Bloomfield passes resolution supporting school security measures

Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal poses for a portrait in his office in a file photo from April 2018 in Aztec.
Daily Times file photo
Hannah Grover | Farmington Daily Times | 7:30 am MDT August 15, 2018

BLOOMFIELD — Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal has worked statewide to raise support for measures he believes would help prevent future school shootings like the one that took the lives of two students in December at Aztec High School.

“In my 40-plus years in law enforcement, that was probably the worst day in law enforcement that I’ve ever had to go through, and from that day I have worked tirelessly to try to make some changes to make sure this doesn’t happen,” he told the Bloomfield City Council Monday night.

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting Heal’s proposal, which Heal hopes will be passed during the 2019 legislative session.

“We must never let this happen anywhere in our city, your city, the state or the nation if we can help it,” Heal said.

The measures include changing the rules regarding retirement benefits for police officers to allow retired officers to serve as school security personnel. Currently retired officers who are interested in working in school security would lose some of their retirement benefits, including cost of living adjustments, if they went back to work as school security through a police department.

Heal wants the retired officers to be hired by the police department so they can be armed and have the authority to arrest people.

The Bloomfield Police Department has struggled to fill an open school resource officer position, according to Bloomfield Police Chief Randon Matthews. Matthews said retired officers could be willing to fill that empty position if the rules governing their retirement benefits were changed.

Currently, Aztec is meeting the demand for a second school resource officer by paying officers overtime to work at the high school. Heal said the school district and the city are sharing the cost of the overtime pay.

In addition, Heal would like to see “red flag” laws passed that would allow a judge to order that weapons be taken away from a person who is in a crisis situations, such as mental health crisis. Heal said this would also help prevent suicides.

Heal would also like to see threats against schools, such as online shooting threats, to be a felony.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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