Findings | TARGETED Prejudice and Racial Bias in the Albuquerque Police Department

Finding Iraq 



ABQJustice | March 2015


ABQJustice formed in 2014 as a community -based group of activists and residents concerned with poverty, inequality and police brutality in Albuquerque. ABQJustice has worked in coalition with social justice and civil rights organizations

to confront violence, racism and injustice in Albuquerque. ABQJustice launched an investigation into racial bias and forms of prejudice in the Albuquerque Police Department in September of 2014. This report presents the findings of that investigation.

Why an ABQJustice Investigation?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of use-of-force prolems at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) concluded that APD  engages in a pattern and practice of unjustified use of excessive force, including deadly force. After months of negotiation, the City of Albuquerque and DOJ entered into a consent decree, which outlines how APD reform will happen.

ABQJustice, along with social justice and civil rights organizations in Albuquerque, note the DOJ’s failure to investigate racial bias and prejudice at APD. This failure has produced an agreement that does not provide solutions for racially motivated use of force issues at APD. Based on these concerns, ABQJustice:

  1. Launched its own investigation of police violence by conducting field interviews in locations around Albuquerque from September 2014 to February 2015.
  2. Convened a People’s Tribunal on Police Brutality on March 14, 2015 to publicly present and consider the results of the field investigation, and to release a report of its findings.


This is the first study to systematically acquire data by and about the people routinely victimized by APD, demonstrating that unconstitutional policing and unjustified use-of-force at APD is not only routine, but significantly underreported. The street interviews, conducted by teams of ABQJustice investigators, confirmed that:

  1. APD systematically engages in racially motivated forms of policing targeting people of color, particularly Native Americans.
  2. APD engages in violence against women, including sexual violence.
  3. APD specifically and routinely engages in harassment of homeless people.


The ABQJustice investigation shows that the police oversight agencies, in place from 1997 to the present, have failed to resolve the systemic problems at APD. ABQJustice believes this is because the authority of these agencies is limited to an advisory capacity.

The solutions outlined in this report call for:

  1. An independent agency with the authority to discipline officers and make policy changes.
  2. Routine extensive outreach to collect complaints against APD.
  3. The acceptance of anonymous complaints against APD.
  4. The decriminalization of homelessness.
  5. Police officers who use unjustified force must be held criminally accountable.
  6. The publishing of all officer shift rosters at the end of each week, and the immediate online posting of all lapel camera video.
  7. The recruitment of officer candidates who hold degrees, or have experience, in, social work or allied fields.
  8. Limiting promotion to officers who have experience in, or show an inclination for, community-based policing.

Since January of 2010, the Albuquerque Police Department has killed 28 people in 42 officer-involved shootings, “a per-capita kill rate nearly double that of the Chicago police and eight times that of the NYPD.”1

Beginning in 2010, a coalition of social justice organizations in Albuquerque, which included the ANSWER Coalition, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Martin Luther

King Jr. Memorial Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and many others, combined with family members of many of the victims of officer-involved shootings in Albuquerque, including the families of Ken Ellis III, Len Fuentes, Alan Gomez and Christopher Torres, all killed by APD officers since 2010, and demanded a federal investigation of police violence in Albuquerque.

In November of 2012, against the objections of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, the United States Department of Justice announced that the Special Litigation Section of its Civil Rights Division would launch an investigation of “allegations that APD officers engage in use of excessive force, including use of unreasonable deadly force, in their encounters with civilians.”

That report, released on April 10, 2014, concluded that the Albuquerque Police Department engages in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing and routinely uses unjustified lethal and non-lethal force.2

While the report confirmed many of the criticisms made by family members and social justice and civil rights organizations in Albuquerque, it stopped short of conducting a comprehensive analysis of the problem. The report limited its examination of police violence to the years 2009– 2011, largely ignoring a much longer pattern of unjustified use of force by APD. In addition, the report failed to consider patterns of racial bias, or other forms of prejudice, in the patterns of unconstitutional policing by APD.

