By DAVID CORREIA
Albuquerque police Sargent Jason Peck shot twenty-year old Dominick Solis-Mora in the chest Monday. According to APD, Solis-Mora allegedly pointed a gun at Peck during an undercover drug bust on Albuquerque’s Westside. Solis-Mora, in critical condition at an area hospital, is APD’s 25th shooting victim since 2010. Seventeen have died from their injuries, the highest rate of police shootings and fatalities of any U.S. city of equivalent size; a rate similar to New York, a city 14-times the population of Albuquerque with a police force 34-times larger than APD.
The shooting comes in the wake of recent efforts by the city to address the increasing criticism of the
department. Just weeks ago the department introduced Joe Wolf as its new APD Academy training director. Wolf, the former head trainer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, admitted at his introductory news conference that Chief Ray Schultz’s APD polices in a pattern that looks more like a military occupation than a public safety department.
“This is not an occupying army,” he said. “There’s a disconnect with the military model of law enforcement training. We’re trying to create individual thinkers, not group movement … That’s a tall order,” he admitted.
A tall order indeed. Wolf serves under Chief Shultz
Just weeks before Wolf’s appointment, Mayor Richard Berry nominated Robin Hammer as the City’s new Independent Review Officer. Hammer has an impeccable record and will surely do an admirable job.
But while the independent review officer is autonomous and charged with investigating citizen complaints against police officers, it can only recommend discipline to the police oversight commission. Even if the commission agrees, it can only forward its recommendations to Chief Shultz.
Another casualty of the recent pattern of fatal police shootings is any focus on endemic police brutality in the department. For obvious reasons, activists have focused their efforts on the problem of fatal police shootings. But killing people is not all that APD does. Its officers also harass people at a rate in excess of its fatal shootings.
Current statistics are hard to come by, but all signs suggest today’s APD is even worse than the APD of 2000-2003.
In 2001 APD’s Internal Affairs Unit investigated four citizen complaints a week. After one year and 52 complaints, its agents upheld only one complaint.
And as bad as 2001 was, it was an outlier. Between 2000 and 2003, Albuquerque residents filed 538 complaints against APD, 40% of which were filed by people of color. Nothing much came of those complaints either.
La Jicarita was recently contacted by one of APD’s victims. Jennifer (a pseudonym) asked that we keep her identity a secret. We agreed, but really the details of her arrest are so common as to hardly make her recognizable to APD.
An APD officer with a history of citizen complaints and at least one civil rights lawsuit filed against him, pulled Jennifer over late at night. “I’m teaching you a lesson,” he told her when she asked why he pulled her over.
When she disputed every fact he included in his arrest report, he claimed that his lapel camera and cruiser camera were inoperable.
She was handcuffed and hauled off to the metropolitan detention center where she spent 24 hours in lock-up. Internal Affairs gave her a good cop/bad cop routine when she called to complain in the days after her arrest.
The recent spate of fatal shootings by APD has drawn much-needed critical scrutiny to the department and its leaders. But instead of ending the police occupation of the city and firing Schultz and a leadership responsible for creating the most violent police department in the U.S., city leaders have chosen to create new layers of bureaucracy around Schultz so as to distribute authority in a pattern sure to obscure responsibility for the fatal shootings to come, not to mention the kind of everyday experiences of residents like Jennifer.