This week New Mexicans gathered to protest against the fatal shooting by Albuquerque police officers of a mentally-ill homeless man during a March 16 incident. The protest was initiated in part by a police video that captured the scene. The video has sparked an outcry from the public on social media, as well as news sites. This is not the first time Albuquerque police have been criticized for their use of excessive force. They are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for three dozen police shootings, including 22 fatal, since 2010.
“These shootings have cost Albuquerque taxpayers around $24 million dollars in settlements with families of victims in wrongful shootings by Albuquerque Police Department officers. It’s shameful that we are not better preparing these officers to handle all situations that come their way. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of precious lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia). “We must find a way to monitor the APD and provide officers with the proper training, which will allow them to regain the trust of the people they serve and protect. Action must be taken immediately before this happens again.”
Poor police training and judgment is not isolated with APD. New Mexico State Police officers have also been mired in controversy for shooting at a fleeing van with children near Taos during a traffic stop.
Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-26-Bernalillo) said he feels that a renewed commitment by state leaders to community-appropriate support and training for law enforcement is also necessary to prevent tragedies like this from occurring throughout the state. “As a community, we need to show leadership and speak with one voice, stating that although force may be an option in some situations, it is not the only option,” said Sen. Candelaria. “Being a police officer is a hard job, and we as elected officials need to both hold officers accountable for instance where they violate the public trust–as we would for any public official– but also provide them the necessary training and on-going emotional, professional, psychological and medical support to do their jobs. It’s time all of us step up to the plate and tackle this problem head on, together as one community.”
Senator Tim Keller (D-17-Bernalillo) also spoke about the incident saying he felt horrible for the family of the latest victim, as well as all the families who have suffered the loss of loved ones in these types of situations. “My condolences go out to the families that have had to endure the effects of fatal police shootings. It’s time the city and state step up immediately and admit we have deep police structural and cultural problems in our state’s largest city,” he said.