The problem of police violence, and the pattern of official disinterest in resolving the problem, has a much longer history than described by the DOJ. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, community organizations, such as the Black Berets, confronted a pattern of racially motivated police violence directed at Chicano youth. This pattern continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Between 1987 and 1991, APD officers killed 15 people, a number that exceeded fatal shootings over the same period in Tucson, Austin, El Paso, Colorado Springs and Tulsa combined.

Between 1992 and 1996, APD killed 16 people. In 1996 the Albuquerque City Council commissioned a study to examine the problem.[1] The subsequent Walker-Luna report found no other police department in the United States of comparable size that killed as many people as the Albuquerque Police Department.

One of the co-authors of the 1997 report, Samuel Walker, an internationally recognized expert in police accountability and the author of a number of foundational textbooks on policing, told a reporter from The New Yorker, “When we gave an oral presentation to the city council [in 1997], I had a very strong impression that many city-council members were not interested.” In a February 2015 New Yorker article on police violence in Albuquerque, reporter Rachel Aviv wrote, “[Walker] described his conversation with Martin Chávez, the mayor, as one of the most hostile interviews he’s ever conducted. He said that the police chief would not look him in the eyes when he briefed him. One city- council member refused to meet with him or return his calls.”[2]

Among the recommendations in the 1997 report were suggestions to create a Police Oversight Commission (POC) and the office of an Independent Review Officer (IRO). The city council adopted these and other recommendations. Despite these reforms, APD officers killed 23 people in the six years that followed, a number that marked an increase to the rate at which Albuquerque police officers killed people.

In 2004, Jay Rowland, the city’s Independent Review Officer, asked APD to release data on the number of times officers used force in the line of duty. The resulting report, the third since the late-1980s, revealed that officers used force 551 times in 2004. They tackled somebody to the ground nearly 200 times; they used mace or pepper spray nearly 150 times; they Tasered 85 suspects; they punched or kicked 63 people; they delivered 22 baton blows; they sicced dogs on 12 suspects; they killed three people.

Since 1987, the police department has shot at least 146 people.[3] Officers of the Albuquerque police department committed more than 20% of the homicides committed in the City of Albuquerque during 2014.


  • Nick Pinto, “When Cops Break Bad: Inside a Police Force Gone Wild,” Rolling Stone, January 29, 2015. http:// 20150129#ixzz-


  • Findings Letter, Department of Justice, April 2014. nm/legacy/2015/01/20/140410%20DOJ-APD%20Findings%20



ABQJustice formed in 2014 as a community-based group of activists and residents concerned with poverty, inequality and police brutality in Albuquerque. ABQJustice has worked in coalition with social justice and civil rights organizations to confront violence, racism and injustice in Albuquerque.

This report by ABQJustice on racial bias and prejudice at APD comes nearly a year after the Department of Justice released its findings of a seventeen-month investigation it conducted of the Albuquerque Police Department. That investigation became the basis for confidential negotiations between the Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque conducted during the last six months of 2014. Those negotiations culminated in a proposed consent decree released in November 2014.

In January 2015, a number of local civil rights and social justice organizations argued in briefs filed in federal court that the Department of Justice investigation ignored questions of racial bias and prejudice at APD, and therefore the court-ordered consent decree between the Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque has failed to adequately address racial bias and prejudice in the use of unjustified force used by APD.

In an amicus brief filed in federal district court, an attorney representing “people with mental or development disabilities” argued that the “proposed agreement… in its current form, is not fair to people with mental or developmental disabilities… The agreement does not contain remedial measures that will halt [APD’s] pattern of unnecessarily using force, and using excessive levels of force, against people with mental or developmental disabilities, especially people who are homeless and/or are Native American.”6

