Albuquerque’s new police chief commended officers for showing restraint and said he is about to unveil reforms that include changes to the embattled department’s recruiting process, just one day after a protest over police shootings devolved into violence.
Riot police launch tear gas toward activists in downtown Albuquerque, N.M. following a 10-hour protest around the city, Sunday, March 30, 2014.
Gorden Eden Jr. spoke to reporters after more than 300 people took to the streets Sunday, calling for him and other city officials to resign. The protest turned violent that evening, when people began hunting down officers, throwing rocks and bottles, and spitting on officers, he said.
The chief said officials decided to disperse the crowd with tear gas after a man pulled out an AK-47, others blocked traffic by lying down on Interstate 25 and unruly crowds trapped people and officers in cars. Protesters also started attacking each other, impeded emergency crews and blocked the entrance to a hospital.
There was only one minor injury, an officer who hurt his knee, Gorden Eden said. Four protesters were arrested during the 12-hour demonstration.
Sunday’s protest and another last week were in response to the 37 shootings Albuquerque police have been involved in since 2010, 23 of them fatal, including the recent case of a homeless camper killed after he appeared to be surrendering. By comparison, police in the similarly sized cities of Denver and Oakland have been involved in fatal and non-fatal shootings totaling 27 and 23, respectively.
The US Justice Department has been investigating the Albuquerque department for more than a year, looking into complaints of civil rights violations and allegations of excessive use of force.
Gorden Eden, who has been on the job for a month, says he is working on reforming the department’s recruiting process. He says a “new recruiting philosophy” will be announced by early next week. An independent review of the department’s shootings nearly two years ago cited issues with officers being unable to de-escalate situations. It called for better screening to find candidates with problem-solving skills.
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