On Monday, May 26, around 8 p.m., African American George Floyd, 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The video of George Floyd being arrested is extremely difficult to watch. The video clearly shows he did not actively resist arrest. Floyd did not have a weapon on him when the arrest was made and he was handcuffed. Police Officer Derek Chauvin took Floyd to the ground and he was subdued with his stomach and face on the ground.
Officer Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and he used his full body weight to suppress George Floyd’s head and body to the ground. The take down suppression lasted for almost a full 9 minutes, during which time George Floyd begged for his life saying at least 14 times “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Paramedics were called and when they arrived, Floyd was none responsive and was dead. Police Officer Chauvin has been charged with murder and with manslaughter and arrested.
You can view the video here:
RAGE ACROSS AMERICA, INCLUDING ALBUQUERQUE
Across the country where peaceful protest over the killing, started in city’s large and small, burst into violent protests, looting and vandalism. Mayors and Governors have taken action to deal with the protestors including calling out the National Guard.
STATES CALLING UP NATIONAL GUARD
Fifteen states, including the states of Minnesota, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio and Utah have called out their National Guard forces to respond to the violent unrest that’s broken out amid demonstrations against black Americans’ deaths in police custody.
Kentucky Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear called in the National Guard to help “keep the peace” in Louisville, where protests have focused on the death of Breonna Taylor, shot by officers who entered her apartment to serve a no-knock warrant. Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp authorized the deployment of the Georgia National Guard to “protect people & property in Atlanta”.
Wisconsin Democrat Gov. Tony Evers authorized at least 125 National Guard members to go to Milwaukee to help police and protect infrastructure.
Colorado Democrat Gov. Jared Polis granted the mayor of Denver’s request for National Guard support as well. Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine has activated the national guard. Texas Republican Governor, Greg Abbott has sent more than 1,500 state troopers to a number of cities in the state in response to the ongoing protests, including Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
CITY CURFEWS IMPOSED
The list of city governments adopting curfews as a result of rioting related to the Floyd killing includes Minneapolis, Louisville, Columbia, Columbus, Denver, Portland, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta. All have announced curfews. The Mayor of LA said the city’s curfew will go from 8pm to 5am, an announcement that comes as tensions are already escalating before nightfall while large crowds of demonstrators gather. In the City of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Bottoms has signed an Executive Order establishing a curfew for May 29, 30 and 31 that begins each day at 9:00 p.m. ends at sunrise 5/31/2020.
Albuquerque has not been spared the violent protests over the Floyd killing. On Thursday, May 28, a peaceful demonstration during the day devolved into acts of vandalism, property destruction and gunfire during the evening.
During a Friday morning press conference APD Chief Michael Geier gave a summation of what happened. According to Geier, a crowd of 400 people were involved in the initial Albuquerque protest. The protest started at Central and Wyoming around 6 p.m. The protesters dispersed after marching along Central as they waved signs and chanted through a loudspeaker.
According to Chief Geier, around 10 p.m., a second “more aggressive” group showed up at Central and Wyoming with “different intentions.” The Chief reported that the majority of officers stayed back to avoid a confrontation as undercover officers watched members of the group spray painting bus stations, vandalizing civilian vehicles and even surrounding a female officer’s vehicle before breaking the windows while she was inside. Geier said the situation escalated even further as a group of people drove around the area and repeatedly fired off gun shots.
At this point, APD intervened and stopped the suspected vehicle at Mesilla and Central. Four people were taken into custody. As police collected evidence from the vehicle, a group of protesters surrounded them, leading dozens of officers clad in riot gear who were staged nearby and an armored vehicle, to move in.
Within the hour, a large crowd of protesters gathered on Mesilla, just north of Central, to face off against a line of officers clad in riot gear and wielding batons. The protesters waved signs and yelled “I can’t breathe” and “fuck the police” as they paced a few feet from the officers. The riot police began to load onto city buses as APD’s helicopter shined a spotlight at the gathering and told the crowd to disperse in between blasts of a siren.
APD police fired three gas canisters into the crowd while they were retreating. One protester began throwing the canisters back at the officers as the crowd ran back toward Central. According to Deputy Chief Harold Medina, someone in the area drove away in the vehicle that police had initially stopped containing the 4 shooting suspects. APD officers followed the vehicle, alongside a couple of car loads of protesters, to the university area, where it was abandoned. Police tried to arrest the driver when he got into another vehicle, but a group of protesters came to his defense. Officers let the man go to prevent another confrontation.
