Commentary: Much Anticipated Meeting with DOJ on APD Violence Goes Nowhere

By DAVID CORREIA

When officers of the Albuquerque police department killed James Boyd on Sunday March 16, they told the press that he was armed and dangerous and posed a real and present threat to responding officers. The Albuquerque Journal, as it does on every occasion of a police shooting death in Albuquerque, published those claims alongside an article chronicling Boyd’s violent, criminal history.

[Note: the Journal did this again this morning, March 27, 2012, as part of its reporting into the APD shooting death of Alfred Redwine].

But those claims were proved wrong when, later in the week, APD released video from the helmet camera of APD officer Dominique Perez. The video shows Perez and Keith Sandy shooting Boyd while he turns away from them, on their command, and moves toward the ground.

It is a grim kind of accounting we find ourselves doing in Albuquerque these days; the political economy of the body bag. In every editorial condemning police violence and at every press conference or rally: 23 killed by APD since 2010. It is more per-capita than any other city in the United States. And how dare we present it that way, as though it’s another statistic we use to compare our city to other cities, like the number of new housing starts or graduation rates or poverty rates (which, by the way, we lead in too). I have blood on my hands when I transform the problem into a statistic. These are not statistics or rates; they were young men and they were murdered. And now there are families of victims in mourning among us.

And there are murderers among us too. Twenty-three mostly young men, many homeless and many who suffered from mental illness, few of them armed, were shot and killed. They are gone and in their place walk their armed killers. No officers have been charged, ever, with the crime of murder and no officer has been fired.

These cops who kill people remain armed with assault weapons and grenade launchers and Tasers and they use them, not indiscriminately, but in targeted killings. Their targets are mostly troubled young men—men with mental illnesses who often have no access to health care of any kind. They kill the poor. They kill homeless men who arm themselves with small knives because sleeping alone on the streets can be dangerous. And when they kill these men the newspapers remind us that it was justified because the man had a knife.

And it is even more chilling to remember that ours is an arbitrary accounting. Those 23 victims join the three-dozen victims of APD violence from the 1990s, and the even more from the 1980s. Our outrage is as old as APD’s blood thirst.

But finally, after the release of the video of James Boyd’s assassination, the ground appears to have shifted beneath our feet. The facts on the ground are different today than they were two weeks ago. What two weeks ago was seen by many as rhetoric (killer cops) is today recognized as our collective reality. Our long standing claims that we live in a police state controlled by killer cops is point-of-fact not political provocation.

That the ground had shifted was made clear at the meeting this past Monday. Jewel Hall of the MLK Center convened families of APD victims and various community leaders and activists. At that meeting, one father of an APD victim condemned not only APD but all attendees of the meeting for thinking that it was still time for OP/EDs and requests to speak to the Mayor or Police Chief. “I’m ready to chain myself to APD right now,” he said. Another father of an APD victim agreed and quickly the entire group turned its attention to devising a strategy for non-violent direct action and civil disobedience.

The group decided to call itself the Albuquerque Task Force for Public Safety (a purposefully bland and non-threatening name that many of us suspected would give us cover as we planned our strategy of direct action).

Our first act of direct action was to charge Richard Berry, Chief Eden and Boyd’s killers, Sandy and Perez with murder. We issued warrants for their arrest. I offered to write those warrants and announce and deliver them to the Tuesday March  25th protest march. I did just that. In print and TV reports on the protest, the press mistakenly described these as “mock” arrest warrants and their distribution as guerilla theater. They were wrong.

If Berry, Eden, Perez and Sandy are not removed from their current positions and charged in state or federal court, members of the task force, with the help of Albuquerque Cop Block, will peacefully serve these warrants and place Mayor Richard Berry and Chief of Police Gordon Eden under arrest.

