Albuquerque TV station KRQE has the details on a disturbing email recently sent by a police lieutenant that demonstrates just how difficult it will be to change the long-ingrained culture within the Albuquerque Police Department.
Back in April, I put up a long post on the history of violence, corruption, and questionable police shootings at the Albuquerque Police Department. This was shortly after the Justice Department issued a damning report, which found that, among other transgressions…
Albuquerque cops “too often use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms.” The report points to 20 shootings by the city’s police between 2009-2012, a majority of which the DOJ found to be constitutional violations. Moreover, investigators found that city police “often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious body harm” to the police or anyone else, and that cops have used lethal force against people who are a “minimal threat” or pose no threat at all to anyone other than themselves.
That DOJ report came just a few months after another controversy in New Mexico at the state’s police academy, where a new instructor was teaching a much more aggressive, shoot-first mindset to new recruits.
As the New Mexico State Police and the Albuquerque Police Department have come under scrutiny in recent months for a rash of officer-involved shootings, the man who sets the tone for training police recruits in the state has instituted a curriculum that puts less restraint on officers in deciding when to use deadly force.
“Evil has come to the state of New Mexico, evil has come to the Southwest, evil has come to the United States,” said Jack Jones, director of the Law Enforcement Academy, when asked about the new approach.
The academy trains recruits for police departments across the state. Some agencies, such as the state police and the Albuquerque department, have their own training programs, but the basic training courses are established by Jones’ academy, according to the Department of Public Safety’s deputy secretary, Patrick Mooney . . .
In September, the state’s eight-member Law Enforcement Academy Board, which is appointed by the governor and chaired by the attorney general, voted unanimously to change the New Mexico Administrative Code to give complete control over the curriculum to Jones . . . These changes were necessary to prepare new police officers to work in a more dangerous world, [Jones] said.
A month after that article was published, Albuquerque police would shoot and kill homeless man James Boyd. Two hours before he killed Boyd, Albuquerque police officer Keith Sandy — already the subject of numerous allegations of misconduct and excessive force who nevertheless was permitted to serve on elite police units — was recorded referring to Boyd as a “f—ing lunatic,” then promising to “shoot him in the penis with a shotgun.” (The Albuquerque Police Department later insisted that Sandy threatened only to “shoot him with a Taser.”)
As I pointed out in September, this is part of a growing movement within policing that emphasizing using more force more quickly, and encourages cops to see themselves more as soldiers and warriors, not as keepers of the peace. Jones not only wants cops taking a more aggressive approach to lethal force, but he also believes the public has no right to know about it.
The New Mexican filed a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act for a copy the academy’s new curriculum, but Jones said he doesn’t plan to release it because criminals could use the tactics taught to cadets against them.
“I’ll burn them before you get them,” he told The New Mexican . . .
“When I went to high school, two people would have a fistfight, and it would be over,” Jones said. “Today in high school, two people have a fistfight and then somebody comes to the guy’s house the next day and shoots him. … You have to be prepared for the violence.”
Earlier this month, the city of Albuquerque agreed to a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that would implement new policies aimed at reducing the the city’s extraordinarily high rate of shootings by police officers and unconstitutional uses of force. The decree is far from perfect, but it’s at least a start.
But this new KRQE report finds that just days after the city agreed to the consent decree . . .
KRQE News 13 has obtained an email sent from APD Lt. Fernando Aragon’s city email account, advertising a controversial class called “The Bulletproof Mind: Prevailing in Violent Encounters Before and After” to other officers.
The upcoming Albuquerque class is put on by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dave Grossman. He calls himself the “World’s Leading Combat Authority” and the founder of “killology” – the study of killing.
“Are you prepared? Are you prepared for battle?” Grossman says in a promotional video.
“Are there people who wake up every morning, determined to send your family in a box?” he says in another video. “Then you are in a war and you are a warrior.” . . .
Aragon’s wife runs the business that offers the class.
Grossman is one of if not the leading advocate of this shoot-first approach to policing. Old habits die hard, I guess; unfortunately in this context, until they do, so will more residents of Albuquerque.
These consent decrees too often result in the abatement of community activism and pressure, on the assumption that the Justice Department will magically make things getter. But the Justice Dept. can’t monitor these departments full time. Real change has to come locally. A consent decree really only lays out the bare minimum a police agency needs to do to meet what the Justice Dept. believes is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of citizens. In other words, it’s a floor, not a ceiling.
If reform is going to come to Albuquerque, the consent degree needs to to be the start of a long process, not the end of a short one.