What the Hell Is Wrong With Albuquerque Cops?

Alex Jacobs writes about the violent, Warrior-Cop mentality that seems to have taken over among Albuquerque and New Mexico police.

After a 16 month investigation, the DOJ report on the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was released and it concluded that “APD engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of violence and use of deadly force… and the use of less than lethal force…” and “system deficiencies that cause or contribute to the use of excessive force”, such as substandard training of officers, inadequate community policing, institutional failures in the investigation of shootings and accountability system, an aggressive culture among officers, a disconnect between officers and the community over this aggressive behavior, lack of use of the crisis intervention team and weak civilian oversight. DOJ, City of Albuquerque, and APD will now negotiate a “consent decree” to outline reforms and actions. DOJ has such consent agreements in 8 other cities. A full time Deputy Chief was hired to oversee DOJ reforms, including overhaul of the internal Affairs Division, strengthening the Civilian Oversight Commission, and proper training of use of force and de-escalation tactics.

RELATED:Recent Police Shootings in Albuquerque Draw Federal Investigation

Courtesy Ambrose Peshlakai

Third sculpture in his domestic violence series of limestone sculptures to honor Native women.

The hacker group Anonymous called for another protest march last weekend, but the DOJ report has taken the steam out of most protesters. There are more people in gatherings supporting APD after the DOJ report. Anonymous did disrupt APD and city websites two weeks ago after the over-reaction by APD in responding to a protest march that turned violent. Protesters spent 12 hours protesting and it turned violent at night, with the APD in riot gear, using tactical teams, tear gas and an armored personnel carrier (APC). These protests were for the shootings of James Boyd and Alfred Redwine, whose deaths were not even covered in the DOJ investigation. The FBI is now investigating the Boyd and Redwine shootings. The video of Boyd’s shooting went viral and set off the protests while Redwine was shot in a separate incident the night of the first protest march.

Training of police recruits has been an issue since it was revealed that Jack Jones, the director of the Law Enforcement Academy that trains rookie police officers in the state, had been refusing to comply with an inspection of public records request to view his training manual. Jones, a 30 year military veteran, was criticized for his “officer survival” tactics and philosophy that taught an officer could die any day at the hands of the public. It appears that these rookies were trained to fear the community they are supposed to protect and serve. It also reinforced the views in Radley Balko’s new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, which states that police are trained to patrol urban insurgencies and to fear the populace -- even though 90% of police work is not SWAT related. In the Warrior Cop mentality, community policing and investigative forensics seem to be low priorities.

Now Jack Jones is under fire for a cheating scandal at his academy, where four officers refused to give rookies answers to tests and have filed lawsuits against Jones and APD chief Gorden Eden. Jones had shortened cadet training by 6 weeks, instituted physical fitness exams that are the same for men and women and added live-fire vehicle stops, teaching them to shoot “to stop a car with a bullet”. Intelligence tests can be passed with a minimum grade while shooting and SWAT training are emphasized. This all came out after the viral video of a NM State Police officer shooting at an African-American family fleeing in their mini-van away from a traffic stop near Taos back in October.

Oriana Farrell and her family of 4 boys and one girl survived the speeding ticket ordeal, the officer who shot at her family van was fired, and her trial for child abuse and aggravated fleeing has now been moved from April to October. Local and national media had taken sides on the issue as the video caused a national sensation and a little state disgrace. Law experts said there was “no threat” to the officers and “no justification” to compel them to use their firearms. But they also say considering the circumstances, the officers restrained themselves in their adrenaline-fueled state, and that Farrell should’ve signed the ticket instead of fleeing. The new judge in Farrell’s trial criticized police for not conducting proper evidence collection and the trial delay is due to all evidence having to be made available to the defense.

City of Albuquerque recently refused to co-operate with the reality TV show COPS, because “it puts the city in a bad light”. But now the City is facing local criticism and national scrutiny while the APD has to deal with the DOJ reforms and consent decree. Now there are new lawsuits over past shootings and the FBI is investigating whether some police officers can be charged for the new shootings. Recent polls show 53% thought the Boyd shooting was unjustified and only 36% have confidence in the APD. An eerily similar incident to the Boyd shooting occurred in Saginaw MI, in 2012, when Milton Hall was shot at with 47 rounds and hit 11 times, his mother, Jewel Hall, is an NAACP activist in Albuquerque. The Hall family was awarded $725K for her son’s death.

There was much commentary on Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, the most relevant statement was “we don’t yet live in a police state, but why wait until we do? It would then be too late to do anything about it.”

Alex Jacobs
Santa Fe NM
April 18, 2014