The links to the local news coverage are here:
MAYOR KELLER AND APD CHIEF MICHAEL GEIER ISSUE STATEMENTS
On Saturday, May 30, Mayor Tim Keller issued and emailed to residents the following statement:
I want to talk about George Floyd.
He has been on my heart and mind these last few days, as I know he has been for so much of our community. His death has left us with rightful anger and grief. My words can’t capture the depth of the pain that so many people, especially people of color, are experiencing right now. As your Mayor, I want to acknowledge that pain. Here in Albuquerque, we stand with those grieving these incidents around the nation. We stand with those calling for justice.
The deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and so many more are horrifying, heart-breaking and unacceptable. Although these murders took place outside of Albuquerque, it does not mean that Albuquerque is shielded from anti-Black and racist behaviors. White people have not done enough to address racism in this country.
The Coronavirus pandemic is exposing and compounding the effects of that inequity. All across America the black community and people of color have been horribly disproportionately affected. On top of that, we have the White House stoking racism, violence and division; during a pandemic when we need compassion and leadership the most.
And so here we are, with stress from pandemic, a legacy of discrimination, and all on top of unacceptable violent crime. Many in our city have lost their jobs, many are suffering from vast anxiety about the future; many of us are depressed, many of us are tired, many of us are angry.
I am also here to say unequivocally, the City of Albuquerque believes that Black Lives Matter.
In this city, and in this administration, we each have a responsibility to work together to dismantle racism. This is a long long journey, but it’s is one we are going to continue to take. We also know that there are times to protest, a time to express frustration with the system and all that we are going through. These are incredibly tough challenges for our first responders asked to keep the public, including the protestors, safe.
Our police department works to avoid confrontation and de-escalate to avoid violence, and to be prepared to save lives. This protocol also includes appropriate engagement when violence is eminent, this was the case this past week, as after a relatively peaceful demonstration, families and advocates went home. But hours later, dozens of shots were fired near the protest, and the remaining protesters, officers, and neighbors all needed to be kept safe. That is why the department engaged, and we are grateful that despite the gun fire, no one was hurt.
Here at the city, we strive to dismantle the structures of inequality and be actively anti-racist in our work. We have teams dedicated to civil rights, equity and inclusion, and immigrant and refugee affairs. This work starts with ourselves in our own house through employee trainings, and then is embedded in our work building a city that works for everyone. In this city, we stand up to divisive rhetoric. In this city, we stand together no matter our race or where we come from. We will not let up our efforts for a peaceful, just and equitable Albuquerque.
The City of Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque Police Department, will continue to work on these issues through the work of our Office of Equity & Inclusion and Office of Civil Rights as well as educating our workforce along with the community in our anti-racism workshops through the Equity Training Initiative. We ask that each of you continues to do your part by joining us at these workshops and continuing to call out racism and injustice whenever and wherever you see it.
APD Chief Michael Geier made the following statement on behalf of the Albuquerque Police Department:
“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to everybody in our country. On behalf of our department and the city of Albuquerque, I would like to offer our sympathies and condolences to the Floyd family. Those officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our department. APD has worked tirelessly to build trust between law enforcement and the community we are sworn to protect.
What occurred in Minneapolis is an unfortunate reminder of how quickly a death can undermine interest. The law enforcement profession must do better and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our officers are trained to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. This is the essence of the principles of procedural justice.
Like APD, most agencies today are taught to teach their officers to de-escalate critical situations and avoid the use of force if possible. We will not tolerate these actions and denounce this type of police brutality. The senseless misconduct demonstrated in this unfortunate incident should not define other police departments across the nation. APD denounces the behavior of the Minneapolis officers and we will continue to build the trust we’ve established in the community we proudly serve.”
APD AND THE DOJ
The Albuquerque Police Department is one of the 18 municipalities in the United States under a Federal Court consent decree for excessive use of force and deadly force. On April 10, 2014, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), issued its report of the 18-month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The DOJ reviewed excessive use of force and deadly force cases and found that APD engaged in a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional “use of force” and “deadly force” and found a “culture of aggression” within APD.
What differentiates the DOJ’s investigation of APD from all the other federal investigations of police departments and consent decrees is that the other consent decrees involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and use of excessive force or deadly force against minorities. The DOJ’s finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD dealt with APD’s interactions and responses to suspects that were mentally ill and that were having psychotic episodes. The investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved.
