This is the first magazine article that this examiner has reviewed. I couldn’t stop myself because of the treasure trove of information it contained that local media have overlooked about the disgraceful and – for New Mexicans – shameful activities perpetuated by some members of the Albuquerque Police Department. Letter from Albuquerque: YOUR SON IS DECEASED is a 12-page finely written in-depth account in the current (February 2) New Yorker Magazine, which (along with another one in Rolling Stone Magazine entitled When Police Break Bad) is another reminder of how an American needs to look to sources outside his or her immediate locale to find out what is really going on at home.
The article informs us not only about what went down on the mean streets of our city (we already knew that), but – more importantly — also how and why these terrible events happen.
The article focuses on one of the hundreds of “hot cases” on the APD books, just as an excellent film or TV crime show does: it is like an exploration of a city’s brain’s hidden folds to gain a better (truer) understanding of this problem that touches so many people, not only in Albuquerque, but all over the US and world. (think Ferguson, Missouri).
The case it hones in on is the shooting death of a mentally challenged young Hispanic man named Christopher Torres on April 12, 2011, by 40 police cars full of officers circling his home. Afterwards APD called the grief-stricken parents and said, “I regret to inform you that your son is deceased.“ Christopher’s parents had to wait till the next day to learn the horrific details of their son’s death – on television news!
Some of the other previously unknown details of this event that the article reveals are:
- Half of the victims of police shootings in the city were mentally ill!
- Albuquerque, with a population of about a half million, has a rate of fatal shooting by police that is eight times that of New York City!
- APD announced to the local media, just as they do after every police-involved shooting, that Christopher was “violent, a career criminal, or mentally ill.”
- Since 2007, of the 63 new APD police officers, ten have shot citizens!
- The officer who killed Christopher had been hired by the APD even though he had had a history of unprofessional and illegal on-duty police work in his previous positions!
- The day after the shooting, a neighbor of the Torres family told police that she had witnessed the treatment and killing through a hole in her fence, but no one from APD ever followed up with her!
The article also provides an in-depth account of the police department’s – as well as the city’s -prevailing culture of masculine ethos, sexism, and possibly (anti-Hispanic) racism.
- One retired female APD sergeant was quoted: “The APD is an “all-boys club,” in which female officers are treated as an underclass and are used sexually and traded.
- She also said that APD officers are trained to be cynical about civilians. “We’re taught to almost dehumanize them. It just got to the point that it’s like ‘they’re a piece of shit’.”
- A University of New Mexico professor of American Studies was quoted: “There is a myth here (in New Mexico) of tri-cultural harmony – Indigenous people, Mexican-Americans, and Anglos – but this precarious arrangement is built on a long history of violence against Spanish-speaking and Indigenous people that still plays out.”
In conclusion, on a personal note, while it feels good that other media are collaborating with this citizen journalist to out the “breaking bad” behavior of the Albuquerque Police Department, as a law-abiding citizen of Albuquerque whose only son is named Christopher and as an Anglo male, I feel unsafe and ashamed when I read this article. In case you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to check it out (click here) so that you can better understand the finer points of 28 officer-involved shootings in the Duke City during the last 5 years.
(This is the first of a series of articles by this citizen journalist on this topic. Please subscribe if you wish to follow.)