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Respondents weigh in on police reforms

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An unscientific survey conducted recently by a city councilor to gauge Albuquerque residents’ feelings on police reform received over 10,000 responses within three days with at least some from each ZIP code in the city.

The poll, conducted by City Councilor Pat Davis, a former police officer, using his own mailing list, was conducted from June 13-15. The 15-question survey asked about police reforms, interpretations of safety, past interactions with Albuquerque police officers and how money should be reallocated, among other questions.

About 92% of respondents supported hiring more police officers rather than hiring fewer and investing in community programs faster.

Some of the police reforms listed in the survey already exist in APD’s policies, such as the use of body cameras, bias-prevention training, and a civilian police oversight board that can investigate complaints. Albuquerque has also chosen not to accept military equipment since 2015.

Davis said that regarding police reforms, his survey found that:

• 85% support officers wearing body cameras.

• 81% support bias-prevention training.

• 71% support a civilian police oversight board that can investigate complaints as well as prohibit certain holds and tactics.

• 61% support community workers helping people with a criminal record seek expungement to have a fresh start.

• 59% support officers completing eight hours of volunteer work with community groups.

• 56% support prohibiting officers from receiving military equipment.

“It’s not about abolishing (the Albuquerque Police Department); it’s about trying to figure out how much lead the public is willing to give us to make some big changes,” Davis said.

Albuquerque’s police union leader, Shawn Willoughby, called the survey “confusing at best, but speaks to the wonderful job that Albuquerque police officers are doing.”

One of the issues Willoughby had with the survey was that there was no option to show support to give the department more money or to keep money from leaving the department.

“I think we all have a lot of work to do to ensure that every Albuquerque resident feels safe in this community and that they know when they need help there’ll be enough police officers to help with whatever they need,” he said.

The Davis survey was sent to his mailing list, and participants were then able to share the link on social media.

Davis said the open-access nature of the poll is not perfect.

“It needs more Hispanic representation,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but this is a good model for getting public input.”

Of the 10,052 responses received, he said 43% of respondents were white, 29% were Hispanic, 3.2% were Black, 1.8% were Native American and 20% declined to answer.

For Dr. Finnie Coleman, UNM associate professor of American literary studies and the faculty senate president, the survey just reaffirms what the community believes.

“What we want is what we invest in,” Coleman said. “Rhetoric is fine, but show me your investments. Show me where you place resources. That’ll tell me what you truly value.”

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