In recent years, Albuquerque police have been involved in more fatal police shootings than police departments in similar-sized cities and bigger, and residents have had enough.
This is the raw video from the helmet cam of a Albuquerque officer involved in the killing of a man suspected of illegal camping, which set off peaceful protest in Albuquerque. The protests were later dispersed with riot police and tear gas by the Albuquerque PD.
Following two fatal police shootings last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, protesters turned out en masse on Sunday for a more than 10-hour protest to once again demand reform for the seemingly trigger-happy Albuquerque police department.
Hundreds turned out for the day-long demonstration following an APD officer’s decision to shoot and kill James M. Boyd, a homeless, mentally ill man, after a three-hour confrontation regarding illegal camping.
Protesters spent the day not only calling out the department for Boyd’s unnecessary murder, but also for approximately 24 other murders in the city since 2010, including a shooting last week at a public housing complex. None of the officers involved in any of these shootings have ever been fired, even when one said he used his gun instead of his taser because his taser wasn’t working.
The FBI has launched an investigation into Boyd’s death, and the Justice Department has been investigating the APD for the past year after it received several claims that APD officers used excessive force and abused the civil rights of the people that they were supposed to protect and serve.
Part of what prompted the DOJ investigation were figures reported for 2011. That year, Albuquerque saw about three times more police officer-involved shootings and killings than comparable-sized cities such as Sacramento, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz.
Even compared to a much larger city such as New York City, which has 14 times the population of Albuquerque and 34,000 officers to Albuquerque’s 1,000, Albuquerque police were involved in more fatal shootings. For example, in 2010, NYPD officers were involved in 24 shootings, eight of which were fatal. APD officers, on the other hand, were involved in 19 shootings, 13 of which were fatal.
Since 2010, the city’s taxpayers have paid more than $24 million in misconduct lawsuits.
Parents of the mostly young Hispanic men who have been shot and killed by the APD officers have called for top-down reform in the department for years. Even Judge Theresa Baca of the Second Judicial District recognized that the officers shoot and kill first, and ask questions later.
One APD officer was caught posting on social media that the only reason some people are still alive is because killing them is illegal, prompting many Albuquerque residents to advocate for change. They argue that it won’t be safe in the community until it’s safe to call 911.
“We want our cops to be heroes, and right now, we are terrified of them,” Albuquerque resident Kendra Tuthill, who was at the protest, said. “We are afraid to ask for help, lest we reach for our cellphones or scratch our chins and be murdered. It is a true fear.”
Though Sunday’s protest started out peaceful, even as the hundreds of police reform advocates marched 2 miles across the city, from downtown to the University of New Mexico campus, protesters did eventually clash with the riot-clad police around nightfall after some protesters blocked traffic. Officers responded to the protesters’ anti-police slogans and some protesters’ refusals to get out of the street and stop blocking traffic by throwing tear gas into the crowds.
The official number of people arrested during Sunday’s protest is not known, but their frustration may have been warranted. Residents also held a protest against APD’s trigger-happy track record last Tuesday, and that night, APD officers shot and killed another individual.
“While protesters thought perhaps that their point had been made, that same evening, cops killed another man, showing us that we needed to speak louder and go rogue if we wanted change,” Tuthill said.