At that same Monday meeting of the task force, Jewel Hall told the members that she had requested and received a meeting with the DOJ for Wednesday, March 26. More than 30 of us packed a 10th floor meeting at the US Attorney’s office in Albuquerque. Only Luis Saucedo, DOJ civil rights division, met with us in person  (along with three FBI agents lurking at the fringe of the meeting). On teleconference from Washington, D.C. was Jonathan Smith, Chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Division, and two other DOJ staffers working on the DOJ investigation—an investigation now more than 18 months old.

Smith spoke first. He first thanked us for helping them “develop methods for accountability” at APD. He described his sadness “about what’s happened” over the past two weeks (this was the afternoon after the shooting death of Alfred Redwine). He described a “sense of promise that these efforts can be successful.” He reminded us all that he was “concerned about these shootings in the context of the overall, total investigation.” A comment clearly intended to indicate that for DOJ, the facts on the ground have not changed.

In a statement tone deaf to the more than 40 years of failed reform efforts regarding APD, he said that their efforts remained focused on “finding remedies and solutions [to APD violence] and ways to fix the problems.”  He quickly added that they had no interest in “looking at any individual act of misconduct.” It was an astounding set of statements. He was saying, in other words, that the DOJ would not find culpability in any individual. The DOJ would not deliver a report that could be used to build a case against any APD officer or Chief.

After some pleasantries, Jewel Hall turned the meeting over to the Vice President of the MLK Center, Andrew Lipman. At the beginning of the meeting I asked Lipman why the demands were described as demands to “Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque City Council” instead of how they were supposed to be presented: as demands to the DOJ. He told me that he had decided to make our demands recommendations to DOJ instead—to ask them to support our demands to APD. This unilateral decision contradicted the unanimous decision at the Monday planning meeting in which the group, led by families of APD victims, agreed that we should present these to DOJ as demands. They were not.

No pressure was placed on DOJ, no demands were made. We did not say that either they place APD in receivership or we will. The statements by families of the APD victims were moving and effective but the message they told us to deliver in our Monday planning meeting was buried in Wednesday’s DOJ meeting. It was a missed opportunity.

And it got worse. After the meeting the Albuquerque Journal interviewed Andrew Lipman, who was quoted as saying:

“The [DOJ] thought the rally [Tuesday night] was a good thing,” Lipman said. “It helped take some steam out of the community.”

It was a lousy metaphor and it didn’t come from DOJ. It was Lipman’s interpretation and it shouldn’t be yours. It is Berry and Eden who hope the march took steam out of the community. They hope that our outrage ebbs and any movement that included condemnation of their criminal role in the scores of APD deaths will go quietly away.

They must go, all of them, and then the hard work can begin, the work of decriminalizing poverty, homelessness and mental illness–the necessary conditions for real justice.

