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Half approve of Albuquerque police performance

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Roughly half of likely voters approve of the job performance of the Albuquerque Police Department – nearly twice as many as disapprove, according to a new Journal Poll.

Forty-nine percent of the 402 people surveyed by telephone said they approve of APD’s performance. Twenty-six percent disapproved of APD.

Another 25 percent of those polled – or one in four – said they either had mixed feelings about how the department is performing, didn’t know or wouldn’t say.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll, said the results of the APD portion of his survey were “a little more favorable than I expected.”

“Obviously APD has been the only major controversy that has existed throughout (Mayor Richard J. Berry’s) term,” Sanderoff said. “Allegations of excessive force, a DOJ investigation and sizable damages awarded by juries in excessive force cases have all been on the radar and in the media for quite some time. Despite that, you have a two-to-one approval rating of APD. I suspect there are some people out there who expected the opposite.”

Those surveyed were asked: “Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the Albuquerque Police Department?”POLL_11sept_Police_web

The police department has been under intense criticism during the past three years. A group of family members of people shot by APD officers, along with other community activists, have demanded accountability from police officials during protests and at City Council meetings.

The group points to a spike in police shootings since 2010, other instances of what it calls excessive force and examples of deep-seated cultural problems within the department.

In November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would conduct a top-to-bottom investigation of APD to determine whether city police have a pattern of violating peoples’ civil rights, particularly through the use of force.

That investigation is ongoing.

And earlier this year, a state District Court jury awarded more then $10 million to the family of an Iraq war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The man was fatally shot in the neck by an APD officer in January 2010. The award was one of the largest in city history.

Interim APD Chief Allen Banks did not return a telephone call seeking comment for this story.

Sanderoff said the party affiliation discrepancies in the poll stuck out more than any other detail.

Seventy percent of Republicans surveyed said they approve of APD’s job performance, while just 14 percent of the GOP voters surveyed polled disapprove of its performance.

Of the Democrats surveyed, 34 percent approved of the department’s performance and 36 percent disapproved.

“Those are the same Republicans who are supporting Richard J. Berry for mayor,” Sanderoff said. “Berry supports the police department, he has stuck with them and with (former Chief Ray Schultz) and he has been touting their performance … People wondered why this hasn’t affected the mayor’s popularity. The answer is: The police themselves aren’t that unpopular.”

Sanderoff’s poll showed Berry, a Republican, polling at 63 percent for next month’s mayoral election. His Democratic opponent, Pete Dinelli, had the support of 18 percent of those polled.

The race’s third candidate, Republican Paul Heh, polled at 2 percent.

Sanderoff said conservatives and Republicans “tend to be a little more forgiving” when it comes to controversies surrounding law and order issues.

“Democrats tend to be much more sensitive to things like a Justice Department investigation and claims of excessive force,” he said.

Forty-four percent of Hispanics approved of APD’s job performance, and 31 percent disapproved, according to the poll results. Among Anglos, 52 percent approved of APD, and 24 percent disapproved.

“It’s important to note that this is a poll of proven municipal election voters,” Sanderoff said. “Had we done a poll of the general adult population – the disapproval numbers would have gone up some.”

The Journal Poll’s findings are based on telephone interviews of 402 voters likely to vote in coming municipal elections who also had voted in an Albuquerque city election in 2011 or 2009. Interviews were conducted Sept. 3-5.