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Editorial: A shooting contest for police is the wrong target

The problem with the Albuquerque Police Department, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, is it has a pattern and practice of violating people’s civil rights through excessive force.

The problem is not that some of its current and former members hone their marksmanship in competition.

To be clear, APD’s sworn officers are required to carry guns. They are required to qualify on those guns annually, and it is essential to everyone’s safety they not only know how to use them, but to use them appropriately and to use them well.

In addition, the Albuquerque Police Pistol Combat Tournament and the National Police Shooting Championship is similar to other conventions that come to Albuquerque. It is organized by the National Rifle Association – not the city or APD – and has been held in the Duke City for the past seven years – before Mayor Richard Berry took office.

So the mere fact that some local officers will join others from around the state, country and world to participate in a police-shooting competition that emphasizes real-life scenarios is in no way the mayor insulting those who have been shot by APD officers, or insulting the city. And it is not contradictory to the city’s commitment to reform how and when APD uses force.

Those who have lost family members have a right to express their opinions, and they deserve both acknowledgement and answers. That’s what the DOJ investigation and ongoing consent-decree negotiations are intended to resolve.

And going forward, APD needs to change how and when it uses deadly force. But there will still be times when officers will have to use it.

And it is vital that when they do, they can do it appropriately and well.

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.