Our nation, our communities and law enforcement are at a crossroads.

Law enforcement officers respond to and deal with many different types of situations on a daily basis. From responding to domestic violence situations, investigating burglaries, initiating traffic stops and sometimes just conducting welfare checks on someone’s family member or friend to make sure everything is OK.

When I first started my career in law enforcement, I remember more seasoned officers referring to the “good old days.” Some would say the reference harkens to a time when officers could do and say what they wanted without consequence; a time when officers may have turned a blind eye when they saw other officers doing something wrong. For me, the “good old days” refer to a time when officers and the community respected and supported one another. When officers felt like part of the community, and the community felt protected and safe with officers.

Imagine being an officer, and while on duty, you witness a fellow officer acting or do something inappropriate. Although we train officers to respond and deal with problems in tense public situations, are we properly training them to deal with inappropriate situations involving fellow officers?

As law enforcement professionals, we are at a landmark juncture in our profession. We have the potential to effect positive change, especially at the local level, to foster a standard of trust and respect among those we have sworn to protect and serve. Our profession is at a time in history where we have the ability to effect a meaningful cultural shift within our chosen field to empower officers to intervene and report misconduct, and by doing so, we continue to strengthen the relationship and connection between law enforcement and the communities we serve.

As Santa Fe County sheriff and as a member of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board, I believe law enforcement has an opportunity to work toward a paradigm shift to advance police peer intervention.

Georgetown Law School and its Center for Innovations in Community Safety have taken years of academic research and on-the-ground experience to create the ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) Project. The ABLE Project serves as a national hub for training, technical assistance and research, all with the aim of creating a police culture in which officers routinely intervene as necessary to prevent misconduct, avoid police mistakes and promote officer health and wellness.

As the sheriff of Santa Fe County, It is critical to foster a positive, supportive culture within the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that empowers our deputies to do the right thing — report acts of misconduct. Anytime we are able to prevent misconduct, reduce harm to the public and officers, reduce risks of lawsuits and liability, and improve police/community relations, it is a positive change for our community and our law enforcement agency.

As Santa Fe County’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to introducing the ABLE Project into our agency. Part of participating in the ABLE program is committing to the standards and training set forth by the program. One important requirement for program participation is obtaining support from community-based organizations and local leaders. Community support and collaboration are critical to the program’s implementation. Acquiring the community’s endorsement and officer buy-in will be essential to the program’s success. Working to generate that support and buy-in is key to success.

To date, we have received support from community leaders and groups, the ACLU, Indivisible SOS, NAACP and New Mexico counties, which agree this program will have a positive impact on the community.

I am optimistic as we move forward to enact the ABLE Program and look forward to the potential transformation that can benefit our community. Please go to santafecountynm.gov/sheriff to review the policies and letters of support.

Adan Mendoza is sheriff of

Santa Fe County.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.