A coalition of civil rights organizations also filed a brief, which argued that, “The City of Albuquerque has never acknowledged the serious, longstanding constitutional problems with its police force. Tacit or overt approval of APD’s unconstitutional conduct within the police department and by city administrations past and present have continued despite over twenty years of civil rights litigation and attempts by community organizations to bring these endemic problems to the attention of the City.” The brief noted that, “it is not only the mentally ill who have suffered disproportionately from APD violence, but the


homeless and Native Americans as well.” 7

Attorneys who represent various civil rights groups identified many shortcomings with the solutions identified by the DOJ to the problem of police violence in Albuquerque. Those shortcomings are largely the result of an incomplete investigation of APD violence by DOJ. The lack of concern for racial bias and prejudice at APD during the DOJ investigation has produced an agreement that will not resolve racially motivated use of force issues at APD. “Only focusing on law enforcement solutions is like putting a band aid on a wound that needs major surgery.” 8

Based on these and similar concerns, ABQJustice launched its own investigation of police violence in Albuquerque in September of 2014. This report examines everyday police practices in the City of Albuquerque with a focus on the patterns and frequency of force used by police officers on homeless people and people of color.


  • S. v. City of Albuquerque, United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, Amicus Curiae Brief on Behalf of People Who Have Mental or Development Disabilities Who are Detained by the Albuquerque Police Department, Case 1:14-cv-1025 RB/SMV, document 55, filed 1/14/2015
  • S. v. City of Albuquerque, United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, Amicus Curiae Brief of APD Forward Regarding Court Approval of the Settlement Agreement Between the City of Albuquerque and the United States Department of Justice, Case 1:14-cv1025 RB/SMV, document 56, filed 1/14/2015 8 APDForward Amicus Brief



More than a dozen ABQJustice investigators spent six months conducing field interviews at four locations in Albuquerque: 1) the International District, particularly the Central Avenue corridor between Wyoming and San Mateo; 2) downtown Albuquerque, particularly the area surrounding the Alvarado Transportation Center; 3) The campus of the University of New Mexico; and 4) The Barelas neighborhood. These four locations were chosen in order to capture a representative diversity of responses and respondents, and because these four areas include many of the City’s facilities and services for homeless (Barelas, downtown), and services and resources for Native Americans (International District). Street interviews began in September of 2014 and were completed in February 2015.

Investigators conducted 41 interviews.[4] Thirty of the people interviewed were male, eleven were female, one of whom identified as a transgender woman. Twenty-one people were Native American; fourteen people were Hispanic; two were African-American; and four were White/Anglo. The interviews were transcribed in March 2015, at which time ABQJustice researchers analyzed interview responses for all respondents. Instead of relying on APD self-reported use-of-force data, as DOJ did, this study relies on street interviews with residents of Albuquerque.


_______________________________________ Our investigation confirms many of the conclusions of the investigation conducted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. We found that APD engages in unconstitutional policing, and the frequent, unjustified use of non-lethal force. The Department of Justice held a series of three community meetings during its investigation, but it did not engage in street outreach. Our street interviews provided a method to capture a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing that the DOJ missed. We find that APD targets people of color, particularly Native Americans. It systematically engages in racially motivated forms of policing. We find that APD targets homeless people and routinely violates their constitutional rights. These patterns of targeting frequently include the use of unjustified force. In addition, we find that APD engages in violence against women, including and most troubling, sexual violence. These findings confirm many of the claims leveled against APD by civil rights organizations in briefs in federal court discussed above.

Harassment of Homeless People

Our investigation reveals that the Albuquerque Police Department specifically and routinely engages in the harassment of homeless people. Those patterns of harassment regularly include the use of intimidation, threats and, frequently, unjustified non-lethal force.

A homeless Hispanic male in his 50s told investigators, “When a cop comes up to me I get scared. They always make an excuse. If I put my hand in my jacket to grab a cigarette butt, they say that I grabbed a gun.” He described constant harassment: “I can’t walk nowhere because they stop me. If I’m just walking down the street they can’t just stop me and say ‘I want to see your ID;’ they say ‘I got probable cause to search you.’” He described an incident when he ran from police. He was unarmed. “They caught me. They took my jacket and put it over my head, kicked me in the head, split my head open. I had probably 38 staples in my head. They shattered every rib on my left-hand side.”

