Below is a guest editorial column published on October 11, 2017 on page A-13 of the Albuquerque Journal, entitled “Next mayor, APD chief must embrace reforms; APD desperately needs leadership that will address long-standing problems in the department.”
The guest editorial was written by prominent attorney Stephen Torrez and his wife Renetta Torrez, the parents of 27-year-old Christopher Torrez who suffered from schizophrenia and who was shot and killed at his home by APD detectives who were found to have created an “unnecessary dangerous situation.”
This guest column should be mandatory reading for Mayoral candidates Tim Keller and Dan Lewis.
The runoff election for Mayor is scheduled for November 14, 2017.
What is not common knowledge is that on November 2, 2017, Federal Monitor James Ginger will be filing his sixth report regarding APD’s compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement.
The Federal Court has scheduled a public hearing on the sixth report for November 16, 2017.
I hope the Mayor elect reads the sixth report and attends the federal November 16, 2017 federal court hearing to get a real sense of what he is up against and realize the real heavy lifting that begins on December 1, 2017 when he is sworn in as Mayor.
FOLLOWING IS THE GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN IN FULL:
“Next mayor, APD chief must embrace reforms; APD desperately needs leadership that will address long-standing problems in the department.”
By Stephen Torres And Renetta Torres / Parents ff Christopher Torres, Members of APD Forward
Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 at 12:02am
“Despite our best efforts to protect him, our worst fears came true when two Albuquerque Police Department detectives killed our son in 2011. Christopher, who was 27 years old and diagnosed with schizophrenia, was at home alone when he was shot by the detectives. The court would later rule that the officers had acted aggressively toward Christopher and created an “unnecessarily dangerous situation.” The city ultimately paid our family millions of dollars as a result of lawsuits filed on his behalf, but that money means nothing to us because it cannot bring back our son. Christopher was a kind, caring young man, and we never want another family to go through the pain we did.
APD Forward is a nonpartisan, diverse coalition of organizations and family members who have lost loved ones to police violence. We are intimately involved in monitoring the reform process and working with community members to ensure all parties actively advance reforms in a collaborative and constructive manner. In advocating for changes at APD over the years, one thing we have learned is that the department desperately needs better leadership.
Our city’s next mayor and police chief will have the chance to exhibit that leadership by truly embracing the reforms necessary to fix what is broken in the Albuquerque Police Department. When Chief Gorden Eden took over in February of 2014, APD was in the midst of crisis. The Department of Justice was about to release the findings of its two-year investigation, and APD officers had shot and killed over 20 people since 2010. When the DOJ announced the results of its investigation in April 2014, they identified a “pattern and practice of excessive use of force” and a “culture of aggression” within APD.
Fast forward three-plus years, APD shootings are down but progress on reform has been slow. To make matters worse, the independent monitoring team appointed to oversee the reform process has found that in some instances APD engages in “deliberate resistance” to reform, not from the officers in the field, but from the executive and command staff level. This is particularly alarming because many of the most challenging reforms, such as establishing systems to ensure effective use-of-force investigations, still haven’t happened yet. At this rate, the reform process could stretch on for many years and cost our city millions more.
The good news is that a change in leadership is our best shot at speeding up the reform process. Instead of resisting change, a new mayor and police chief could and should embrace the opportunity to address long-standing problems with APD. By building trust with the communities, it serves, APD will be more effective at fighting crime.
One of the most important decisions the new mayor will make is choosing a new police chief. To date, each of the mayoral candidates have publicly vowed to replace Chief Eden. Because of a change to the city charter, this will also be the first opportunity for the City Council to weigh in on the appointment of a new police chief. Whoever this person is, he or she will need to navigate the DOJ settlement agreement while under pressure to bring down crime and recruit more officers.
To assist the new mayor in making this decision, APD Forward is developing hiring criteria for the next police chief in consultation with experts and organizations who specialize in police reform from across the country. We will publicly release these criteria prior to the run-off election Nov. 14, and we are calling on our next mayor and City Council to carefully consider these recommendations as they weigh this critical decision. APD desperately needs new, dynamic, creative leadership if we are ever going to get the professional, effective police department our city deserves.