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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Department of Justice’s investigation of APD should not elicit contempt for all officers

opinion@dailylobo.com

The Albuquerque Police Department’s reputation is quickly biting the dust. Following an increase in APD officers wrongly shooting citizens, the Department of Justice began investigating APD. In Tuesday’s Daily Lobo, we published an article about a forum in which citizens spoke of their experience with APD (see “Feds host forums on APD”).

These accounts of families losing loved ones at the hands of police essentially paint a picture of slaughter-happy officers prowling the streets for their next victims. To some extent, I agree that police have become more like punishers than protectors. I have talked to several people who say they are nervous when police are around when they haven’t done anything that would warrant police interrogation.

It’s troubling that people involved in heavy drug use would often rather let a person die of an overdose than take them to the hospital, for fear of criminal prosecution. There are many problems the police can help with, but I don’t think drug use is a threat to anyone but the person using drugs. Drug-related crimes, such as theft and battery, are one thing, but punishing someone for drug possession or use can only make things worse.

There is a powerful documentary about the war on drugs called “The House I Live In.” I recommend the film to anybody who doubts the efficacy of police involvement in drug abuse. The producers interviewed everyone involved in the war on drugs, including judges, drug offenders and their families, police officers and border patrol. Although it was emotionally touching, the film made solid points. All the war has done is make people into criminals. It has not solved the underlying issue, and everyone interviewed supported this fact.

Just as criminalizing people with substance-abuse issues does not solve a drug problem, demonizing police officers does not address the real issue. The Daily Lobo article reports that the DOJ is focused on “the use of unreasonable force by police.” The district attorney may prosecute individual officers, but the DOJ is more interested in what has led to the trend of unjustified shootings.

I applaud this effort, as I would hate for police as a whole to be deemed criminals in the eyes of citizens. I have had more positive run-ins with the law than negative ones. I found myself walking alone in the valley one night, and just as a truck started to slow down next to me, a police officer pulled up. Not only did he scare off the truck, but he gave me a ride. I was pulled over on my scooter a couple of years ago for a broken taillight. The officer did not ticket me. He was concerned for my safety alone. “Do you want me to follow you to your house? I would just hate for a drunk driver to hit you because they can’t see you.”

I hope the DOJ investigation will result in an evolution in the mindset of everyone who carries a weapon, especially the people who are paid to protect the general population. They need to view us as valuable parts of society, not just problems, targets, money to be made or ways to fill a quota.