Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Very few voters in the Albuquerque area believe APD officers’ shooting of a homeless camper was justified, according to a Journal flash poll conducted last week.
The telephone survey of registered voters indicates that only 15 percent believe the shooting was justified and that 53 percent say it wasn’t. The remainder, about 32 percent, had no opinion or didn’t know.
Mayor Richard Berry said he wasn’t surprised by the survey results, given his own emotions when watching a police video of the incident.
But “as a mayor I have to withhold my personal judgment until we can get the investigation done,” he said.
The shooting “has struck a sensitive chord among Albuquerque residents that continues to reverberate throughout the community,” said Brian Sanderoff, whose firm, Research & Polling Inc., did the survey. “Everywhere I go, people are talking about it.”
The poll question centered on the death of James M. Boyd, a mentally ill homeless man who was shot by Albuquerque police after a long standoff two weeks ago. The city later released video of the encounter, which showed Boyd turning away from officers as shots rang out
Hundreds of protesters poured into Downtown last week to protest that shooting and others. Berry earlier called the video “horrific” but urged people to avoid judging the officers before an investigation is finished.
In addition to the city’s own investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced last week that it would investigate the shooting for potential civil rights violations.
Sanderoff said the release of the Boyd video allowed people to see the encounter for themselves. That meant they could form opinions without relying on the police or media to simply describe what happened, he said.
Video documentation is likely to “become the norm, rather then the exception” in police shootings, he said. In Albuquerque, officers are required to turn on lapel cameras during encounters with the public.
Stephanie Lopez, president of the Albuquerque police union, said the public has been influenced by media portrayals of the Boyd shooting. She cautioned that the standoff unfolded over four hours and that the full video hasn’t been released.
The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. It was conducted on March 26 and was based on a random sample of 455 registered voters in the Albuquerque metro area. Seventy-three percent were contacted via landline-based telephones and 27 percent via cellphone interviews.
The survey asked, “Thinking of the recent shooting of a homeless camper in the foothills last week, do you feel Albuquerque police officers …””It will be up to the police leadership to respond quickly, transparently and credibly to all future shootings to regain the confidence of Albuquerque residents,” Sanderoff said in an interview.
“You can’t just look at two minutes of it and let that be the deciding factor,” Lopez said. “I would ask (people) to be fair and keep an open mind and wait until the investigation is complete.”
In any case, Sanderoff said the survey makes it clear that “very few people at this time” view the Boyd shooting as justified.
“I think any police department is always going to have a built-in group of supporters, just by the nature of them being the police department,” he said. “It’s somewhat striking that the percentage could fall so low on a specific encounter” with police.