Thursday, October 2, 2014

THE TRAGEDY OF ALBUQUERQUE

"Breaking Bad has given me a way to explain Albuquerque without saying a word. It’s a place where we struggle with drug epidemics, extreme drought, hunger, drunk driving, gun violence (New Mexico’s gun death rate is 40% higher than the national average), and a corrupt police force. Nearly 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the crime rate is 53% higher than the national average. Albuquerque is a city plagued by mediocrity — a drying river, a losing football team (the University of New Mexico Lobos), a dearth of ambition. But it also gets under your skin and into your blood, like a drug you won’t forget and can’t explain. It will always be my home, even if I am far away.” 

Trying to explain Albuquerque to those who never lived there, inevitably brings the conversation to the place portrayed in “Breaking Bad”. And inevitably I refer them to Madeline Carey’s great piece in Time Magazine, quoted above. Ms. Carey explains the way I feel, and the reasons why the "best and the brightest" of my generation, inevitably live somewhere else. We miss our hometown desperately. Nobody plans to move back. 


On October 1st, NPR ran a piece on the ongoing saga of excessive and lethal force used in my old hometown of Albuquerque, by the police department. The lead states, “to understand the tension between the cops and some people in Albuquerque, you have to go back to a Tuesday in April.” I  respectfully disagree. Speaking as a person who was a political activist in my college days at the University of New Mexico, the “tension” has been ongoing for decades. In a place that has led the nation many years in crime rate statistics, it is a bitter irony that among the largest generators of murder and mayhem, is Albuquerque's own police department.

Many who were activists in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, tried mightily to mobilize citizens back then to act in quieter, more traditional ways. And failed miserably to get signatures on petitions for fear of the Albuquerque Police. Long before Walter White and Breaking Bad, there have been gangs of outlaws seen as willing to kill anybody, because they could. The tragedy of Albuquerque is that too many historically have been connected with law enforcement.  In most jurisdictions in America, receiving a traffic stop is an unwelcome experience. In Albuquerque, there is a higher than normal chance that an infraction can get somebody shot. Is there racial profiling in the APD DNA? Of course. But it really does not matter in police encounters. For history states, Albuquerque's finest, will bully anybody if provoked. Or not. 

The April 2014 report of the Department of Justice speaks loudly enough, "Based on our investigation, we have reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section 14141."  

If that is not damning enough , we have the following "we are not that bad" stories from Vladimir Putin's in house network, "Russia Today." 





Years ago during undergraduate days at the University of New Mexico, I quickly learned of the “tension”. It has been going on for eons, even before statehood in 1912. It has gotten progressively worse. In a place that has leads the nation many years in crime rate statistics, it is a bitter irony that one of the largest generators of murder and mayhem, are it’s own police forces. Albuquerque has been Ferguson on steroids forever, in a way that makes the Rodney King protagonists appear to be poster kids for good policing techniques. In a time where we are involved in other countries, spending the national treasury to bomb the rogue militias of ISIS, summary police executions of a sort are part of a typical week in a major American City. If there was ever a place in modern times, that lives up to the adjectives of Dr. King, "a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression", it is Albuquerque. The trailing video speaks volumes




Courtesy Of the Albuquerque Journal, here is a list and links to, stories about each victim of Albuquerque's Fatal Police shootings since 2010.  

1/9/10: Officer Andrew Cooke shoots Aaron Renfro
1/13/10: Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba shoots Kenneth Ellis III
3/29/10: Officer Kevin Sanchez shoots Mickey Owings
6/10/10: Officers Eric Brown, Anthony Sedler shoot Chris Hinz
6/14/10: Officer Aaron Zwicky shoots Julian Calbert
7/27/10: Officer Jeremy Hollier shoots Len Fuentes
8/17/10: Officer Josh Brown shoots Enrique Carrasco
10/19/10: Officers Drew Bader, Ramon Ornelas shoot Daniel Gonzales
10/31/10: Officer David Sprague shoots Alexei Sinkevitch
2/9/11: Detective Byron “Trey” Economidy shoots Jacob Mitschelen
4/12/11: Officer Christopher J. Brown shoots Christopher Torres
5/10/11: Officer Sean Wallace shoots Alan Gomez
6/4/11: Officer Matthew Oates shoots Raymond Garcia
8/30/11: Officer Jim Perdue shoots Michael Marquez
1/4/12: Officer Mario Perez shoots Mark Macoldowna
3/19/12: Officer Martin Smith shoots Daniel Tillison
3/21/12: Officer Russ Carter shoots Gary Atencio
3/5/13: Officers Perdue, Sedler and Aragon shoot Parrish Dennison
3/19/13: APD shot at Kendall Carroll, but he was killed by State Police
7/5/13: Officers Jeff Bludworth and Katherine Wright shoot Vincent Wood
10/26/13: Officer Luke McPeek and others shoot Christopher Chase
12/8/13: Officer Hector Marquez shoots Andy Snider
3/16/14: Detective Keith Sandy, Officer Dominique Perez shoot and kill James Boyd
3/25/14: Officer James Eichel shoots and kills Alfred Redwine
4/21/14: Officer Jeremy Dear shoots and kills Mary Hawkes
5/3/14: Officer Daniel Hughes shoots and kills Armand Martin
5/22/14: Officers Ryan Graves, Brian Fuchs shoot and kill Ralph Chavez
7/22/14: Officers Anthony Sedler, Ramon Ornelas shoot and kill Jeremy Robertson


"HOW CAN YOU BREAK THE LAW WHEN YOU ARE THE LAW?"

To understand the relationship between the police and community in Albuquerque, one need only stop at the real crimes website, initiated by several families of unsolved homicide victims in the "Land of Enchantment"  It’s opening title speaks volumes, quoting one member of the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department's “elite” Crime Suppression Unit, saying to his oft battered wife when she threatened to call 911: "Go ahead and call. How can you break the law when you are the law?" The narrative continues….

“ When the supervisor of the Albuquerque Police Department's Cold Case Squad criticized the mother of a homicide victim for questioning the actions of "an impeccable police department," the families of over a dozen New Mexico murder victims decided to take a long look at that "impeccable" department, as well as other investigative agencies in the state. What that group uncovered was a history of on-going corruption, involving city police, state police, and sheriff's departments, that underscored a headline in the Albuquerque Journal, "THE CITIZENS OF ALBUQUERQUE ARE AFRAID OF THEIR COPS."

The "Eye on Albuquerque" website summarizes it very simply....

"This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque.....Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach."

The sad history of APD shows, the authors are guilty of understatement. 

FINAL THOUGHTS


Occasionally, we write and forget there is often a story that illustrates a point so eloquently, that facts and links risk obscuring what the facts truly mean.  Jen Hayden in the Daily Kos has found one of these. 


Quote from Officer Keith Sandy,

"On March 16, Albuquerque police opened fire on homeless camper James Boyd in the New Mexico foothills. The entire scene was caught on video and sparked instant public outrage.

The death of James Boyd was one of many fatal shootings in New Mexico, something the Department of Justice determined was a pattern of unjustified excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.

Now a dashcam video has surfaced, which recorded audio of Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy, one of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, saying he would shoot Boyd in the penis:

Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?

Ware: I don't know. The guy asked for state police.

Sandy: Who asked?


Ware: I don't know.



Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.



Ware: You got uh less-lethal?

Sandy: I got…

Ware: The Taser shotgun?

Sandy: Yeah.

Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?

Sandy: ROP's got one...here's what we're thinking, because I don't know what's going on, nobody has briefed me...

A mere two hours later, Officer Sandy did fatally shoot James Boyd."



The Albuquerque Police Department is actually saying, that instead of saying "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second," Sandy said, "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him with a Taser shotgun in a second."

They refuse to release the official report, but have released one page from the New Mexico State Police report, which details a follow-up interview with State Police Sgt. Chris Ware, who said he "doesn't remember" what was said that day, but that he "believes" he said "Taser shotgun." Media Sources state repeated requests for comments from Mayor Richard Berry have been ignored.



Ms. Hayden relates, "This isn't the first troubling incident for Officer Sandy. In 2007, he was fired by the New Mexico State Police:"  The Albuquerque Police Department subsequently hired four ex-State Police officers who had freshly been relieved of duty from that agency because of a double-dipping scandal. She continues, "One officer had resigned from the State Police. The other three had been fired. All four faced criminal charges at one point for receiving payments from a private security contractor while on the clock for State Police, although those never materialized." Deputy Chief Mike Castro told KRQE News 13 at the time, ... “They do not carry guns, they are not going to be badged,” Castro said in July  2007... . “They’re civilian employees. They’ll be collecting evidence.”



As we have seen, they were "badged." And obviously received guns, and with it the power to wrongfully  take the life of yet another mentally troubled person. Keith Sandy is on paid leave while the "investigation" continues. 



MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL