ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A police oversight board established after a federal investigation into police brutality in New Mexico’s largest city heard ideas Thursday from mayoral candidates who vowed to comply with court-ordered reforms and replace Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden.
Five of the eight hopefuls seeking to become Albuquerque’s next mayor took the board up on an offer to share their ideas, and all promised to give the board more resources amid pressures to revamp the city’s police department and fight rising crime. They also took shots at current Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry for not doing enough to address concerns over police use of force and adopting reforms.
A lengthy 2014 review by U.S. Department of Justice identified a “culture of aggression” within Albuquerque police. The report also faulted the department for using unreasonable force with the mentally ill.
A federal monitor charged with overseeing the reforms noted in his latest report that Albuquerque police still have “issues related to use of force in the areas of neck holds, distraction strikes, and ‘shows of force’.”The monitor also said the department still faced “serious supervisory and command-level failures relating to (Albuquerque police’s) willingness and ability to identify out-of-policy force events and to take appropriate remedial action.”
Candidate Brian Colón told the nine-member board his administration would come in “full compliance” with the Department of Justice reforms and promised to give the board full “subpoena powers” to investigate police misconduct.
Tim Keller, a candidate and the current state auditor, said he would immediately begin a national search for a new police chief and vowed to order a return to “community policing” in neighborhoods. “(This) is radically different than what is happening now,” he said
Candidate Dan Lewis, a current city councilor, echoed similar plans and said a leadership change was needed to address because of a “complete lack of trust” between police and residents.
The forum and upcoming election come after Albuquerque police and a federal monitor tried to adopt various reforms amid disagreements. The Trump administration also has signaled that it was changing how the Department of Justice investigates police departments.
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