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3 comments

  1. After the Mary Han crime scene, in which it was pretty clear that the APD allowed as many people in as possible, to completely smash any possible evidence collection, and ruin any possibility of retribution, smug in their “Incompetence”, contrite in their “mistakes”…and completely certain that they would walk free and uninjured after being excused for their actions, this is no big surprise. We as a population, at some point, astounding as it is, gave over control of evidence gathering, evidence storing, dissemination of evidence….Hell, if you get pulled over and accused of having a tail light out, who gets to film evidence? Who gets the benefit of the doubt from courts and DAs, review boards and the public if they “Accidentally” forget to record the encounter? Who gets to hold on to that evidence until trial? Who gets excused if damning evidence disappears? I’ve interviewed a LOT of people affected by the incompetence and criminality of APD. The overwhelming constant is that the cops are never, never, never held accountable for a damn thing they say or do. Those above them, those whose job it is, ostensibly, to keep cops from overstepping their bounds, those whose responsibility it is to remove the “Bad apples”(ha!) have a proven, reproven, undeniable track record of according every courtesy to the police. It’s something the police have learned to count on, quite rightfully. Look at the Mary Han case, and you can see why. Think about Adam Casaus. Really think about it. How many outright lies were spoken and published about and for APD, until they were out of wiggle room and “had”(as if it is a bad thing someone made then do)to indict? Was anyone held responsible for even one of those lies? Shouldn’t that be a red flag big enough to, I dunno, cover the Pit, flapping around out there, that our precious APD is broken?! Look at all the lies already refutable from Gordo( a man who truly does not put his pants on one leg at a time, but oozes into the outfit, as he oozes into everything he does) on the Boyd shooting. He says beanbags and tasers were tried and did not work, his cops were attacked and “had” (as if there were no alternative and Mr. Boyd were raging, pounding down on them, wielding blades and howling, with all the volume from every voice of every tortured soul currently suffering through an eternity in a well-deserved, fire-enhanced Hell) to fire upon a homeless schizophrenic man. Obviously, the video shows something else, something far more disturbing, punctuated with a “Boo-Ya!”, just so you know these were terrified law enforcement professionals at the very edge of terror-heightened awareness and control. Anything? Any sign of an issue about these lies being lies, among the population, paying for(and paying for, when you think in terms of lawsuits(( and really paying for, when you think of all those guys who keep dying, holding spoons and whatnot, you know, representing “Real and present dangers”)) ) these people, allowing their monies to be recklessly awarded to these cops for jobs well fucked, in the form of paychecks that never seem to end(Ray Shultz), or how about that (asshole who fell all over his own testimony trying to sound even a little bit believable while working to get Levi Chavez let go of)? No. An endless stream of people defending them, because apparently, not one person may weigh in on the cops until they’ve walked that infamous, “mile in their shoes.” wait. what?! You mean I have to go get in uniform and wander around with these assholes while they run homeless people in to serve 90 full days for the crime of asking for a buck? While they shit on the public if the public waves and smiles at them, sure that it is somehow meant in the most insulting way possible, and they are simply missing the joke being played on them, and even madder for that? Why? Can’t I just know in my heart that a bunch of dudes with assault weaponry were in no danger from a guy turning away to lay down and preserve his life? Can’t I simply know that if a cop runs a red light and kills a beautiful young lady, destroying her family, tearing their peace to shreds and maiming the sister, that it is wrong to lie to protect your buddy? That the only human thing to do is charge him with the same gross negligence and manslaughter you would charge any of us with for the same deadly crime? That lying about it, trying to saddle the sister with that guilt forever, just so long as your newly guilty brother-in-arms doesn’t get demoted or thrown on desk duty, is not right, is indicative of a broken system, one with issues which bear immediate and thorough scrutiny, horror and redress? No? Why not? And what of people who’ve been lied about, coerced into pleading guilty to a lesser crime to placate the judges and the DA? Why are they suddenly”You got a criminal background, nothing you say is credible any longer!”? Wait, what?! So people with firsthand knowledge of criminal APD guys, those people are not ever to be listened to? Oh, Jesus. Okay,, but I think if you’re knee-jerking that way, you may be the victim of dogma and your own beleaguered wits. Walk a mile in their shoes, you say, never mind you walking a mile in the innocent guys shoes, that’s not possible, he is necessary unbelievable, he has a record, while the cops can lie and get caught, indisputably, over and over and over, and you still demand they be given the benefit of every doubtful situation. Walk a mile in their shoes. Fine. give us a minute. We’ll get together a bunch of (good, caring)people from the community, and we’ll get them in uniform and we’ll take over your patrols. do you know what will happen? The criminals will stop attacking APD uniforms. Because they’ll get that we aren’t abusing our positions, and that we’ll actually keep their family safe if we take them in for committing a crime, while they are paying for the crime. They won’t resent us, because so many of the “Repeat offenders” the current police force find and incarcerate aren’t guilty, aren’t doing anything, let alone anything wrong, when the cops cuff them and throw them away…..Criminals have ethics, you know, they take a risk and pay for getting caught, usually pretty quietly. Pretty damn strong ethics, if you compare them to politicians, DAs or judges, public figures, all of whom have the choice of doing a good job and getting pretty far in life, or doing a criminal job and going just a bit further, and who elect the path of most destruction, for a nominally more successful outcome. I’ve talked with criminals, I’ve talked with people who’ve plead out cases where the cops were full of shit, just looking for an easy bust, to get them out of circulation and out of harms way for a couple hours while they stock the jail, for whoever is making money on that little enterprise. I’ve talked to and seen paperwork on the homeless, many of whom are busily serving life sentences for panhandling, criminal trespass, and the like. The homeless remain untreated for mental issues. They are tossed into jail and do 90 days for jaywalking. They’re let out, and as soon as they’re recognized, they are picked up, a story is written, and they’re back in for another 90 days. Guys who don’t drink are mandated a trip through the Alcohol Treatment Program, as a condition for release. Why? $$ All of it, money. And I don’t know why the jail has so much pull, but you know how you see in the news how some incorrigible, some freak, some nightmare from Hell with only pain and suffering left to give unto the planet, that guy was somehow, mystically out and free when he raped a ninety year old lady, killed her dog and stole five bucks from her purse, and you exclaim, “Holy Shit! What was that animal even doing OUT to do this thing?!” …Yeah, the jail doesn’t want them either, so out they go…..The cops love the homeless. Docile, easy to manage, and three hours, no dangerous calls. And the jail thanks them for their hard work…perfect, right? The trouble for our politicians, you know, the ones so busy trying to say something, anything placating right about now: When you hire guys who you expect to lie, cheat and steal, connive and act in every illegal and awful way they can, to fill your jails and get good money in front of bad judges to steal(after they’re charged with 10 years worth of jailable offenses, counseled that the DA will go after them, HARD, if they dare fight them, so that “The next guy will think twice when he sees what they do to you!”, a TON of people in this town have plead out to crimes they did not commit, as a guarantee of freedom, paying a big old fine with a degree of relief, newly aware of the cops as a bad thing, and moving forward with a little extra caution, uncertain how to feel about what they read about the perfect cops, but somehow still willing to accept that either they must have actually done something wrong, or that they got a bad one, but the rest of the force is surely still good) The trouble for the politicians is that now that their rabid dogs are getting away from them, they have to support them all the way. Can you imagine if you threw one of these guys under the bus(Sergeant Adam Casaus), and that guy got smart enough to be mad and feel betrayed, and that guy were to let the world know they were tacitly okayed to be a criminal for the fun and profit of it, by his superiors?! Holy cow-farting-into-the-garbage-can-you’re-hiding-in, Batman! you’d be screwed if you were that politician, huh? Look to the jai. Look to the politicians. Talk to the people. This needs to stop. These people are terminally, masterfully fucked.

