Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, far right, was present at the City Council meeting Monday, April 7, 2014, in Albuquerque, NM. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal, Roberto Rosales)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque city councilors walked out of a meeting Monday night that spun out of control when dozens of people chanted demands for the police chief to be fired and the mayor to be recalled for their handling of the embattled Police Department.
With the agency under intense scrutiny over its use of force, the council was going to discuss whether the police chief’s position should be one selected by the council or by voters. The meeting came two days after a fatal police shooting and weeks after a harsh U.S. Justice Department report faulting the department over excessive forces. Albuquerque police have shot nearly 40 people since 2010.
The meeting grew heated after about an hour as one man called for Police Chief Gorden Eden’s arrest. The crowd then began chanting for the chief’s ouster and Mayor Richard Berry’s recall as they flooded the front rows of the council chamber with their signs and banners.
Some protesters held an upside-down American flag during some of the testimony before the council, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
City Council President Ken Sanchez called for order, but the chaos continued. People in the crowd shouted back at Sanchez that it was the people’s meeting. He then declared the meeting adjourned and left with other councilors.
The Journal reported that some of the protesters then held their own meeting, taking over the council’s seats on the dais with some also shouting into the microphone at the podium.
There were chants of “Recall Mayor Berry” and “Fire Gorden Eden.”
Sanchez later said in a statement that he had to adjourn the meeting for safety concerns and plans to call a special City Council meeting on Thursday.
Police shootings in the city have led to a series of protests. In the most recent case, an Albuquerque officer shot a suspect on Saturday during a long SWAT standoff. Authorities said Armand Martin, 50, had come out of his home firing two handguns.
Police said at a news conference that Martin fired at least 11 shots from inside and outside his West Side home before a SWAT team member fired a single shot that struck his chest. Martin died at the scene.
Martin threatened his wife and two children with a gun around noon Saturday, Deputy Chief Eric Garcia had told reporters.
The proposals dealing with the police chief’s position were near the bottom of Monday’s agenda, but activists critical of the department showed up early.
Some told the councilors during the early portion of the public comment session that those officers who consistently use excessive force need to be fired. Demands that Eden resign drew cheers.
Others said the city’s response should not be a knee-jerk reaction but that the councilors needed to do more to confront the problems.