The New Mexico Livestock Board
Industry Protection and Law Enforcement
Dating back to the late 1800s, the New Mexico Livestock Board ((NMLB) then known as the Cattle Sanitary Board), employed sworn peace officers to handle livestock theft. Today the need for well trained law enforcement officers is even more crucial. Theft is still present, but foreign animal disease, border security, livestock abuse and cruelty, natural disaster relief and bio-security threats are ever increasing. The demands on our officers to respond to these events are quite challenging. We must adhere to the same strict standards of training hours as other law enforcement agencies and maintain certifications in a variety of cruelty, rescue, Homeland Security and bio security applications. Due to this diversity in training, our agency has been called upon to assist in disaster relief like Hurricane Katrina, the Los Conchas Fire, the Whitewater-Baldy fire, and many more. At the basis of this training and commission as law enforcement officer is the ability to protect the industry’s livestock in ownership, welfare and disease prevention.
A Profile of the New Mexico Livestock Board’s Law Enforcement Division
The NMLB has 29 certified law enforcement officers. As new officers are employed, their abilities are assessed, then they apply to attend the Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe.
The Basic Academy
Basic police officer classes usually have 50 cadets from police and sheriffs offices statewide. There are also Game and Fish Officers, Tribal Officers, and Parks and Recreations Officers.
At this time, there is one NMLB individual at the law enforcement academy, scheduled to graduate in June. Paul Leonard is now half way through class number 185, and is the only livestock inspector in the class. His instructors reported about a week ago that he has a high grade point average, above 90%, and is excelling in all areas of his evaluation. Our inspectors generally receive these types of compliments and are held to a higher standard by the NMLB.
There are five waiting to attend the academy. Funds are the major obstacle in that process. It takes about $10,000 to get an inspector through the course.
- $5,000 for room and board
- $5,000 for equipment, psychological and medical evaluations, CPR and first Aid courses, firearms training, and uniforms
Blocks of instruction include: basic firearms, case presentation, report writing, defense tactics, domestic issues, crisis management, and principles of criminal investigations.
All certified inspectors attended this basic police academy in the first or second year of their careers. This academy is 824 hours of law enforcement training to include classroom, range, gym, and driving track training. The entry into the academy is no easy feat. The pre-assessment is a mile and a half run, a 300 meter run, sit-ups and pushups, all with required standards for time and numbers.
In Service Training
This includes many of the blocks of instruction listed above. To keep our officer certifications, we must complete 40 hours of training every two years and qualify with our duty weapons once every year.
The specific requirements for in service training are continually increasing. Ten years ago you needed the forty hours, but only 8 hours of legal updates were mandatory. The rest of the 32 hours could be filled with any DPS accredited class. Now, inspectors must complete a mandatory 22 hours of legal updates.
These hours are:
- Domestic Violence
- Legal Update
- Ensuring Child Safety on Parental Arrest
- Safe Pursuit
- Biennial Firearms Training
- Hate Crimes
- Investigating Child Abuse
- Missing Persons and Amber Alert
- Interactions with Persons with Mental Impairments
Due to the increase in mandatory training requirements, costs to the agency also are increasing. These costs include:
- Ammunition for firearms training
- Class rooms/ training areas/ firearm ranges
- Travel costs for inspectors
- Contracting instructors for specialized classes; ie. Interactions with Persons with Mental Impairments
- Costs of getting inspectors certified to teach classes
- Materials for classes
Specialized training hours include those offered by Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, USDA Animal Plant Health and Inspection, International Livestock Identification Association, and other associated animal rescue and welfare organizations. These hours comprise an additional 10-20 hours a year and also assess fees for attendance and travel. Without these specialized training courses, the inspectors would be unable to respond to unusual incidences regarding livestock welfare and disease.
On most days, inspectors show up at a producer’s ranch, feedlot, dairy, or sale barn, exchange a “good morning” or “afternoon”, and a routine inspection takes place. The livestock are presented for inspection, they are inspected, and a form is issued. While this takes place, conversation usually includes the need for rain, cattle prices and community and personal concerns.
Spend a day with an inspector, and you will learn that law enforcement cases and investigations are just as much a part of their time as the routine inspection. The lessons learned at the academy and during in service trainings are invaluable to an inspector, and cases are made or lost by inspectors’ efficiency in investigating, documenting, and presenting the facts in a court of law. Often it takes hours of researching the statutes, writing reports, and effectively communicating with district attorneys to solidify the cases.
Animal cruelty cases are at the forefront of our law enforcement actions these days, but there are plenty of transportation and brand violations, and even larceny cases to consume the inspectors time. All of these cases come with a mountain of reports, photographs, recorded and written statements, gathering of evidence, search and seizure warrants, arrest warrants, and criminal complaints. These need direction from supervisors, district attorneys, and many times, assistance from other law enforcement agencies when the investigations lead an inspector to areas outside of our normal concern. In 2012, inspectors found themselves in several cases involving drugs, forgeries, racketeering, child abuse and money laundering. The inspector will tell you that these cases all have one commonality: the need for continued, quality training.
It also takes funding. The Livestock Board, like all other state agencies, is always expected to be diligent with budgeted funds. Training costs are a necessary part of that budget, and one where corners cannot be cut. Liability in law enforcement is always on the rise. During almost any interaction with an offender, an inspector is subject to civil suit if he or she acts outside of policy and statute. The Agency is also subject to suit, especially if it can be proven the inspector acted inappropriately due to lack of training.
In the middle of March, 12 certified inspectors, including Interim Executive Director Ray Baca, met in Raton, NM at the NRA Whittington Center to address these training needs. In a two day period, instruction was given on domestic violence, ensuring child safety upon parental arrest, safe pursuit, hate crimes, missing persons and amber alerts, investigating child abuse, legal updates, and day and night firearms training.
The firearms portion of the training lasted well into the dark hours, meeting the requirements of DPS for low light training. Inspectors worked on speed and tactical reloads, shotgun training, malfunction clearances, the four step draw, and the seven fundamentals of marksmanship. Some competitive type shooting was done to reinforce the training and make the day a little more fun. Inspectors shot a course with three reloads and five targets. This course forced the inspectors to shoot and reload on the move, with some of the fastest times in the 20 seconds range.
During the classroom instruction, the inspectors were able to discuss the laws, cases they had worked, and the relevancy of the subject matter to their jobs. In every class, inspectors were able to recall recent cases that involved the topic of instruction. That element of the class is, many times, much more important than the material being covered, as it brings a sense of reality to the training.
In this era of increasing liabilities, law suits, and detailed examinations of all police officer actions, our inspectors need to be well trained, adequately equipped, and supported. In officer negligence cases, the term “duty to protect is assumed” means that if an inspector witnesses a crime or one about to be committed, he or she is obligated to act, regardless of whether or not if they are on duty, or in the scope of their agency mission.
The NMLB is obligated to make sure its inspectors are adequately trained, not just to mitigate liability, more importantly, to ensure its inspectors get home to their families safely each night.