A homeless White male in his 40s described harassment by APD officers that also included property destruction. When the interviewer asked whether local police had ever abused him, he explained, “Yeah, once the cops handcuffed me and made me watch them cut up my tent and sleeping bag with razor blades. They’re real bastards.” When the interviewer asked why APD did that, he

responded, “Because they can. Because I’m home-


Two homeless Native men and one homeless Native woman in their 40s described an APD attack on a friend, who is also homeless. According to all three, officers dragged their friend into an alley where he was beaten. The did it “because he’s homeless and Native. And they continue to do it.” explained the woman. The interviewer asked if APD harassed them. “Yeah, [the police] cut up our IDs and social security cards.” They described frequently receiving citations for loitering. “They come up and give us a ticket for loitering. We go to court but can’t pay and we end up getting a warrant. We go to jail and get out in the morning.” They described this as a pattern that happened frequently.

A homeless Native male and military veteran described being beaten by APD officers who stopped him while he was walking down the street. They asked for an ID. “When I reached for it they slammed me to the ground.” The attack knocked out a tooth.

A homeless Hispanic man described waiting for a bus at the Alvarado Transit Center when an officer approached him and threw him to the ground. The man landed on his face.  The officer handcuffed while he lay on the ground bleeding.  He was arrested for criminal trespass. He explained to ABQJustice investigators, “APD stereotypes homeless people.”

APD officers charged a White male for panhandling at the Family Dollar. He told ABQJustice investigators that a police officer handcuffed him and then hit him in the face. “And now I’m going to get a $500 fine for something I didn’t do.”

A group of homeless Hispanic men and women described a pattern of police harassment to investigators: Officers confiscate the signs they use to ask motorists for help. Two of the group said that police often arrest homeless people who carry backpacks. They denied claims by city officials that some homeless refuse services. “Joy Junction is filled with bedbugs. I would give anything to have a pillow to put my head on. A bed.”

ABQJustice investigators spoke with former Albuquerque police officer Sam Costales about police treatment of homeless people. He confirmed the aggressive tactics described by victims in this report. During Costales’s first year on the force, he took a call of a homeless man sleeping in front of a business in downtown Albuquerque. As they approached the man, Costales reported that his partner said, “‘Let me show you how it’s done,’ Then he put his foot over the homeless person’s ankle and he held his nightstick like you would a golf club and he swung it as hard as he could and he hit this homeless person in the bottom of his foot. Needless to say this homeless person stood straight up in sheer pain and then he said, ‘that’s the way you wake up the homeless.’”

Every homeless person ABQJustice investigators interviewed reported physical violence by APD.

Sexual Violence

According to a recent report in Newsweek, “sexual misconduct is the second greatest of all civilian complaints nationwide against police officers, at 9.3 percent in 2010… 354 of the 618 officers under investigation for sexual offenses were accused of engaging in nonconsensual sexual acts, and just over half of the 354 cases involved minors.”10

A recent national study on police sexual misconduct by Bowling Green University found that police officers were arrested for committing crimes 548 times between 2005-2007. More than 16% of those arrests included charges for sex-related crimes.11

According to a report in the magazine Truthout, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) “encounters cases of police-perpetrated sexual violence more often than one might expect, with its anonymous hotline receiving calls from survivors of police sexual violence several times every month.”12

ABQJustice investigators spoke in January 2015 to a Hispanic woman and former prostitute in her 40s. She described a violent 2008 encounter with an APD officer. She was stopped by a police officer. He told her a warrant was out for her arrest, but he wouldn’t arrest her if she helped him procure drugs. She refused, telling ABQJustice investigators “why would I admit to knowing where to score crack.” The officer handcuffed the woman and placed her in his squad car and drove to an empty parking lot. It was dusk. He removed the handcuffs, placed the woman in the front seat of the police cruiser and offered the woman a pint of vodka. He then asked again for drugs and she again refused. He then said that if she wanted to avoid jail, she would have to have sex with him. When she refused, he raped her.