    • I absolutely agree with the commentary above. Every word is true. People are falsely arrested and indicted on falsified poice reports and actions, illegal searches of homes and cars without warrants (lying through documenting false events in official police reports), threatened by nuisance and abatement of losing your home based on false reports, misrepresenting intent and actions, etc. Although after long periods of time, the ‘truth’ may come out (months to years afterwards) when the prosecutor views the lapel video or a witness comes forward, and it’s verified the report was falsely written, there are no consequences for the officers. No apology from the DAs office (if you have a legitimate attorney). No expungement from the record of false arrest. The innocent will plea just to end the years of fighting the system, because the DA has no statute it seems to take cases to trial. Individuals spend every dime they have to fight, if they were so fortunate to have money, or those that can’t afford an attorney, must rely on a broken public defender program. Families of those killed by the police grieve. They are not money hungry as so many uninformed individuals claim, but have a right to take action against the police for the death of a loved one. They have the right and should do so. They are victims also.
      Regardless, the end result is: pleaing to a crime you didn’t commit, even if a lesser charge; losing every bit of savings to fight the corruption; speaking out and reporting to the DOJ, city, whoever will listen (no one) does not right the wrong or correct the damage to one’s life; people die, lose jobs, credibility, and their homes, possibly because the chief or mayor ordered an illegal search (without warrant); the list goes on. And I agree, the DOJ investigation will not correct the wrongs or harm to individuals. No one ‘individual’ will be held accountable. The abuses will continue. If citizen’s try to record to have a witness present, the police confiscate their phones. The media perpetuates the abuse of power by relating every police incident to prior arrests, convictions, mental illness, homelessness, drug use, whether factual or not. (I might add being homeless, mentally ill or drug addict/alcoholic is not a crime) Sadly, mainstream and the ignorant believe this justifies the rogue police action. We have lost our legal rights. A person is innocent until proven guilty. Any person in this city can be a law abiding citizen, who have sadly been arrested unjustified. And even a conviction doesn’t guarantee or prove guilt in Albuquerque. The citizens need to listen. The death of Boyd is just the tip; we saw it. The APD should release video of every police killing, and let the public see what really happened and decide for themselves, rather than base their views on what is reported). The public should demand it. All police video is public information. Not just the limited version, but the entire record of events. Secondly, if ever approached by the APD in any manner, ask if their lapel camera is on, request that it is on, take down officers names and tell them you are recording the event. Use your cell phone. Be protected. There are many honorable police officers, but there is also the mentality among others that view their jobs as human waste disposers. And they decide who is not a worthy citizen of our city. The problem is beyond APD, but includes the entire city government. The mayor and city council should have taken action before this crisis.

