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Letters to the editor

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wait for investigation results before judging

THE VIDEO OF the shooting of a transient camping in the foothills is very difficult to watch. Many have already condemned the officers involved for use of excessive force.

A frame grab from video footage shows a moment during an hours-long police standoff that ended fatally in the Sandia Foothills on March 16.

The question of trust of law enforcement in the investigative process of this incident aside, we should not rush to judgment as the outcome of this incident may or may not be a true tipping point in the public’s acceptance of the Albuquerque Police Department and its new chief as worthy of public trust and confidence.

Case law on use of force requires application of an “objective reasonableness” standard and the “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight while sitting in an office.

However, determining that reasonableness requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including (1) the severity of the crime at issue; (2) whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others; and (3) whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

I have my opinion of the answers to the reasonableness questions based upon the video, but suggest we await the determination of the cause of death and investigative results as a community to form our opinion and judgment, something perhaps the new chief of police should have done as well.

JIM LARSON

Albuquerque

Mentally ill people need our help, support

WHILE THE GOVERNOR, mayor, ACLU and others talk about and bemoan the very sad death of James Boyd on Copper Mountain, how about taking action to reduce the chances of similar future incidents?

While a bullet was the proximal cause of his death, our collective failure to realize that some people who suffer from severe mental illnesses or other brain diseases are simply unable to recognize their need for help, unable to participate in their own care without assistance from us and unable to control their intermittently violent or threatening behaviors. Like Boyd, these people are trapped in the revolving door of the criminal and mental health systems, suffering terribly and, in some cases, dying by bullet, preventable medical disease or hypothermia.

Assisted Outpatient Treatment — available in 45 States but not in New Mexico — uses strict eligibility criteria to place such individuals under court-mandated, carefully devised treatment plans with intensive, outpatient monitoring as a condition of remaining in the community.

Several research studies show clearly that Assisted Outpatient Treatment substantially reduces hospitalizations, arrests and cost.

More importantly, it is the humane and moral way to help persons whose brain malfunctions render them unable to voluntarily and consistently participate in their own care and to steer clear of the criminal system.

It is discriminatory and unsafe to limit mental health care to those well enough to seek it! Please consult www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org for more information.

DR. A. JOHN RUSH

Santa Fe

The simple solution: No more armed police

THERE’S A SIMPLE solution to police shootings: Take away their guns.

When I was in England many years ago, I was talking with a policeman. He remarked that he was glad that, unlike police in America, he didn’t carry a gun. “If I need to arrest someone,” he said, “I just clap him on the shoulder and say ‘ Come along’ and he does.”

Once miscreants here are aware that police are not armed, they will know there’s no need to arm themselves and will cooperate with police. And if they refuse to cooperate, rather than use potentially lethal force, police should step aside, knowing that they tried persuasion.

A few specially trained police could have access to firearms, but only when approved by court order. A court order is required for police to search private property; why not require a court order before potentially deadly force can be deployed?

What if things go wrong while waiting for court approval of use of potentially lethal force and someone is injured or killed? At least nonlethal means will have been tried and no one will have been harmed by police.

HAROLD MELNICK

Santa Fe

Why wasn’t a Taser used at the beginning?

FIRST LET ME say I generally support the police as we live in a violent society, but please explain to me why a Taser was not used five minutes after a known mental patient refused to obey the police on the scene.

Instead, the police argue with this man hour after hour until “half” the city police department is involved, eventually causing what has become a national, if not international, incident that has incredibly damaged Albuquerque and New Mexico.

I reiterate, why wasn’t a Taser used? It all would have been over in minutes.

Most of the people in Albuquerque are afraid of their own police force and believe they are thugs out of control.

RITA MIDDLETON

Albuquerque

We treat wild bears better than ill people

HERE IN NEW MEXICO, we tranquilize bears when they represent a threat to our citizens, but we shoot to kill homeless people with mental illness when there is no immediate threat to anyone.

If this man was such a threat to us all, then why did our elected officials release him into society to begin with? We the people of New Mexico need to reassess the value of a human life over our need to extinguish it when we don’t understand why some of us don’t fit the mold or conform.

That man could be someone’s family member with value. New Mexico definitely has an image problem because of the culture of violence where we shoot first and ask questions later … .

