Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Public Defender Goes Overboard.

I almost fell off my bed when I read this story. Let me explain, first off I read the papers about 1:30 to 2:00 in the morning before I go to bed. Sometimes not the whole paper but at least the biggest stories and then I will finish the rest in the morning. Enough about my insomnia or odd sleeping habits. I clicked on a story about the opening arguments in the State vs Ivan Atencio trial. Ivan Atencio is a career criminal drug addict. One evening a lady calls police to report that she has observed a stolen car parked at a store parking lot and there is a man inside. Doing what a cop is supposed to do they approach the man and ask him to step out of the car and speak to officers so they can investigate. He refuses to follow commands struggles to escape, and as he tries to drive away he drives straight at an officer making the officer fear he was about to be run over. The officer fires his weapon at the vehicle in order to stop the vehicle from running him over. A chase ensues and all that many other officers hear on the radio during the chaos is "shots fired". apparently some officers may have thought this to mean that the suspect had a gun.

During the high speed dangerous chase the officers finally stop Atencio and surround the car. He again tries to drive away putting officers lives in danger of being struck by the vehicle Mr Attencio is driving at them. Officers fire their weapons once again trying to stop Mr. Attencio from killing someone, primarily the very officers he is driving at. He is shot but not fatally and arrested.

Now, defense attorneys are supposed to mount a rigorous defense on behalf of their client. I have no problem with that. A common defense tactic is to blame the police for what happened. Never mind that the actions of the suspect created the situation that officers had to react to. However, where I nearly fell out of bed was when I read this which was said during opening arguments, "The Santa Fe Police Department, literally in a concerted effort, attempted ... to murder my client," Public Defender Sydney West said. "What you will see in this case is police were the perpetrator and Mr. Atencio was, in fact, the victim."

What!!! Calling our officers attempted murderers! I am disgusted at this public defenders choice of words and her unabashed attempt to make the officers the criminal's in this case. We in law enforcement are used to the tables being turned on us in criminal cases by the defense attorneys. Officers are often accused of incompetence or indifference. When the physical evidence is irrefutable the attorneys try to say it was not collected correctly or that officers somehow wanted to frame someone they never met and would have no motive to do so. When there is no physical evidence then officers are accused of not looking hard enough to find it. It always goes back to a common defense tactic of putting the officer on trial.

Usually the defense attorneys are not so disrespectful and callous about doing so. I hope this backfires, I hope the jury has enough sense to see what is really happening here. Sometimes they do, unfortunately sometimes jury's take the bait.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New York Times Chronicles Heroin Problem in Northern New Mexico

The April 2, 2008 New York Times delved into Northern New Mexico's heroin problem, primarily the use of Narcan and distribution of clean needles. New Mexico distributes Clean needles in a needle exchange program and also distributes nasal spray doses of Narcan which is a drug used to recover and prevent death during an overdose.

According to the article Needle exchanges and Narcan distribution are opposed by federal officials, who say they amount to endorsing addiction. Bertha K. Madras, a deputy director at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, has said that Narcan, the trade name for naloxone, should be administered only by medical professionals and that it could make addicts feel safer and less likely to seek care.

As I read the New York Times article this morning I couldn't help but think about this article which came out this morning in our local paper. While the contents of the article which chronicles the arrest of a man who traded heroin for the sister of an addicted man would shock many, it does not surprise me. Northern New Mexico which includes portions of Northern Santa Fe County is an entirely different world when it comes to drug addiction and death. I have seen grandparents, parents, children and great grandchildren all addicted to heroin in the same family. The family ties of addiction make arrests and undercover operations in these areas extremely hard. Because everyone is related, outsiders are not accepted and can not break into these family drug cartels. This makes law enforcement operations extremely hard in these areas.
I have often defended the drug war and exposed why I feel that legalizing drugs is a bad idea. However I do feel that we as a state and a nation are not spending enough for treatment centers, in particular long term treatment centers. I also feel Narcan is an effective life saving tool. I still have not made up my mind on needle exchange programs. On the one hand I do not want to do anything that promotes continued use of drugs however, I do realize that clean needles prevent the spread of diseases and save lives also.

This issue is not a quick fix issue. We will have to use many different tools in order to combat this problem. The costs to jail someone is as much if not more than treatment. The waiting lists for treatment is long however the jail always has room for one more. The one point I do often make is the fact that many of those who do receive any treatment at all are as a result of an arrest. You really don't find many people who seek out help on their own. Many may not want to believe it but when we arrest someone for drug crimes we would like nothing better than for that person to get help and become a productive member of society.

For more on drugs and legalization click here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reaction to feds wreck havoc post.

My phone has been ringing a lot since I posted yesterdays opinion on the way the federal government has handled the City Police Detectives case. So far all the calls have agreed with my take on the issue. The Albuquerque Journal picked the story up off my blog and Vic from the journal added that several officers from the city had already filed complaints with Tom Udall's Office. The congressmen and women from New Mexico are probably gun shy about getting involved in criminal matters after the Robert Vigil and Manny Aragon cases in which Senator Pete Dominici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson were lambasted for contacting then United States Attorney David Iglesias. However I hope they are not too gun shy. This case does not involve political figures and when the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorneys do the amount of damage they have done to a community the only recourse a community has is to file a complaint with our congressional delegation.