SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is looking for policy fixes to prevent police violence in the wake of anti-racism and police reform protests that have swept across the nation and dotted her state.
In a conversation with members of a yet-to-be-finalized council on racial justice, Lujan Grisham suggested deescalation training for state police. She also heard a proposal to bar officers from shooting at moving vehicles or choking citizens in their custody.
As the leader of a multicultural state -- New Mexico is half Hispanic and has a significant Native American population -- she said it is difficult but essential to acknowledge structural racism.
"We have a tendency to wrap ourselves in that particular cloak and pretend sometimes that we don't have the kind of inequalities in institutional racism and hatred that in fact exists, and it is in the very fabric of our lives," Lujan Grisham said.
The governor pledged to name a racial justice czar and to let the council set an agenda for legislative reform in the 2021 legislative session. An emergency session starting in mid-June will focus squarely on the state's budget fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.
The New Mexico governor's live video conference took place a few hours after a funeral service for George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death in police custody sparked the latest protests over longstanding grievances with police accountability.
"There is another health crisis which has existed for far too long, which is the racism in our society," said Alexandria Taylor, of the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
Some of the answers, Taylor said, are already clear.
"What has happened in the last six years since the Ferguson uprising, is we have a significant body of research that supports those policy changes," Taylor told Lujan Grisham, referring to protest following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officers.
As in hundreds of other cities in the country, unrest in that St. Louis suburb broke out again this this week. Nationwide, 10,000 demonstrators have been arrested and dozens of deaths have been reported.