We treat our pets with greater dignity and understanding. I’m sickened by this and can’t get out of my mind this man’s last words to us all: “Please don’t hurt me anymore” as our “peace officers” continued to shoot him. Think on this long and hard — this could have been one of us or one of our family members in a dark hour of our lives.

MAL MERENDA

Albuquerque

Is this truly the kind of police force we want?

WHEN I FIRST saw the photo in the Albuquerque Journal of the homeless man in the Sandia foothills and all those police officers with their weapons drawn, it reminded me of a firing squad.

When I read the story, it confirmed my thought!

My God, is this the kind of police force we want? It’s time to start using common sense and not escalate the situation, especially with an emotionally unstable man.

I know they have bear spray that will spray up to 15 feet. Why not a water cannon or some other method to immobilize the poor guy.

Why not maybe think outside the box.

I know this might sound absurd, but maybe send one plain-clothes officer in, looking like a homeless person with a six-pack and offer the man a beer, and sit down and talk, or maybe some food. At least try and defuse the situation.

This was way overboard and should never have happened. What a sad time we’re living in, now that we have to fear the ones that are paid to protect us.

MICHAEL A. PACHECO

Albuquerque

Thank you, APD, for your service every day

I AGREE WITH Gary Smith and Keith Dotson about people who think they know it all when it comes to police shootings.

The Albuquerque media takes all the credit for making this more sensational than it has to be. We all know we need more police on the streets, but how are we ever going to recruit good police officers with the media and local politicians slamming them every chance they get?

You aren’t an expert unless you have walked in the shoes of a police officer, been shot at, been spit upon or have given a teddy bear to a child of domestic violence. Let me hear you then speak out against those that put their lives on the line every day, and still go back and do it again and again, despite the media and politicians that think they know better.

Those police officers were in the foothills for hours and all we saw was the sensational seconds of footage that the media wanted us to see. When are you people going to make your own decisions, not those based on what the media wants you to see or hear or read? It’s all sound bites that sell the news, not what is real, not what a police officer goes through every day.

We always go after the police, but no one seems to remember that the individual shot had a history of breaking the law, was well known in the police community — and yet you still blame the police … .

Let’s stand up for the people who work hard every day to make Albuquerque safer, in spite of newsmongers, politicians trying to make a name for themselves and people who can’t have a thought of their own.

Thank you APD for what you do every day and thank you for your service.

CAROL GORDON

Albuquerque

Why are sick people not institutionalized?

THIS LETTER is a response to the recent UpFront column by Joline Gutierrez Krueger. I am truly sorry that her son has mental problems. She mentioned receiving advice from a school committee to the effect that she should create a paper trail by calling 911 whenever her son became violent but said she feared the police more than her son (and went on to complain about the recent shooting of a violent, deranged man in the Sandia foothills).

What she failed to mention is a major purpose of such a paper trail, namely to facilitate institutionalization of violent or potentially violent individuals. It’s very hard to get someone institutionalized without a lot of evidence.

She probably knows that and doesn’t want that solution to what is obviously a problem. I don’t like having to say this, but I would not want a child of mine in a school attended by Joline’s son. There may be much more to worry about as he grows older and institutionalization might prevent serious problems.

Imagine how much better off this country would be if people like Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook mass murderer, were routinely institutionalized. Why is this not done? It is because liberals and conservatives have gotten in bed together. The bleeding hearts don’t want to restrict a person’s freedom and the pinch pennies don’t want to pay for it.

We’ll continue to have incidents like the Virginia Tech massacre, the Colorado theater killings, etc., etc., until we disavow this ridiculous accommodation of two opposing political preferences with respect to mental illness.

ROBERT B. FRARY

Albuquerque

ABQ community must speak up for Boyd

I WAS SADDENED and outraged with the police-involved shooting (murder) of James Boyd. Enough is enough.

People with intellectual disabilities were once feared and stigmatized, but now are supported and accepted. We must offer better community support services for people with severe mental illness and their families. They have the same rights, and need support and protection when they are in a situation where they are triggered. To better understand, just as with any medical issue, education will make a difference

I worked with these people and their families when I lived in Pennsylvania. I saw how community support, police education and collaboration with mental health services made a difference in these people’s lives.

Shortly after moving to Albuquerque, I saw how inadequate mental health services were here. I realized that a person should not have a bad day here in Albuquerque, because they will shoot you instead of helping.

James Boyd seems not to have any family to speak for him; we as a community of families must then assume the role and speak up for him.

JANET ADAMS

Albuquerque

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