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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Despite DOJ report, hundreds rally for APD

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Four-year-old Arlynn McClaskey sits on the steps of Civic Plaza during an APD support rally on Saturday morning. More than a hundred people gathered in Civic Plaza to show their support for the police department.

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Albuquerque residents rallied at Civic Plaza Saturday afternoon to discuss the importance of the Albuquerque Police Department, to remember fallen officers and demonstrate their support for the APD.

About 200 veterans, business owners and other attendees met at 10 a.m. to praise and defend the officers. After an hour, the supporters marched downtown, chanting “APD” and shaking hands with officers. The march ended in front of the police department’s headquarters, and the crowd chanted for several minutes before dispersing around noon.

Attendee Michael Carrillo said he came out to support APD because he had family in the department, including his brother, John Arthur Carrillo, who was shot and killed in 1987 after responding to a call regarding domestic violence.

“When my son-in-law and my brother, who was killed, and my other brother, my uncle, my grandfather have put their lives on the line for people in service to them, I feel I have to support the rest of them as well,” he said.

Carrillo said he has ridden along with some APD officers, and he observes interactions the police have with city residents on a daily basis.

“I know that there is a good heart in every one of them trying to do the right thing for people,” he said.

The rally took place two days after the Department of Justice released the results of its civil investigation of APD, which concluded that the department’s officers frequently use excessive force. The DOJ report found that the APD used deadly force against people who demonstrated only minimal threat, used less lethal force on “people passively resisting,” and officers frequently used force on people with mental illness.

Despite the findings, supporters said they stood behind the department.

“We’re not saying the DOJ is saying anything wrong,” said David Giesche who attended the rally. “We have faith in the men and women of this department, that they can overcome their shortfalls and they can make this a better department and a better community for all of us. But I don’t think that they can do that without the public’s support.”

Giesche said the department would have to make changes in order to curb what he says is an excessive use of force.

“They’re too quick to use excessive force, especially in instances of mental illness,” he said. “It’s just a matter of updating their policies and a matter of better training and just a little more modern law enforcement techniques that we haven’t seen practiced yet in APD.”

Carrillo said the report did not affect his decision to support the police. He said he has questions about the report, and he wants to read it before passing any judgment on it.

Robin Ulman, another rally attendee, said the DOJ report made her and her husband, Rob Ulman, come out to support the police.

“I don’t know that it’s accurate. I just know that the police department needs support, and when you hamstring the police department … you’ll be forced to make peace with the criminals,” she said. “I have no intention of making peace with the criminals.”

Rally attendees who spoke also said Mayor Richard Berry should have attended the rally to show his support for the police.

Rob Ulman said he can’t judge how Berry has handled the controversy surrounding the police department, but he felt the mayor could have been more supportive.

“Mayor Berry and Chief (Gorden) Eden are handling what they do of their own accord,” he said. “I cannot judge the way they’re doing things. I do know I feel as though Mayor Berry, when he had the opportunity to support the police department, came up short.”

Rob Ulman said APD is a necessary element of the city because it protects Albuquerque citizens.

“Without the APD, we would all be in a lot of trouble,” he said. “They’re the only element that stands between us and the bad guys.”