Amid an outpouring of civil unrest calling for reforming the country’s police departments, around 50 New Mexicans rallied at the Roundhouse on Saturday in support of law enforcement.
Speakers at the rally, organized by the Fraternal Order of Police, spoke of strengthening qualified immunity, a controversial legal doctrine that can shield police from being held personally liable for violating a person’s constitutional rights.
“Qualified immunity protects an officer from getting sued. Say I went out and did a traffic stop, and the guy wants to get in an argument with me and gets out and pushes me, and I push him, and he falls and hits his head on the car,” said James Flores, a retired Albuquerque police officer who serves on the national board of directors for the Fraternal Order of Police.
“Then I’m going to lose my car and my house because I have to go out and hire an attorney on my own just for doing my job. A year later, the case is ruled in the favor of the officer, but the damage is already done.”
According to the Washington Post, police in New Mexico have shot and killed 111 people since 2015. In June, the governor signed into law a nine-member New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to examine violations of state constitutional rights and review the use of qualified immunity.
“Our communities are marching to demand changes that rethink policing,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said at the time.
Saturday’s rally started with the Pledge of Allegiance and ended with a prayer. Attendees and organizers spoke about an ongoing national narrative that mischaracterizes officers.
“All we want is fairness. We know we owe it to the people and our communities to treat them fair,” said Toby Gallegos, president of the Albuquerque branch of the Fraternal Order of Police. “If there’s a bad cop, we want him out, but we’re all innocent until proven guilty.”
According to the Fraternal Order of Police, 242 officers across the country have died of COVID-19 contracted “in the line of duty.”
“Officers can’t really call ahead and make sure everyone is wearing a mask or has tested negative,” said Bob Martinez, former president of the New Mexico branch of the Fraternal Order of Police. “When the job by nature involves interacting with the public, I think a lot of us are worried about officers being protected from the virus.”