New campaign targets changes to Albuquerque police

June 9, 2014 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Advocates continue to pressure Albuquerque police to quickly adopt reforms as the city negotiates a deal with the U.S. Justice Department over the officers’ use of force.

A number of New Mexico organizations launched a campaign Monday aimed at advocating for changes in the Albuquerque Police Department, on the same day activists planned to protest outside a scheduled City Council meeting.

The city is working with the Justice Department after the federal agency issued a report criticizing the police department’s use of force. Forty police shootings since [auth] 2010 have stirred outrage and a series of protests in the city. A possible agreement with the Justice Department might include an independent monitoring board and required changes to training.

A coalition of state groups, which includes churches and advocates for the homeless, said the “APD Forward” campaign will work to hold the Albuquerque police accountable for reform and help community members express their concerns.

“We can’t afford to squander this opportunity,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

The campaign plans on organizing community forums and advocates for appointing an independent team to monitor the Police Department.

Meanwhile, demonstrators arrested over staging a sit-in at the Albuquerque mayor’s office picketed outside a scheduled city council meeting on Monday. Protesters said they will rally as city councilors discuss pending police reforms and the Department of Justice plans to meet with community leaders over police issues.

Thirteen demonstrators were arrested last week after holding a sit-in inside Mayor Richard Berry’s office. It forced a council meeting to be rescheduled, which city officials said stalled important business.

Simonson said the new “APD Forward” campaign won’t organize its own act of civil disobedience like sit-ins. However, the state ACLU leader said that the coalition remains “in solidarity with other organizations and movements” that push police reforms.

Last week, religious leaders announced they were forming an association aimed at healing divisions in the city and pushing for police changes. They said they were inspired to organize because of the recent police shootings and the “dehumanizing tone” of the protests that followed.

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