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Monday, December 22, 2014

Protesters encouraged by recent DOJ release

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By Ardee Napolitano / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Los Lunas resident Carrie White, center, momentarily sheds her Guy Fawkes mask while taping a protest poster to the doors of the District Attorney’s office Saturday afternoon. About 100 people attended the protest against the Albuquerque Police Department that day to encourage the Department of Justice, which concluded its investigation of APD on Thursday, to take more concrete steps to reform the police department.

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As the Department of Justice last week agreed that the Albuquerque Police Department exercises excessive force, protests against police raged on. About 100 people rallied in front of City Hall on Saturday afternoon to continue to peacefully protest APD’s excessive use of force.

Danny Hernandez, one of the organizers of the protest, said various organizations planned the event last week in response to the DOJ’s investigation. He said they plan to make sure that the DOJ would fix the police department.

“We need to keep the momentum going,” he said. “The Department of Justice report vindicates what we have been saying all along, but it also doesn’t have many next steps yet. Right now, they’re in negotiation with the city, and we don’t really have any say on what’s going to go on. So, it’s good to keep the pressure on.”

In a press conference on Thursday, the DOJ stated that there is “reasonable cause to believe that the Albuquerque Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Hernandez, who manages the Facebook page “Albuquerque P D in Crisis,” said that with the release of the results, the city government would be forced to rectify APD’s wrongs.

“I think the pattern was there, but APD and the Berry administration have been denying it all along,” he said. “Now they have to accept the fact that it’s true, and now they have to come up with a solution.”

Hernandez said he expects more civilian voices to be included in the DOJ’s reform negotiations with APD in the coming months. He said he also urges APD to implement mandatory lapel cameras to ensure officers’ accountability.

In the protest, attendees marched to the District Attorney’s office from Civic Plaza carrying signs, and they taped the posters on the building’s doors. They then continued to march around downtown.

Kenneth Ellis II, whose son was shot dead by an APD officer, attended the protest. He said that although he was glad that the DOJ confirmed the public’s suspicions about APD, he still pushes for the indictments of the officers involved in fatal shootings.

“I’m satisfied that they are going to do the right thing and help our police department to get it right,” he said. “I’m still determined to pass some indictments because, as the DOJ report said, the majority of over 30 killings are unjustified and unconstitutional… We need to jail killer cops.”

According to the Albuquerque Journal, an APD officer killed Kenneth Ellis III by shooting him in the neck in January 2010 as Ellis III pointed a gun to his own head.

Ellis, who has moved to Albuquerque from Arizona since his son’s killing, said he feels optimistic that the DOJ investigation will lead to the transformation of APD.

“It’s proven in the court of law that my son’s constitutional rights were violated,” he said. “Nevertheless, they still haven’t gotten a consent decree and I still haven’t seen the structure and the parameters of this consent decree. I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to be enough to get it right.”

Matthe Barceleau, a member of the UNM School of Law’s National Lawyers Guild who attended the event, said he expects city officials, including Mayor Richard Berry and APD Chief Gorden Eden, to take accountability of the shootings and step down.

But most importantly, people should keep voicing their opinions, Barceleau said.

“I expect people not to forget about it,” he said. “I expect people not to have that amnesia that comes. I expect that every time APD makes an action now, people are going to react to it. People are going to want to know, and that should be up for public review.”