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Protesting against systemic abuse by the Albuquerque Police Department on Sunday April 6, demonstrators encountered officers in riot gear. (Photo: Cole L. Howard)

Protesting against systemic abuse by the Albuquerque Police Department on Sunday April 6, demonstrators encountered officers in riot gear. (Photo: Cole L. Howard)

DOJ Investigation Confirms: Albuquerque Police 'Executing' Citizens

Following release of report, rights groups calling for removal of mayor and police chief

Lauren McCauley

Residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico are marching on the police department Saturday to demand retribution against the city's mayor and police chief for their role in the police force's documented "execution" of citizens.

The march comes after the Department of Justice slammed the Albuquerque Police Department for their frequent use of excessive and lethal force in a damning report released on Thursday.

Though, according to advocates, abuse by local law enforcement has been systemic for years, calls for increased scrutiny of the APD were amplified following the police shooting death of James Boyd, a homeless man suffering from mental illness, on March 16.

Advocates welcomed the DOJ's findings, saying the report was "spot on" in terms of identifying the root causes of this behavior, such as the "aggressive culture of the department" and the way in which "force is prioritized in training."

However, according to David Correia, an organizer with the Task Force for Public Safety who has been working with families of victims of APD violence, the DOJ's inclusion of Mayor Richard J. Berry and police chief Gorden Eden in the negotiations for the consent decree, which will dictate how those recommendations will be implemented, is a "non-starter" for the community groups.

The systemic deficiencies identified by the DOJ are "all produced and reinforced through leadership," Correia told Common Dreams. "To say those people should be involved to us is 'no go.' We don't want them to be a part of it."

Further, Correia noted that the report did not go so far as to address some of the larger issues including laws around homelessness, access for people suffering from mental illness and access for veterans, which he says are also major contributors to the police violence in the city.

The Saturday evening protest will begin at 5 PM MST at Civic Plaza from where demonstrators will march to the APD. During another recent protest against the department, police assaulted demonstrators with tear gas.

Activists are calling for the removal of those officials, including Berry and Eden, who oversaw the frequent "execution" of citizens and for a federal monitor to be appointed. Correia said that they need to "interrupt the idea that this is somehow resolved," now that the DOJ has released their report.

"Our fear is that people will now think that the sheriff has come down in his white hat and we can all sit back and relax," Correia continued.

The Justice Department investigation, launched in November 2012, found:

APD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat and in situations where the conduct of the officers heightens the danger and contributes to the need to use force;

APD officers use less lethal force, including electronic controlled weapons, on people who are passively resisting, non-threatening, observably unable to comply with orders or pose only a minimal threat to the officers; and

Encounters between APD officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary.

The DOJ also cited "systemic deficiencies" which contribute to these patterns which include deficient policies, failed accountability, inadequate training and supervision, ineffective systems of investigation and adjudication, the absence of a culture of community policing and a lack of sufficient civilian oversight.

This leaked video taken from a police helmet camera depicts APD officers killing unarmed homeless man, James Boyd:

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