In November, 2014, the City of Albuquerque entered into its Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating sweeping changes and reforms to APD. Over the last 5 years of implementing the mandating DOJ reforms, APD has made progress in implementing the reforms under the watchful eye of a Federal Court approved monitor. You can review a listing of the major reforms under the CASA in the postscript below to this article. The reforms apply as much to the treatment of minorities as to the treatment of the mentally ill.
A PEACEFUL PROTEST FOLLOWED BY VIOLENCE
On Sunday, May 31, thousands of people showed up in Albuquerque to honor the life of George Floyd. A candlelight vigil was held for George Floyd at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center around 5 p.m. where Mayor Tim Keller was among those who spoke. Hours later the crowd grew to thousands in downtown and started marching down Central Avenue. The march ended around 10:00 pm without any violence or vandalism with the crowd dispersing.
The peaceful Sunday night erupted into chaos overnight as rioters fired shots at police, broke windows at several buildings and set multiple fires. There were also reports of some looting. According to an Albuquerque Journal Report:
“Officers reported that someone fired shots at them in front of the Kimo Theater on the 400 block of Central. The aggression toward police didn’t stop there. Protesters taunted officers, shouting profanities at them. At one point, one man threw what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail toward police, though it didn’t hit anyone. A helicopter circled above after midnight ordering the group of 80 to 100 to disband or be arrested as two columns of police in riot gear, one at Second and Central and the other at Third and Central tried to break up the crowd. The riot police on Third and Central threw perhaps as many as six canisters of teargas at the group. Many in the crowd coughed as some tried to throw the canisters back at police. Protestors scattered south of Central, although many of them were throwing objects at officers. “At this time there are no reports of injuries,” Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos”
Links to TV news station coverage are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
No doubt many will say that the APD needs to be far more aggressive with the use of force and even deadly force when peaceful demonstration devolved into acts of vandalism, property destruction and gunfire during the evening. That will only make things even worse. If that does happened, it will result in further violence and even more violent protests in the city. It can very easily result in the death of both protesters and police officers. Instead, the city is seeing its Police Department exhibit a remarkable amount of restraint and professionalism that so far has resulted in no one getting killed.
DOJ REFORMS ARE WORKING
One thing is for certain, how APD is handling protests is evidence that all of the training and all the reforms that were mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) have in fact changed APD for the better. The reforms are working. The Albuquerque Police Department and the officers of APD are commended and credited for the manner and approach they are taking in handling the protests. Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier thus far are setting the right tone and example. Both are saying what is needed to be said. They to are commended for their words and actions. Cool heads by APD are prevailing during the crisis that is likely preventing the loss of life.
WHAT ARE WE FAILING TO HEAR?
In his speech, “The Other America,” from 1953, the Reverend Martin Luther King said the following:
“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. In the final analysis, the riot is the language of the unheard. What is it that America has failed to hear? … In a sense, our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our winter’s delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these occurrences of riots and violence over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
Sixty seven years later, we are still asking “What is it that America has failed to hear?” The murder of George Floyd has ignited protests across the country, with the peaceful protests overshadowed by the violent protests. It is happening in Albuquerque. George Floyd was murdered by someone who took an oath to “serve and protect” the public. George Floyd is now another name on the extensive litany of unarmed African Americans killed by police. It must stop. It must not ever happen here. Justice must be served for the murders and people of color must feel safe within our community.
We must finally do something about ending racism once and for all for ourselves and for the sake of our future generations. As individuals, we must, in some manner, make it very clear to all who we interact with, our families and friends alike, and people we work with that racism is not tolerated on any level and it must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Out of crisis and chaos can come opportunity. Once again, we have an opportunity to look within ourselves and acknowledge the racism in this country is very real, very pervasive and tearing our communities and our country apart. We must look within ourselves and our communities and finally do something about it to end racism once and for all. As a free country, we must seize this opportunity and reach out to all communities of color more than ever before and work together to end racism in this country and for our future generations. As individuals, we must, in some manner, make it very clear to all who we interact with at work and in our daily lives, our families and friends alike, that racism is not and will not be tolerated on any level and it must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Our law enforcement community must understand with complete clarity that police brutality, excessive use of force and deadly force based on racial profiling and the presumption of guilt because of a person’s color and not evidence will not be tolerated. No Hispanic, no African American and no person of color should ever feel uncomfortable talking to any police officer or feel they cannot call the police to ask for help or to report a crime. Police must recognize that performing their motto to “serve and protect” is not determined by skin color.
