By Isabel Slator Spring 2013 Communications Intern
“Are you kidding?”
That was my friend’s response when I suggested he report his stolen property to the police. It’s nothing new that college students don’t like the police. Young people and law enforcement have a well-documented history of mistrust. But it soon became apparent that my friend doesn’t just mistrust the police, he is afraid of them. Unfortunately, APD’s track record gives him ample reason to be afraid.
APD has shot 24 men since 2010 and killed 17. This is a noticeably higher rate than cities of comparable sizes. What’s more, there have been numerous reports of abuse and unnecessary force on the part of police officers dating back years. In the case of local college student Shiya Anderson, police officers bludgeoned her in the head unnecessarily after she was arrested. Police brutality is a serious problem in Albuquerque due to the lack of adequate police training and oversight. This only serves to fracture the already delicate trust students place in the police department.
Recently, problems with APD have gotten so bad that the Justice Department stepped in. They have spent the last few months investigating “police culture,” and are interested in whether or not the force promotes routine violations of civil rights. Their investigation is still ongoing, but it is likely that they will recommend some significant changes.
Defenders of APD point to the city’s high rates of crime and criminal activity as signs that the APD is simply doing their job. It is important to remember that police officers have dangerous jobs. They risk their lives every day, and for that they deserve our respect. They are not, however, above the law. If police officers are abusing their power, there should be some mechanism for citizens to resolve the situation.
As a little kid growing up in Taos, I remember the Sherriff walking into the restaurant where my family was eating. I remember the way he greeted my father by name and ruffled my hair. But more than anything, I remember the feeling of safety that surrounded him. Nothing bad could ever happen while this man with the silver badge was around. This sense of trust was so important in my hometown, but in Albuquerque it is replaced by fear and resentment. Trust between the people of Albuquerque and police officers no longer exists, and rebuilding it is absolutely crucial to the health of our community.
Isabel Slator is the Spring 2013 Communications Intern and a Sophomore at the University of New Mexico.