Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Protesters advocating for drastic changes within a police agency criticized by the U.S. Justice Department over its use of force put the embattled police chief "on trial" during a rally Saturday.
Dozens of protesters, including some who brought children, marched from Roosevelt Park with signs and a makeshift coffin inscribed with names of people killed by Albuquerque officers in recent years.
Protesters march in a rally on Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Albuquerque, N.M. (Image source: AP/Courtesy of David Correia)
The Police Department is under scrutiny for over 40 police shootings — 26 of them fatal — since 2010, and the Justice Department has issued a harsh report over the agency's use of force.
TheBlaze covered the aftermath of one of them, noting an attorney's reaction to the killing of 38-year-old mentally ill homeless man James Boyd: “I’m shocked. I’ve never seen a murder captured on videotape before.”
In this photo taken from video shot March 16, 2014, James Boyd, 38, left, is shown during a standoff with officers in the Sandia foothills in Albuquerque, N.M., before police fatally shot him. The Albuquerque Police Department released on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, new footage of the events that led up to officers fatally shooting Boyd, a homeless man struggling with mental illness. That shooting that later sparked a violent protest and angry calls for reform. (Image source: AP/Albuquerque Police Department)
The protesters marched peacefully Saturday before returning to the park to continue the rally.
The mock trial outlined how police Chief Gorden Eden has failed to stop his officers from using excessive force, said David Correia, one of the protest's organizers.
"He has to answer to these charges," Correia said. "They'll all be read before the public."
A scathing report by the U.S. Justice Department in April revealed a troubling and often unjustified pattern of excessive force by Albuquerque police and recommended that New Mexico’s largest city become the latest municipality to adopt reforms aimed at cleaning up its police force, the AP reported.
Eden — who took the job four months ago while the Justice Department was wrapping up its investigation into the police force — said in a statement that police spoke to protest organizers and officers would provide traffic escorts for the marchers.
"We acknowledge their First Amendment rights to voice their concerns," Eden said. "Our job will be to protect public safety during the time they are in Roosevelt Park and while they are marching. Additional officers will be on call in case they are needed."
Previous demonstrations have roiled New Mexico's largest city. At one protest, riot police deployed tear gas toward a violent crowd. Another demonstration prompted city councilors to abruptly end a scheduled meeting.
Albuquerque and Justice Department officials are negotiating over reforms that federal authorities are expected to order in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Police Department has announced a number of new changes to training and has ordered officers to stop shooting at moving vehicles.
A CNN report detailing the Boyd shooting and the related issues facing the Albuquerque police department: