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Book helps activists dealing with police issues

Two scholars, including one who protested against Albuquerque police, have written a guide for activists pushing for police reforms.

David Correia and Tyler Wall said their book, “The Police: A Field Guide,” which was released this month, is intended to provide activists in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif., ways to identify attempts by those seeking to thwart prevention of future police shootings.

That includes pinpointing language that takes the focus away from structural changes needed at police departments to reduce police brutality, said Correia, an American Studies professor at University of New Mexico.

He led a sit-in at the Albuquerque mayor’s office in 2014 over the fatal police shooting of a homeless man.

“We’re trying to call into question ‘copspeak’ and the language of police violence,” said Wall, a social justice professor for Eastern Kentucky University.

He contended terms like “officer-involved shooting” or “stop-and-frisk” divert attention from systemic problems in police departments. Language like that legitimizes police violence, Wall said.

Bob Martinez, the president of Albuquerque Lodge #1 of the Fraternal Order of Police of New Mexico, said officers do embrace reforms and are willing to listen to community residents. He said that language used by officers does not interfere with communication.

“The real problem is that people have lost respect for authority,” Martinez said. “That is what’s preventing a lot of good people from becoming officers. This is a societal problem.”

The book comes as protests continue in Sacramento over the fatal shooting Sunday by two officers of Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old black man. The department released video footage Wednesday showing the officers yelling that Clark had a gun before firing. Clark was holding a cellphone, not a gun.

The city of Albuquerque is completing federal court-ordered reforms following a string of police shootings involving suspects suffering from mental illness.

Martinez said Albuquerque police are cooperating and want the reforms to work.

In addition, the authors said, many police departments mainly protect the wealthy against the poor. That often dictates policies about policing poor neighbors, they said.

“Policing is about keeping people in their places and protecting private property,” Correia said. “We have to have a conversation about how capitalism affects the policing of poor neighborhoods.”

Luis Robles, an Albuquerque attorney who has defended police officers involving in shootings, says he finds it “interesting” the book sees officers as the face of capitalism.

“Many officers are union members who make less than $60,000 a year,” Robles said.

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