Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she is co-sponsoring federal legislation which calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate fatal police shootings and present the results to a judge in a probable cause hearing.
The “Grand Jury Reform Act” would remove potential conflicts of interest that might exist when local prosecutors, who work closely with local police, help decide whether to charge an officer with a crime following a fatal shooting. The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson of Georgia, also calls on state law enforcement agencies to investigate cases, rather than local law enforcement.
“It’s important to remove these conflicts of interest, and just as important, to hold public preliminary hearings in order to remove the shroud of secrecy inherent in the grand jury process,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “The spike in police-involved shootings in Albuquerque and across the country has eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement. I want to turn that around. In addition to reforming local police agencies and providing better training for officers, we need an independent and objective review of these shootings to regain the public’s trust.”
The bill would require the governor to appoint the prosecutor, who would present evidence on behalf of the state. The preliminary hearing would be open to the public, unless the presiding judge decides otherwise. Local law enforcement agencies would have to comply with this new system in order to receive certain federal funding.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently conducted an investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department and found a pattern of unconstitutional use of excessive force, including deadly force. A federal judge is currently reviewing a proposed consent decree between the Justice Department and the City of Albuquerque as a result of that investigation.