The Police Motto To “Serve And Protect” Not Conditioned On Skin Color

On June 12, The Albuquerque Journal published the following guest column on its editorial page:

HEADLINE: APD has made real progress under DOJ agreement

Friday, June 12th, 2020 at 12:02am

On June 4, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the creation of her Council for Racial Justice, saying it’s time to address the “ugly truth” of racism embedded in core institutions. The governor’s creation of the council was a reaction in part to the protests and demonstrations around the United States and in New Mexico ignited by the killing by police of 46-year-old George Floyd.

The governor suggested expanded conflict de-escalation training for law enforcement recruits and an overhaul of probation and parole rules be among the changes pursued in the coming months. Racial profiling is also problematic in New Mexico. An example – the Hobbs Police Department has faced claims from several former officers alleging police officials targeted enforcement efforts against black and Hispanic communities. In recent years, New Mexico has placed first or second in the nation for its rate of deadly shootings by law enforcement officers.

The governor referred to Albuquerque’s history with police use-of-force issues. On April 10, 2014, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice issued its report of an 18-month civil rights investigation of APD. The DOJ reviewed excessive use of force and deadly force cases and found APD had engaged in a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional “use of force” and “deadly force” and found a “culture of aggression” within APD. The result was in November 2014 Albuquerque and APD entered into a federal court-approved settlement agreement mandating 276 reforms.

What differentiates the DOJ’s investigation of APD from all the other federal investigations of police departments is that the other investigations involved in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and use of excessive force or deadly force against African Americans, Hispanics or other minorities.

However, DOJ’s finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD dealt with APD’s interactions and responses to suspects that were mentally ill and were having psychotic episodes. The investigation found APD’s policies, training and supervision were insufficient to ensure 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.

The settlement agreement (CASA) mandates sweeping changes and reforms to APD. Over the last five years of implementing the mandated DOJ reforms, APD has made significant progress under the watchful eye of a federal court-approved monitor. The reforms apply as much to the treatment of minorities as to the treatment of the mentally ill.

Our law enforcement communities 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.

We must as a country come to grips with the reality that for our country to survive and to stand for the concept that “all men and women are created equal,” racism of any kind must be condemned and not tolerated on any level of our lives, especially in law enforcement and our judicial system. We have a moral obligation to look within ourselves and admit racism in this country is tearing it apart.

We must make it clear to who we interact with during our daily lives, including work, social functions, with our families and friends alike, that racism is not tolerated on any level. Racism must be strongly condemned in no uncertain terms. We must do something to end the racism within ourselves and for our future generations.

The link to the guest column article is here:

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.