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Police Union Lashes Out Over Mayor's Proposal

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          The Albuquerque police union is blasting Mayor Richard Berry's administration for proposing additional deadly force training for all officers in the wake of 16 police shootings across the city in as many months.
        The union also directed sharp criticism at the family of Christopher Torres, killed Tuesday by police after they tried to serve an arrest warrant at the Torres family home in Taylor Ranch.
        The union's statement said Torres had not complied with the detectives' orders to put his hands behind his back and that it was Torres — not APD detectives Christopher Brown and Richard Hilger — who "escalated the incident."
        Brown fatally shot Torres during a fight in the backyard of the family's Taylor Ranch home. Torres had wrested Hilger's gun from its holster during the struggle, according to police.
        The union expressed condolences, but said the family knew Christopher Torres "was a danger to society" and didn't take sufficient steps to deal with that threat.
        An attorney for the Torres family did not return a phone call Friday.
        Berry and White on Thursday announced a proposal that would require all APD officers to take eight hours of training every two years on when and when not to shoot.
        "After reading the erroneous and ignorant statements made by Mayor Richard Berry and (city Public Safety) Director Darren White, the APOA (Albuquerque Police Officers Association) has been left with no other choice but to release our own statement in righteous defense of our officers," it reads. "To say we need more training is an insult and is offensive to each and every officer of the Albuquerque Police Department."
        Suspects have been killed in 11 of the 16 officer-involved shootings between January 2010 and Tuesday.
        City response
        After reviewing a copy of the union's statement provided to him by the Journal, White issued a response:
        "I think it's regrettable that the police union boss is using a police shooting to try to score political points," he said. "As I stated, the purpose of the training was because of the increase in attacks on officers and the resulting officer-involved shootings, and as an administrator, I have a duty and responsibility to ensure that our officers have the best training to protect themselves, and I will not apologize for that."
        The proposal came two days after the most recent officer-involved shooting, but Berry said it had been in the works for some time.
        Brown and Hilger on Tuesday went to arrest Christopher Torres, 27, on a warrant alleging he may have been involved in as many as 25 instances of aggressive driving or "road rage." One of those instances happened on Feb. 17, when he allegedly tried to pull a woman out of her car at a stoplight on Paseo Del Norte.
        Matthew Torres, Christopher's brother and attorney, told the Journal earlier this week that his family plans to file a lawsuit against APD, Brown and Hilger alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations.
        Police have said that Brown and Hilger were not aware that Christopher Torres, the son of Deputy Bernalillo County Manager Renetta Torres, had a history of paranoid schizophrenia that is documented in public court and police records.
        "There are, however, at least three people that did know: Christopher's parents and Christopher's brother knew," the APOA statement reads. "Officers had been called out to their home before, at least once by the parent's request. They are a highly educated, influential family. Why didn't they realize that Christopher needed a higher level of care, up to and possibly including treatment at a secured, mental health facility?
        "He was a danger to society and that danger was enhanced with disregard when he was given a high-performance Mustang GT to drive around and cause havoc to each and every citizen of Albuquerque."
        Journal Staff Writer Astrid Galvan contributed to this report

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