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Editorial: Transparency still best practice in APD probes

The foothills shooting of James Boyd – as well as other fatal officer-involved shootings – was outrageous. So much so, that it sparked mass protests and prompted Mayor Richard Berry to ask the U.S. Justice Department to monitor the Albuquerque Police Department and to speed up its investigation into whether APD has a pattern or practice of violating people’s civil rights and using excessive force. He also said reforms are in the works.

On Monday, the DOJ announced it will release results of its 18-month investigation this Thursday. Last week, it noted it has been offering preliminary feedback to APD the entire time. So far APD Chief Gorden Eden, a former U.S. Marshal, has refused to say what that advice is or whether the department has been acting on it. This is another bad move by the new chief after he said in the news conference where the Boyd shooting video was released that the shooting appeared to be justified – then bailed out when the questions kept coming.

The DOJ isn’t talking specifics about its advice, either.

And while the community has been clamoring for information, answers and action, last week’s nonfatal shooting of a man in the South Valley by U.S. Marshals shows just how tight lipped the feds can be.

Need another example? The special agent in charge of the FBI has clamped down on the release of additional information in the Boyd case, directing city officials to keep their mouths shut.

Not much has been publicly divulged about the South Valley incident in which marshals shot and wounded Gilberto Angelo Serrano, 32, as they attempted to arrest him for violating parole and several other alleged crimes.

When queried for details, Deputy U.S. Marshal James Badway, a spokesman for the agency’s New Mexico district, referred questions to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, which is heading up an investigation into the shooting. Badway said it is DOJ policy not to comment on investigations.


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By comparison, APD released helmet cam video that showed five officers in a standoff with Boyd shortly after the shooting. It was the right thing to do, as bad as it made APD look. A recording by State Police officers on scene was handed over to the FBI, but given the fed’s propensity for secrecy, the community may never see or hear it.

Eden’s lack of comment on what changes, if any, APD has made based on DOJ feedback isn’t reassuring. Some things have to be kept confidential during ongoing investigations, but why not tell the community what improvements are being made? And he ought to release tapes from the more recent shooting of Alfred Redwine.

Both APD and the DOJ should be as forthcoming as possible if citizens’ faith is to be restored in the police. On Thursday, the Albuquerque community should have a clearer picture of how that can be done.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.