      • Protecting your job;
        Allow me to add,
        The mayor, the city council, the cops, the DAs office, our judges, these are all allowed to lie, getting caught does nothing. Our people can watch the Chief of police lie all over the place, but they simply let it slide once they get to what they feel is the truth, finally.WHY?!
        The mayor, well that guy and his people have done everything they can, it seems, to prove that among us, they deserve the worst reputations, the least credibility, deserve a recall and some good firings. No one seems to care beyond saying”Ha! You lied and we caught you! Now do something good!” What, wait, why….oh come on people!!!!
        The people standing up and demanding justice, it is very important to see……they are asking the people they have caught being corrupt, lying, doing real damage to us as a community, to come in to the fight and fix themselves, through actions that will harm themselves.
        Logic is a very important thing, here.
        There is nothing even approaching logic about asking the people you caught being corrupt to please go investigate themselves. Even less in allowing them to refer you to the OTHER guys you caught being corrupt to look into it for you.
        Recall the mayor. Do it. Don’t wait, don’t let them offer you alternatives, recall the man.
        Then install someone who really does want the big uphill fight it’s gonna be to clean politics, and all its’ satellites up in this city( the police, corrupt at the behest of the powers that be, the city council, who decry corruption, but whose buddies pay $13 a year for property taxes, and so lack credibility themselves, et cetera) and support them as they start jamming the corrupt officials in the jail(after you make room for them by letting the homeless go and getting them a meal)Perry comes to mind, and support the new people while they start hiring real, decent cops and we start firing the ones who get caught lying on the stand even once. Once. A cop who will lie once to enhance his career will never do “more good than harm” stealing even a day of someone elses’ life or costing them money they shouldn’t have had to pay should end that career, not result in a note in their file and desk duty for two shifts, can you see that people?!)
        Don’t bargain with your “Trusted Leaders”. Stop allowing them to backpedal as if it exonerates them, absolves them of responsibility for what they do. I cannot undo the crime I commit, neither can you. Why then, do we catch the mayor lying, and after he waggles his finger and says, “No fair catching me! You should be ashamed for being so uncooperative you dare call me on it!” Do you continually let him go on?!
        Come on, folks.
        A couple hundred lies should about end credibility, don’t you think? You do not, contrary to what the powers-that-be tell you, have to allow those people to continue running your city. In fact, as good Americans, your responsibility is to take them to task. It’s written all over in the constitution, we do not allow corruption, we reward honesty……..

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