ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – Crime is a problem throughout the state but one southeast police chief has had enough. He’s written a letter blasting the district attorney’s office for offering light prison sentences for all crimes including murder. Roswell Police Cheif Philip Smith sent out an article Monday demonstrating his frustrations with the justice system. His complaint comes after recidivism rates in New Mexico are on the rise.
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“Our criminals in this city and, that’s what I’m going to refer to them as their own entity, they do not feel a threat from our judicial system, they say it right to our officers’ faces. I’ll be out tomorrow,” Chief Smith said.
Chief Smith is asking for a change in how criminals are sentenced. He understands there is a backlog of cases in the courts but plea deals are not the answer.
“My detectives, my officers come back after they’ve been in court and they watch all of their hard work get flushed in a low plea or if they’re not even contacted and they find out the case was plead out after they’ve been to court or prior to court it’s a bit insulting,” Chief Smith said.
Chief Smith pointed to one case, in particular, Eleuterio Juana who was charged with a New Year’s Eve murder in 2019 who was in the country illegally. He was given a plea deal that could see him serving a little more than five years.
Many share the views of the police chief including Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh who is not happy with the way the justice system is operating.
“I know the District Attorney Ms. Luce and I know she is a committed professional in many ways she is as stuck in this situation as anyone else and I know she strives diligently to preserve justice in our area and in many ways she can’t overcome a system that’s is flawed and that’s what we have is a flawed criminal justice system,” said Kintigh.
The police chief says in 2020, there were 230 court cases in the district court, 193 of those cases were either found guilty with suspended sentences meaning no jail time or the case was dismissed. KRQE News 13 reached out to the district attorney for Chaves County, Diane Luce, and her office about the chief’s letter but her office did not get back to us with a comment.