Appoints New Natural Resources Trustee – Associated Press

New Mexico has appointed a new trustee who will lead the state's efforts to ensure contaminated or damaged natural resources are restored and can benefit residents and visitors.

The state Environment Department on Thursday announced the hiring of Maggie Hart Stebbins as New Mexico's Natural Resources Trustee. Hart Stebbins is wrapping up a year as chair of the Bernalillo County Commission.

First elected to the commission in 2009, Hart Stebbins' public service also has included work with the New Mexico House of Representatives and the Mid-Region Council of Governments, where she focused on water conservation and regional transportation.

Ex-Teacher May Plead Guilty In New Mexico Statutory Rape - Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A former New Mexico high school teacher accused of statutory rape involving an underage student is expected to plead guilty to a felony sex charge. 

The Farmington Daily Times reports prosecutors and a defense attorney said James Coulter is scheduled to enter a guilty plea after his jury trial was reset. 

Police say the 33-year-old Coulter had sex with an Aztec High School student when she was 17 years old. He later told police that there were more victims.

Koch Network Group Thanks Torres Small For Farmworkers Bill - Associated Press

A group funded by the powerful conservative-leaning Koch network is praising a Democratic congresswoman in New Mexico for joining a bipartisan effort to pass a farmworkers residency bill. 

Americans for Prosperity is scheduled Friday to launch a direct mail and digital campaign thanking U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of southern New Mexico. The group also plans to thank other Democrats and Republicans who supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. 

The bill, which passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, would give farmworkers in the country illegally a pathway to permanent residence.

Lawmakers Cheer Bid To Ease Air Force Contamination Impact - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation is praising a defense spending bill that's close to clearing Congress. They say the measure would provide relief for communities affected by contamination at Air Force bases in the state and elsewhere.

New Mexico is in a legal battle with the U.S. government over plumes at two military installations that contain chemicals left behind by past firefighting activities.

Under the legislation, the U.S. Defense Department would have authority to take action to prevent further human exposure and provide alternate sources of water for those affected.

Santa Fe Council Moves Forward With Plans For $20M PipelineAssociated Press

City officials in New Mexico have approved a proposed project to design and construct a $20 million pipeline that would funnel treated wastewater back into the Rio Grande River despite concerns from environmentalists and irrigators.

Santa Fe City Council directed city staff Wednesday to develop and propose 40-year and 80-year water plans to maximize resources. The plans include construction of the pipeline.

Environmentalists and farmers say the plan could jeopardize the amount of water available for irrigation. City officials say the proposed project was in its early stages and would require dozens of permits before breaking ground.

Family Files Lawsuit Over Deadly New Mexico School Shooting Associated Press

The family of a New Mexico student who was killed when a gunman opened fire inside Aztec High School in 2017 is suing the school district and police, saying more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

Casey Jordan Marquez's family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit in state court. School officials and police have declined to comment on the lawsuit. Marquez and classmate Francisco "Paco" Fernandez were killed.

The shooting prompted lawmakers to allocate more money for infrastructure projects to improve school security around New Mexico, but Marquez's family says not much has changed at Aztec High School.

New Mexico Zoo Cares For Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves - Associated Press

Albuquerque's zoo is celebrating the survival of one of three Mexican gray wolf pups born at the facility this year. 

ABQ BioPark officials say the pup has grown over recent months and is becoming more curious and confident. The births in May marked the first time in nearly 15 years that the BioPark welcomed Mexican wolf pups. 

The rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America, Mexican wolves have struggled to gain ground since first being released in 1998 as part of an effort to return the animals to their historic range in the American Southwest. 

US Water Chief Praises Colorado River Deal, Sees Challenges - By Ken Ritter Associated Press

States in the U.S. West that have agreed to take less water next month from the drought-stricken Colorado River got praise and a push for more action from the nation's top water official.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told water managers from seven states, including New Mexico, that the promises they made to avoid severe cutbacks are crucial. She also said Thursday that tougher challenges are ahead.

Beginning Jan. 1, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico start taking less water from the river that supports about 40 million people. Officials say cuts won't be noticeable. California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming also have a stake in river water.

Fowl Move: Stolen Chicken Returned To Elementary Students - KOB-TV, Associated Press

A school chicken stolen from a New Mexico elementary's coop has been returned unharmed. 

KOB-TV reports the chicken, Polka Dot, was returned to the students of Hodgin Elementary School in Albuquerque after a man saw a story about the stolen bird. The man says some students gave him the chicken because he is known to take care of the birds. 

Polka Dot had been taken from her coop at the school over the weekend. 

AP Exclusive: Jackson Wink MMA Academy Offers Naming Rights - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Jackson Wink MMA Academy, the storied mixed martial arts gym that has trained UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon "Bones" Jones and other notable fighters, will offer naming rights.

Gym co-owner Greg Jackson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he and fellow owner Mike Winkeljohn will begin entertaining naming rights offers for their globally known training facility in Albuquerque.

Jackson said the naming rights could potentially grant international exposure to a company, but he didn't give a price. "It's something we've been talking about for a while now," Jackson said. "We are exploring our options, and we think we can give a partner a lot of exposure around the world because of our reputation."

Jackson Wink MMA Academy is a sought out gym for mixed martial artists around the world. In addition to Jones, the gym has trained former UFC Woman Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm and former UFC Welterweight Champion George "Rush" St. Pierre.

The gym has been featured in several sports documentaries. Located just off Route 66 in downtown Albuquerque, the gym regularly attracts MMA fans and tourists who take selfies outside the facility. The gym recently opened an MMA-themed cafe.

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