Four days later, the woman reported the rape to two APD officers, who took her to the rape crisis center. She told ABQJustice investigators that she was too frightened at that time to give the name of the officer to investigators. They arrested her on a warrant violation.

Former APD officer Sam Costales found this story credible, telling ABQJustice investigators that he reported a case of an APD officer who demanded sex from women during traffic stops. “I went to Internal Affairs and I told them that this officer is pulling over women and he told them that if they gave him oral sex he’d let them go. I went to Internal Affairs and reported this cop. The detective said it’s her word against a cop’s. They didn’t do anything about it. This went on. They started receiving more and more complaints about this.”

Violence against Native Americans According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population, but comprise nearly two percent of the victims of police violence, a rate greater than any other racial group. And while police kill young black men more than any other group, they kill Native Americans at a higher rate. Much of this violence happens in New Mexico, the state with the highest rate of police killing in the United Sates in 2014.

Nearly every Native person interviewed described APD’s use of racial slurs, such as “dirty Indian.” They described encounters that began with APD officers telling them to “go back to the reservation.” One Native man reported: “I was walking on the street and [a cop] was following me. I’d go down the alley and he’d follow me. ‘Why don’t you go back to the rez. You’re not welcome here in Albuquerque,’ he told me.”

A homeless Jicarilla Apache man pointed to the ground. “This is ours, our land,” he said. “And the cops they’ll say things like ‘Why do you want to bring the reservation our way?’” ABQJustice investigators asked how often harassment is also violent. “It’s usually,” he said. He showed wrists covered in scabbed-over wounds he said were from handcuffs. He pulled off his sunglasses. One eye was red and swollen. “They maced me in this eye. They walked up to me from behind and maced me like this,” he said, as he put his hand inches from the interviewer’s eyes to show how it was done. “How common is this? Does this happen to everyone?” “Yes,” he said. “They handcuff you and then they beat you and then they take you to the hospital and say something like ‘we found him this way.’”

A young Native women was reluctant to talk to investigators but finally described an incident that happened in the fall of 2014. “This cop just drove up on me, got out and slammed my head into the pavement. Then he just got in his car and drove away.” She was walking with a friend who described a constant pattern of harassment. “We’ll be waiting at the bus stop and cops will pull up and tell us to keep moving or they’ll arrest us for loitering.”

A Navajo man in his 30s and a community-college student at CNM described constant harassment. “I go to school, CNM, I’m not in trouble or anything, you know? But they hassle me. Called the gang unit and everything. They had me on my knees, my hands behind my back and everything.”

A Native woman described a practice other respondents described also: APD officers arrest Native people in one part of town, take them to another part of town, and then release them. She said APD officers arrested her friend, drove her over to Nine Mile Hill and then left her there.

Investigators spoke to a Native man, just blocks from the Albuquerque Indian Center. “You know I’m an alcoholic and I drink on the streets, and [the police] picked me up and they brought me all the way down to the Bio Park and they beat me up, while I was in handcuffs, and then they unhandcuffed me and let me go.”

A homeless Native man reported being arrested for littering after he threw away his cigarette when officers told him to stop smoking.

Two Native men in their 20s reported being harassed by a police officer who claimed to be a military veteran. “He tries to represent Marines. He’s all Oo-Rah. He says he was there, he done it. And he’s like to us, ‘How come you don’t go and fight our war?’ And we told him, ‘Why are you living in our world? This is our land.’ Then he just started checking IDs. He mostly harasses drunk people who can’t ID him.”

Another Native man reported being beaten in November of 2014. “I was walking. The officers dragged me on the ground and I hit myself on the sidewalk on my shoulder. I can’t tell you who the officers are. I was just walking. They threw handcuffs on. I don’t know what for.”

