Public Health New Mexico
11:31 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

DOJ Promises Change

  The Department of Justice held the first of three meetings Monday aiming to gather community input on Albuquerque’s police force.

People who showed up at the Westside’s Alamosa Community Center to give input last night were put off by the format of the meeting. It was not a public forum. Instead, commenters were given a number and then taken into a room where they spoke to DOJ employees as part of five-person focus groups.

They DOJ was collecting feedback to use when creating a legally enforceable agreement, also called a “consent decree,” with the city of Albuquerque.

Luis Salcedo with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice explained the process, highlighting that they’re now in the phase of finding solutions. But, he said the feds will stay in Albuquerque until all of the changes are implemented, which could take years.

Luis Salcedo (left) with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and Damon Martinez, U.S. attorney for New Mexico on Monday, April 28, 2014, at the Alamosa Community Center.
Credit Marisa Demarco

  "It’s important that when we leave, we leave a department that is serving you better, that you can trust in, that you can tell the difference in the daily interactions that you have with the police department," he said.

The  crowd peppered a Salcedo with questions. Among the top inquiries: When would they get a chance to speak to Police Chief Gorden Eden or Mayor Richard Berry at one of these meetings?

They also wanted to know what it would take to make officers turn on their lapel cameras and admit footage into evidence. Scott Greenwood is a Cincinnati lawyer who’s representing the city and its residents during negotiations. He promised immediate changes are coming.

"Would it make a difference in the opinion of the people in this room if an officer had mandated use of the lapel camera every time he talked to a member of the public?" he asked the crowd, which shouted its agreement. "And should there be a penalty if an officer doesn’t use one?"

Two more meetings are scheduled this week:

Tuesday, April 29
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
Palo Duro Senior Center
 5221 Palo Duro NE

Wednesday, April 30
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
Cesar Chavez Community Center
7505 Kathryn SE

People can also submit comments and ideas to community.albuquerque@usdoj.gov or by calling 1-855-544-5134.