Albuquerque activists seek federal probe of police

Mar 27, 2012, 11:36 AM

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico activists have ramped up their call for a Justice Department probe into Albuquerque police after officers shot and killed two men last week, bringing the total of such shootings to 18 in just over two years.

They aren’t alone in demanding federal investigations into local authorities in the wake of recent high-profile police shootings.

Civil rights activists in several cities across the nation _ from Las Vegas to Omaha, Neb. _ also have called for U.S. Department of Justice intervention, saying local police are using excessive and deadly force far too often.

In Albuquerque, police have been involved in 23 shootings since January 2010, with 18 ending in fatalities. Critics say those numbers are far too high for a city of 550,000 and link the deaths to a practice of union payments to officers involved in such shootings, calling the union program a “bounty.”

The Albuquerque Police Department says the number of deadly shootings has been dropping since it instituted more than 40 recommendations from two outside consulting groups last year.

And the police union defends the payments, saying the checks for up to $500 help cover expenses for officers and their families “to find a place to have some privacy and time to decompress outside the Albuquerque area.”

Albuquerque police were involved in 14 shootings, nine fatal, in 2010. There were six police shootings last year, all fatal. And there have been three fatal police shootings so far this year.

By contrast, New York City police fatally shot eight people and injured 16 in 2010. The population of New York is about 8 million.

A DOJ spokeswoman said Monday that her office is conducting a preliminary review of the Albuquerque shootings, but no decision has been made regarding a formal investigation.

Mike Garcia, whose 22-year-old son, Alan, was shot and killed by Albuquerque police last year after authorities said he was acting erratically and firing a rifle, said he was hopeful that federal authorities would make an announcement soon.

“There has been so much publicity around Albuquerque, I think there is no way they can ignore it anymore,” he said.

Community leaders in San Bernardino, Calif., and Austin, Texas, also are asking for federal investigations into police practices.

Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the author of more than a dozen books on police oversight, said factors vary on what would prompt federal officials to launch an investigation.

“But that’s a lot of shootings for Albuquerque,” said Walker, who co-authored a 1997 report on Albuquerque police following a string of shootings.

Any Justice Department probe will center on the culture of the department and the level of supervision of officers, Walker said.

“A lot of times, it’s not about a case of rotten apples,” he said. “It’s a case of a rotten barrel.”

Walker said if Albuquerque community leaders should examine activist actions in Miami and Portland, Ore., that persuaded federal officials to start investigations last year.

Miami police shot and killed eight people in 16 months. And Portland officers fatally shot five people in 18 months. Both of the investigations are ongoing.

Albuquerque police last year instituted several changes, including college or military service requirements for all new cadets and automatic independent reviews for all officer-involved shootings.

Police Chief Ray Schultz credited the changes with a reduction in the number of police shootings. “As soon as we saw an upward trend in 2010, we responded,” Schultz said.

Schultz said his department’s police shooting review team looks at each incident to determine whether there also should be changes in policy, training or equipment.

“We never sit back and say, `that’s the cost of doing business,'” said Schultz. “We try to look at the root causes and address them.”

Schultz said it was unfair to compare cities on officer-involved shootings since each deals with different circumstances, economies and department reactions.

Still, Jewel Hall, an Albuquerque civil rights leader, said activists are planning to increase pressure on elected officials. Activists plan to speak out at the next Albuquerque City Council meeting and a group is organizing a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with DOJ officials.

A civil Justice Department probe could result in federal officials suing to force a department to reform various policies and police behavior, Walker said. It could also result in new leadership, he added.

A criminal DOJ investigation could result in charges against officers for civil rights violations.

Kenneth Ellis Jr., whose 25-year-old son Kenneth Ellis III was shot and killed by police in 2010, said the federal probes in Miami and Portland tell him that Albuquerque is “long overdue” for an investigation by federal authorities.

“How can they not be here?” Ellis said. “We’ve had so many more incidents.”


Follow Russell Contreras on twitter at

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
1 day ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
1 day ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
1 day ago
FILE - An employee works in the battery assembly hall at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., ...
Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — […]
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)...
Associated Press

Pope Francis discusses his health, critics and future of papacy

In his first interview since the death of retired Pope Benedict XVI, Francis tells The Associated Press he plans to continue for as long as he can as bishop of Rome
2 days ago
Eric Sham visits a makeshift memorial on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 for those killed in a mass shoot...
Associated Press

US Secret Service releases report on mass attacks

A new report on mass attacks calls for communities to intervene early when they see warning signs of violence.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Albuquerque activists seek federal probe of police