Findings Conclusion

The interviews conducted during the course of this investigation show a pattern of unconstitutional policing at APD. This investigation confirms many of the conclusions of previous investigations of use-of-force at APD, including the 1996 Walker-Luna report, the 2011 PERF study13 and the 2014 DOJ investigation. Each of those studies concluded that APD routinely engages in the unjustified use of force. All of those investigations relied almost entirely on use-offorce data provided to investigators by APD. None of those studies employed a methodology that included street outreach and interviews of the identified groups most frequently victims of unjustified use-of-force by APD. Instead those investigations limited interviews to APD officers and official APD reports. While that approach provided important information, it missed unreported or underreported use- of-force incidents and data by Albuquerque police officers. This is the first study to systematically acquire data by and about the people routinely victimized by the Albuquerque police department. And this investigation shows that the unjustified use-of- force at APD is not only routine, but significantly underreported. The solutions offered below are designed to address the problem of unjustified use-of-force by focusing very specifically on ways to interrupt APD’s ability to underreport officer misconduct.


  • Paula Mejia, “Why Cops Get Away With Rape,” Newsweek, July 9, 2014
  • Stinson, et al., “Police sexual misconduct: A national scale study of arrested officers,” BGSU Criminal Justice Faculty Publications, paper 30, 2014. http://scholarworks.
  • Candice Bernd, “Police Departments Ignore Rampant

Sexual Assault by Officers,” Truthout, July 2014, 2014 officers#

  • PERF, “Review of Use of Force in the Albuquer-que Police Department,” June 23, 2011. https:// attachments/original/1406915102/PERF_Rep ort_(2011). pdf?1406915102

This section describes changes in police policies and practices we believe are immediately necessary to address the problems described in this report. We use the word “expectations” in order to make clear that what we describe below is not intended as a comprehensive solution to the problem. The increasingly militarized and racialized policing of poor communities will not end overnight. Rather the expectations we describe here are intended to contribute to creating the conditions necessary for community-based policing.

In the words of scholar Robin D.G. Kelley, community-based policing “requires radically new modes of training. Employees and volunteers would have to attend intensive workshops on race, gender, sexuality, domestic abuse, rape, violence, and inequality, among other things, and the institutions of public safety would have to reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of the communities they serve and to maintain an equal gender balance in all areas of work. They would be required to reside in the neighborhood in which they work and to conduct a thorough study of that neighborhood in all of its historical, social, economic, and psychological dimensions—a little like writing an honors thesis before graduating from the ‘academy of public safety.’”14


In September of 2014, the Albuquerque City Council abolished the Police Oversight Commission (POC), which it had created in 1997; it replaced it with a Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA). Unlike the POC, the new agency will receive independent legal advice, can exercise subpoena powers, and will maintain a budget independent of City administrators. But, as with the POC, the new agency’s authority is limited to an advisory capacity. It does not have the authority to discipline officers or to force changes to police policies or practices. Our investigation shows that advisory oversight has failed. Twenty-eight years of advisory oversight has failed to resolve the systemic problems at APD.

EXPECTATION #1 The Mayor of Albuquerque must submit the Albuquerque Police to meaningful community oversight. This should take the form of an independent agency charged with investigating complaints against Albuquerque police officers, and evaluating police policies and practices. And this agency must have the authority to discipline officers and make policy changes.

EXPECTATION #2 The new Civilian Police Oversight Agency should hire a team of field investigators to engage in extensive street outreach. Few of the people interviewed for this investigation filed complaints against APD; many were unaware there was such a procedure; some didn’t trust the process, others were too frightened to file a report. Extensive street outreach—collecting complaints rather than passively waiting for them to be made—would provide data that could be compared against official APD use-of- force reports in order to find inconsistencies worth further investigation, and to resolve the problem of use-of-force underreporting by APD.

EXPECTATION #3 Anonymous complaints

against APD should be allowed. Currently they are not, because of the perceived due process problems they could pose for individual officers and the City. While it is impossible to adjudicate anonymous complaints, anonymous complaints would provide important information regarding patterns of police misconduct. This is invaluable information for the Police Oversight Board regarding police policies and procedures.

