FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Tuesday, July 14, 2009
CONTACT: Nancy Koenigsberg (505) 256-3100 of Disability Rights NM or Terri Beach (505)242-2228 for the City of Las Cruces
LAS CRUCES—The Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) reached an agreement with civil rights groups to expand officer training to improve interactions with persons who have or appear to have mental disabilities.  In furtherance of its policy that LCPD has not, does not and will not target such individuals for questioning, intervention or arrest, the LCPD will, among many other efforts:

  • Continue to develop LCPD’s specialized response system for persons who have or appear to have a mental illness. This system will continue to include LCPD Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) response officers specially trained in techniques for interventions with persons with, or who appear to have, mental disabilities.
  • Expand commitment to provide all officers with tools and training needed to respond
appropriately to people with, or who appear to have, mental disabilities, including: 40 hours of New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS)-accredited instruction in crisis management to all cadets; 40 hours of NMDPS-accredited Crisis Intervention Training to those officers who volunteer to undergo the training and 40 hours of NMDPS-accredited instruction bi-annually to all officers, including eight hours of advanced in-service training regarding interactions with persons with, or who appear to have, mental illness.
  • Expand commitment to provide officers with the training and authority to divert persons with, or who appear to have, a mental disability to available community mental health treatment resources as an alternative to arrest.
  • Continue participation in monthly stakeholders’ meetings to discuss a strategic plan to identify, develop and implement a plan for Las Cruces and Doña Ana County to provide additional mental health resources that may be pooled and used to provide sufficient opportunities for diversion of persons with mental illness from the criminal justice system, including the development of sufficient 24/7 mental health services. Stakeholders to include county social services agencies and representatives from mental health providers, the judiciary, the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, individuals who use mental health services, family members of individuals who use mental health services, the New Mexico Behavioral Health Purchasing Collaborative, interested legislators, and other interested parties.
The agreement stems from a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights New Mexico formerly the Protection and Advocacy System), the ACLU of New Mexico, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and private attorneys Peter Cubra, Lisa Schatz-Vanz, and Mike Lilley. Also under the agreement, the City of Las Cruces will pay $150,000, part of which will be used to promote awareness of mental health issues. The City also agrees to track and make available training-related documentation.
The agreement received unanimous City Council approval on March 16, 2009 and is in the process of being finalized. Private attorneys Peter Cubra, Lisa Schatz-Vance and Mike Lilley worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law on the agreement.

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The mission of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is to maintain and advance the cause of civil liberties within the state of New Mexico, with particular emphasis on the freedom of religion, speech, press, association, and assemblage, and the right to vote, due process of law and equal protection of law, and to take any legitimate action in the furtherance and defense of such purposes. These objectives shall be sought wholly without political partisanship.