Albuquerque mayor asks Justice Department to speed up police probe

by Reuters
Thursday, 3 April 2014 05:24 GMT

By Joseph Kolb

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., April 2 (Reuters) - The mayor of Albuquerque on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to speed up its probe of the city's police department and propose changes to operations, following tension and protests over the police shooting of a homeless man.

Since 2010, Albuquerque police have shot 37 people, with 23 of them dying, a figure critics say is too high for a city of just over half a million people. In the latest fatal shooting on March 16, the police killed a homeless man.

In a letter to Luis Saucedo, lead investigator for the justice department's civil rights division, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry asked the department to do everything it could to hasten and complete its investigation, and then provide its findings.

But even before the probe is complete, Berry said, he wanted to work out a plan for monitoring by the justice department.

"I would like to immediately begin the process of negotiating a cooperative agreement between the DOJ and the city of Albuquerque to implement a DOJ monitoring plan," he wrote.

The March 16 shooting, which is being investigated, prompted a rally on Sunday that ended with protesters throwing stones at police, and four people being charged with disorderly conduct. It was accompanied by a cyber-attack on the city and police website.

The investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department by the Department of Justice had already been disclosed.

Berry has allotted $1 million to better train officers in dealing with the mentally ill and how to defuse volatile situations.

"I want to be clear, nothing in this letter should be construed as an indication that I have lost my faith in the men and women, or the leadership, of the Albuquerque Police Department," Berry said in the letter to the DOJ.

Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden has only been in the job for a month but has found himself at the center of the controversy over police shootings.

"We have heard from our community and we take their concerns seriously," Eden said in a statement. (Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Clarence Fernandez)

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