EXPECTATION #4 Our investigation demon-

strates that homelessness is a social and political problem, not a criminal justice issue. The City of Albuquerque should decriminalize homelessness. This should begin by relieving the Albuquerque Police Department of its responsibility to police homeless people. The City of Albuquerque should expand efforts to provide social services further develop coordinated social service programs and provisions for homeless people in Albuquerque.

EXPECTATION #5 While homelessness is not

a criminal justice issue, police brutality is. Police officers who use unjustified force must be held criminally accountable. The City of Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico have refused to hold officers accountable. The federal government must step in and remove prosecutorial authority regarding officer-involved shootings from District Attorneys and place that authority in the hands of special independent prosecutors.


The Albuquerque Police Department is among the least transparent agencies of government in the state of New Mexico. It routinely violates the Inspection of Public Records Act statute by refusing to release pubic information. It recently has refused to make officer lapel camera videos available to the family of Armand Martin, who was killed by APD SWAT officers in June of 2014. None of the violent encounters reported to ABQJustice investigators by interview subjects were captured on lapel camera videos or officially reported by officers as required by police policy. Officers who engage in misconduct do not report themselves. But the policy changes described in the consent decree rely on self-reporting to resolve the problem of officer misconduct. The DOJ requires that APD officers capture all encounters with individuals on lapel camera. But the ABQJustice investigation shows that self-reporting of misconduct by officers who engage in misconduct will not work. The harassment of homeless people by APD and the racially motived violence committed by its officers described in this report is possible only because so much of their work occurs outside of the view of the public.

EXPECTATION #6 The Albuquerque Police

should publish all officer shift rosters at the end of each week and make all lapel camera video from those shifts available online immediately. The refusal to make police lapel camera videos quickly and widely available is a transparency issue, not a technological issue. First-responder technology with the ability to capture, and even livestream video from on-duty police officers, is available and already in use elsewhere.15

Training and Recruiting

The consent decree between the City of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice identifies new and extensive improvements to crisis intervention training for APD officers. The patterns and practices of unjustified use-of-force revealed by this investigation, however, shows that it is not a lack of training that explains unconstitutional policing, but rather a systemic pattern of racial bias and prejudice. Therefore, training alone will not resolve the problems described in this and other reports.

EXPECTATION #7 The Albuquerque Police Department should prioritize the recruitment of candidates who hold degrees in social work and allied social service fields or who possess professional experience as social workers. In addition, the department should provide tuition reimbursement and financial incentives for existing officers to pursue degrees in social work, ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies or peace studies.

Leadership & Administration

The Albuquerque Police Department continues to promote officers with troubling histories of the use of unjustified force. It continues to hire and promote officers who lack experience in, or an inclination for, community-based policing.

EXPECTATION #8 The Albuquerque Police Department limit promotion to candidates with expertise in crisis intervention, who have advanced degrees in social service or allied disciplines, and/or who come to APD from departments nationally recognized as a leader in community-based policing.


  • Robin D.G. Kelley, “‘Slangin’ Rocks… Palestinian Style:’ Dispatches from the Occupied Zones of North America,” in Police Brutality: An Anthology, Jill Nelson ed., Norton, 2001, p. 51.
  • See Loraine Burger, “Firefighter creates live-streaming body cam with reliable storage solution,” v, October 28, 2014 Firefighter-creates-live-streaming-body-cam-with-reliable-storage-solution/

Statement of Father Francis Quintana

Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Community

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8, NRSV)

Please do not be offended because I’m using the words of the prophet contained in the Scriptures to shed light on the social, political and economic situation of our people. But I think this passage is apropos, given that it points to what is behind excessive and abusive force found to be endemic in the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ.) It is a call to justice, kindness, and humility. Qualities of peace officers and not agents of intimidation, oppressive conduct and fear mongering.

Community standards of morality, given the present situation, in order to restore civilian confidence and trust in the APD, police officers ought to be subject to intense oversight. But the community has been often overruled by police chiefs, elected officials, and police unions, as well as members of the public who assume officers won’t misbehave too badly.

