Bernalillo County needs public safety policies that are based on justice instead of on reinforcing injustice.
I am running for Bernalillo County Commission to advocate for thoughtful and effective policies that ensure that everyone feels safe in our community.
We need policies that include:
Like too many people of color, I have repeatedly suffered at the hands of a criminal justice system more interested in making money than delivering justice. I have been pulled over for “routine traffic stops” more times than I can count. I’ve been frisked, frightened, bullied and dehumanized. Whether it’s the fear of seeing police lights in my rear-view mirror or the panic that a late-night phone call could mean that this brown mother’s worst nightmares have come true for her children, I’ve felt the unintended consequences of our existing public safety policies. Our community deserves a voice like mine—that will speak out against systems I personally know are broken—on the County Commission to ensure a balanced approach to public safety.
Let me tell you about my experiences.
As a single mom, working to raise my kids, I racked up a lot of parking tickets. From extra time with my kids in a doctor’s office to running late from work meetings, time ran out the parking meter. It happens to everyone. But I simply didn’t have the time or the resources to pay the tickets right away. Fees and additional fines piled up, making it harder for me to pay the bills and impossible for me to figure out the system. Next thing I knew, following a “routine traffic stop,” I was put in shackles and hauled off to jail because of unpaid parking tickets. That is not justice. That’s criminal. I will work to reform our system of fees and fines to ensure that poor people and people of color—and everyone else in our community—don’t end up in jail for not having enough money to pay a parking ticket. Bernalillo County can be a leader in this social justice movement, which is led nationally by groups like the Fees and Fines Justice Center.
The City of Albuquerque has been a leader in decriminalizing cannabis. The County can take that further and legalize cannabis so that we can generate revenue for much-needed community programs and so that no one goes through what my friend and I did while driving in Arizona in 2018 when a “routine traffic stop” led to handcuffs and thousands of dollars of fees, fines and legal bills because less than two grams of cannabis were found in the car. Cannabis-related criminal laws have a long, sordid history of racial bias and they don’t make us safer. We must do better.
For those struggling with addiction, the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services (MATS) and other innovative programs have given non-violent offenders in Bernalillo County a more just way to take responsibility for their actions and to start to heal and recover. Our County has a record of providing substance abuse treatment for non-violent offenders. We must build on that foundation.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to enforce the rules. Fourteen years ago, I had a DWI. I was rightly held accountable by law enforcement. Our tough laws worked and I’ve never driven under the influence again. There are laws on the books that make sense and that work. We must keep and enforce those laws, even as we take a hard look at the ways that systemic racism has impacted the way that even the good laws have been enforced.
Look, I’m not perfect. But neither is a criminal justice system that puts a mom in jail for parking tickets and leaves too many people of color and poor people living in fear of the very people and system that are supposed to keep them safe. Our criminal justice system should not be used as a tool to look down on people, especially people of color.
I am running to represent District 3, the community I grew up in, where I went to school, where I’ve raised my son and daughter. I’ve sung lullabies to my kids here and I’ve buried both my parents here. I’ve been arrested here and I’ve been free to build a better life with a college education here. Now I’m ready to have tough conversations and to share my imperfect story so that I can give back to this community.
Public safety is about our values. It’s about our future. And it must always be about justice.