The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission began December with public hearings to assess the treatment of Navajo citizens by law enforcement in border towns. With two hearings down, the response has shown that Navajos feeling they are being treated differently.
On December 3, the first public hearing was held in Torreon, and Cuba, New Mexico. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had representatives present for the testimonies where one Torreon resident stated that, “Cuba Police officers are taking out inebriates and have them beat each other.”
The Cuba Police department has faced allegations about the negative treatment of Navajo citizens but the timing of reported incidents complicates situations.
“Civil Rights issues are more difficult to prove when the allegations are 4-5 years ago.” stated Benedict Bourgeois, of the FBI. One such allegation is currently under investigation by the NNHRC.
The next hearing was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 4 at the Albuquerque Indian Center. The Albuquerque Police Department is currently under federal Justice Department scrutiny because of its high number of officer-related shootings.
This summer, following the gruesome murders of two homeless Navajo men by three youth, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry told ICTMN that homeless Natives are disproportionately targeted for violent crime.
“The Native American population also has a higher propensity of being victims of violent crimes,” Berry said in the July interview. “Sixty-five percent of homeless people report being victims of violence, and 71 percent of the Native American homeless have been victims, or 6 percent more.”
At the hearing, Alan Armijo, director of constituent services represented Mayor Berry. Other city representatives in attendance were Annabelle Romeo, deputy director of the city’s human rights office, Gabriel Compose, human rights office, and APD Commander Donavon Olvera and officer Gabriel Claw.
According to a NNHRC press release, 15 people testified about their experience with Albuquerque police department. The testimonies varied but all maintained a sense of feeling and “strongly believing the APD is treating them differently because they are Navajo.”
There are two more public hearings scheduled for the new year: Gallup, New Mexico on January 7, and one in Flagstaff, Arizona on January 8.