After a 16-month investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department, the federal government reports that its officers routinely violated the Constitutional rights of residents, unjustly beating them, shocking them with tasers, and even shooting them dead. Twenty-one fatal shootings were reviewed. “Officers were not justified under federal law in using deadly force in the majority of those incidents,” the report states. “Albuquerque police officers shot and killed civilians who did not pose an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to the officers or others.” This is immoral, not merely a flawed procedural paradigm! It violates religious and human sensitivities! It is abhorrent and reprehensible by any faith tradition’s awareness! May I be so bold as to say that this is blatantly sinful behavior rooted in a disregard of human dignity, a sense of justice, a lack of grace and kind regard for the vulnerable, the ill or the disturbed. Power run amok with pride, cruelty, and disdain.

Albuquerque police needlessly extinguished someone’s life on several occasions. Anyone who observed the video of James “Abba” Boyd’s death do not find it hard to conclude this. One unarmed man was shot through the chest as he lay motionless on his back. No police officer has yet to been prosecuted for unlawful killing.

“Officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed,” the report states. “Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.”

The police department abused its power in non-lethal situations too.

“Albuquerque police officers often use unreasonable physical force without regard for the subject’s safety or the level of threat encountered,” the report concluded after reviewing more than 200 use of force incidents.

Victims were often mentally ill people. Regardless of the victim, supervisors looked the other way.

The use of excessive force by APD officers was not found to be isolated or sporadic. The pattern or practice of excessive force stems from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. But also, seemingly in a severe moral defect of culture and character of the APD. Reparation and reform calls for force incidents being properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures.

Superiors must not whitewash misconduct. That is dishonest.

It might be said that the situation in Albuquerque illustrates how thoroughly police officers can be corrupted by the power given them, absent proper oversight, sound policies, and a culture of reform. The officers in Albuquerque are potentially no worse by nature than officers in any other city. Yet we have seen all sorts of indefensible, and I’d argue immoral, behavior.

The militarization of the police adds yet another dimension to the whole culture of excessive force, intimidation and suppression. Its as if the display of military force to the citizenry is a preemptive move to subdue us. This too, is morally indefensible and antithetical to liberty and peace.

I would like to make a special appeal to the men and women of the APD:

Sisters and Brothers, you come from among our own people. You are killing your own brothers and sisters! Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, “You shall not kill.” No police officer is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God when use of non-lethal force or negotiation can resolve the situation and ensue peace. No one has to submit to an immoral culture. I call upon you, in the name of God, to recover your consciences and obey your consciences. Practice justice, do kindness, be humble and empathetic among those you have been called to serve and protect.

The church, the defender of the rights of God’s people, the teacher of the law of God, the promoter of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such immoral practice. May the government face the fact that reforms are needed that repentance is called for. In the name of God, in the name of the suffering people of color, the poor, the homeless, LGBTQ, women, the vulnerable, the mentally ill, whose cries rise to the ears of the Almighty more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I demand in the name of God: stop the injustice.

The church preaches your liberation,too. It is a liberation that has, above all else, respect for the dignity of the person, hope for humanity’s common good, and the transcendence that looks before all to God and only from God derives its hope and its strength.

[1] Samuel Walker and Eileen Luna, “A Report on the Oversight Mechanisms of the Albuquerque Police Department,” February 28, 1997. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx. Luna_Report.pdf?1406915128

[2] Rachel Aviv, “Your Son is Deceased: Shot by the Police in Albuquerque,” The New Yorker, February 2, 2015. http://

[3] See Rachel Aviv

[4] Forty-one represents the number of people who agreed to submit to an interview. Many more people refused to answer questions, many of whom identified a fear of reprisal as the reason for refusal.

One Response

  1. Michael Blackburn
    Michael Blackburn at |

    Albuquerque is one of the most violent cities in the U.S.
    I am almost 70, and have been attacked by criminals at least 3 times.
    Going after PD is such a counterproductive waste of time.

    Let’s go after the bad guys first.