APD must seize this opportunity and reach out to all of Albuquerque’s communities of color more than they have ever before. APD must, in some manner, make it very clear to all minorities that racism within the department is not tolerated on any level, and neither is police brutality and racial profiling. No Hispanic, no African American and no person of color should ever feel uncomfortable talking to an Albuquerque Police Officer or feel they cannot call APD asking for help or to report a crime. Until that happens, Mayor Keller’s “One Albuquerque” is nothing but an empty public relations slogan.
COURT APPROVED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT (CASA)
The DOJ Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) was negotiated over a 6-month period after the DOJ released its investigation report finding that APD engaged in a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional “use of force” and “deadly force” and finding of a “culture of aggression”.
Major reform mandates under the settlement include:
1. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning choke-holds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implement new use of force and deadly force policies.
2. The CASA mandates the teaching of “constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill.
3. The City agreed that APD would overhaul and rewrite all of its “use of force policies” and “deadly force” policies, recruitment procedures, training, internal affairs procedures and implement field supervision of officers.
4. Stricter training and restrictions on the use of nonlethal force is required under the CASA, and it requires more training and controls over the use of Tasers by officers along with quarterly audits of their use.
5. The city agreed to the creation of a Police Oversight Board (POB) as a civilian review agency that independently reviews citizen complaints, serious uses of force and officer-involved shootings by APD. The civilian agency also monitors, reviews and make recommended changes to APD policy on use of force.
6. Under the CASA, the city agreed to the creation of Police Civilian Advisory Councils (CPCs), one in each of the 6 APD area commands, designed to increase community interaction.
7. The CASA broadens and removes obstacles to the types of civilian complaints Internal Affairs and the civilian oversight agency can review.
8. The CASA provides for the appointment of a Federal Court Monitor selected by agreement of the parties with the City to pay for the auditing services of the federal monitor. The primary duties and responsibilities of the federal monitor is to report directly to the federal judge on APD’s compliance with the mandatory reforms.
9. The agreement mandates that APD adopt a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented and outlining details how use of force cases would be investigated. It requires far more reporting by officers and field supervisors and also requires detailed reviews of those reports up the chain of command within the department. Sergeants and lieutenants are required to be much more involved in field supervision and review of use of force by officers.
10. Under the agreement, officers who point their firearms at a person, but don’t fire, must fill out a use of force report that will be reviewed by field supervisors. That review is separate from a city civilian police oversight agency that will be independent of the department and will review police use of force incidents as well as civilian complaints.
11. The City agreed to create a new “Use of Force Review Board” to oversee all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force. A new chain of command for the review of Internal Affairs reports of officer-involved shootings was created that reviews the Internal Affairs Reports and makes recommendations on discipline or asks for further investigation of an incident, and the board makes recommendations on discipline to the APD Chief. The Use of Force Board is required to make quarterly reports after reviewing all use of force reports to identify trends and policy changes.
12. APD agreed to revise and update its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all police officers.
13. Under the CASA, the City agreed to abolish the Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, within three months of signing the agreement for the reason that members of the unit were involved in a number of the controversial shootings investigated by the DOJ.
14. The agreement provides that if the city fails to implement the reforms or shows bad faith in the implementation of the CASA, the DOJ has the option of filing a federal lawsuit against the city over the city’s unconstitutional policing practices found by the DOJ investigation.
15. Certain types of hand-to-hand techniques are barred under the CASA unless the officer is in a situation that require the use of lethal force if it were available. Neck holds, sometimes called choke-holds, are explicitly forbidden to be used by officers except in situations where lethal force would be authorized.
16. A major change in the CASA bans APD officers from firing their weapons at moving vehicles in all but life-threatening situations.
The CASA provides that it is “designed to ensure police integrity, protect officer safety, and prevent use of excessive force, including unreasonable use of deadly force, by APD.” The settlement agreement requires APD to strive and use its best efforts to come in compliance with all requirements within four years, and if that were to occur, the case would be dismissed.
For a related blog article see:
City Moves To Be Released From Portions Of DOJ Consent Decree And Monitoring; Commentary: Intent And Purpose Of CASA Accomplished, Dismiss Case