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Letter to the Editor: Police presence a nuisance now, dangerous later

I was reading my book by the Duck Pond on Thursday morning when I felt the ground start to shake. I was startled at first, and when I glanced up, there were two massive black horses walking two feet in front of me,  mounted by a pair of Albuquerque Police Officers. I wasn’t the only one there reading or trying to relax, and I said something.

“I’m trying to read here.”

“What? You can’t read?” the female officer asked.

Now, I have a Masters degree and I hadn’t had any coffee that morning, so this is what I really wanted to say: “Look, I’m glad you’re having fun playing cowboys, but some of us are here trying to learn. If you can read, read the room.”

Instead, since I have a healthy fear of armed people (“good” or otherwise), I just said, “Rude,” and the horses passed by. The officers posted up on a hill nearby. They were there for about 10 minutes talking and glancing back at me – a guy in the grass with a book – before they finally went around the Duck Pond and toward Smith Plaza.

Letting them know I was annoyed by their behavior certainly isn’t a crime, nor is being annoying a crime. But the way I was treated first as an obstacle to (barely) avoid, and second as a target of suspicion, isn’t what I was expecting when I came onto campus to read a book.

Why do we need mounted Albuquerque Police Department officers on a university campus that already has a police force? I understand that the rate of school (and other mass) shootings is outrageously high right now – a tragedy that is unfortunately all too common in America. I, like many others, feel uncomfortable going to places with crowds or loud noises, and one might think that some “good guys with guns” would be able to keep us safe. 

While more Univeristy of New Mexico Police Department officers have been hired, these officers routinely train with APD — a department that “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” according to a 2014 Department of Justice investigation.

For all of this “training,” UNMPD still has a notoriously slow response time (when they respond to calls at all), has helped to cover-up sexual assaults, shared racist videos and instead of something being done about safety, we have UNMPD driving cruisers through campus where students, teachers, staff, families, children, dogs and ducks are walking, studying, playing and trying to enjoy themselves safely.

UNM has a police problem. But UNM also has a long history of student resistance and protest with NMSP brutalizing student protestors just last year. Could this be why we have such a large police force for our relatively small student population.

Whatever the reason, if students continue to allow a useless and intimidating police presence on campus, how long will it be before our student fees are paying for the mace in our faces – the nightsticks in our ribs?

Victoriano Cárdenas

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