Tom Garrity

Understanding New Mexico’s Trust Deficit in our Legal System

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2015 at 4:51 am

The slaying of Rio Rancho Police Officer Gregg Benner has generated significant criticism of the courts and justice system. Based on media reports, and admissions by various agencies, the suspect, Andrew Romero, slipped through and took advantage of “the system” to go on his crime spree, which resulted in the death of Officer Benner.

Public outrage toward the entities responsible for Romero’s release is intense. Flaws throughout the system all seemed to manifest in this one case. There were apparent issues with crime scene evidence, a judge was reportedly on leave for a time, the district attorney lacked experience, and the driver for a halfway house never showed up to pick up Romero.

Since 2011, New Mexico residents have been losing trust in judges, police officers, and lawyers, as well as losing favor with the courts and justice system. According to the Garrity Perception Survey, a scientific report conducted by Research & Polling, nearly all of the professions and institutions connected to the justice system have also seen an increase in distrust and unfavorable perceptions.

New Mexico residents’ favorability of the courts and justice system has dropped two points to 34 percent (2011-2015). During that same timeframe, the percentage of residents with an unfavorable perception has increased four points to 33 percent. Police officers, although gaining a lot of the trust lost in previous years, has seen trust slip by a point since 2011 to 54 percent; however, dis-trust among New Mexico residents has increased seven points to 26 percent in 2015. One of the largest increases of distrust among all professions surveyed.

Based on the research, only one of the institutions or professions are favored or trusted by New Mexico residents (meaning they failed to pass the 50 percent mark).

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “when a company is distrusted, 57 percent of people will believe negative information after hearing it just one or two times. Conversely, when companies are trusted, 51 percent of people believe positive information about the company after hearing it just one or two times.”

It will take increased transparency coupled with an explanation of how “the system” operates for the courts and justice system to stem the tide of unfavorable perceptions and increased dis-trust among New Mexico residents. Often, providing insight about why things are the way they are provides peace of mind and starts to neutralize negativity.

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