More than 100 people submitted public comments with respect to the Albuquerque Police Department at an Albuquerque City Council meeting Monday evening.
Many of those who attended the meeting were there to protest what they consider to be excessive use of force by APD.
Some speakers told their personal stories about their encounters with the police department. One such was Tammy Redwine, sister of Alfred Redwine, who was shot dead on March 25 by APD officers.
“The last words I heard coming out of my brother’s mouth were ‘I’m afraid they’re going to shoot me,’” she said.
Tammy said the Council needs to respond to the APD shootings and called for officers involved in fatal shootings to be put on trial.
Alfred Redwine was shot to death after exiting his apartment building with a gun in hand. Police say Alfred fired at least one round at them before they fired, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But neighbors who allegedly witnessed the event said they saw Alfred holding the gun to his head. They said he never pointed it at the police, according to the article.
Other APD protesters at the meeting condemned what they called high rates of police brutality and urged the city council to fire officers they felt were failing the community.
Though many of the attendees protested APD, a few showed their support.
“I, my friends and family have been pulled over by APD, and guess what? We’re still alive, no injuries, no shootings, nothing,” said Steven Baca, who started the Facebook page “Citizens who stand with APD.”
Baca said insufficient criminal justice and mental health systems are instead to blame for James Boyd’s death and other shootings.
On March 16 Albuquerque Police Department officers shot and killed James Boyd, a homeless man who was caught illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills. In a video that was taken by an officer’s helmet camera, Boyd can be seen turning away from APD officers as they open fire.
Some of APD’s supporters were booed by the audience at the meeting. Councilor Diane Gibson urged the audience to show respect for one another.
“What I’d really hate to see is a polarization begin,” she said.
The meeting’s discussion also touched on other topics related to the shooting of Boyd, such as homelessness and mental illness.
“I noticed that police themselves create hostile situations with people with mental illness in general,” said Dinah Vargas, a UNM student who came to the meeting to speak on the topic.
Boyd was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and experienced delusions, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Vargas said lack of focused training among APD officers can lead encounters between police and people with mental health problems to escalate.
“We demand — I am demanding — that all police officers have in-depth, ongoing training, understanding and viewing of people who have mental health issues,” she said. “It is not only viable for our community, but it is necessary.”
Another hot topic at the meeting was Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry. When Council President Ken Sanchez announced that Berry was unable to attend, the audience booed and jeered. Several public commenters voiced their disappointment in the city’s leadership.
“We need (Berry) to fix this, and (he) never did and (he) never wanted to,” said Nora Anaya, who has participated in several APD protests in the past few weeks.
Sanchez said councilors will meet with Berry next week to discuss the APD.
In a press conference Wednesday, Berry said he sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging them to release the findings of their investigation into the APD’s use of force, according to an article by the Daily Lobo. The DOJ launched the investigation in November 2012.
The DOJ will announce the results of its investigation on Thursday, according to the Albuquerque Journal.