Days after angry protesters took over a City Council meeting, Albuquerque leaders are adding extra security and warning that rules of decorum will be strictly enforced at Thursday night's session, called to discuss the troubled police department.
The agenda includes whether the city should change the way the police chief is selected. Council members were supposed to address the issue at Monday’s meeting, which was adjourned early because of the disruption.
Currently, the chief is appointed by the mayor without council approval. One proposal would amend the city charter to make the mayor’s nominee subject to council confirmation. A competing amendment would make the chief an elected position.
Councilwoman Klarissa J. Peña called the protests an “unfortunate turn of events.” She said she empathized, but the activists may have damaged their cause.
“They were not there to harm anybody,” she said. “They just wanted their voices heard. The unfortunate thing was that there were other people who wanted their voices heard as well, and they got drowned out or left out, and I think we have to be fair to everyone.”
Thursday’s meeting comes two days after police released 45 seconds of video from an hours-long standoff Saturday that ended with the officer-involved fatal shooting of Armand Martin. It was the most recent in a series of deadly police shootings that prompted a U.S. Justice Department investigation. Since 2010, police have fatally shot 25 people — four of them since mid-March, including a homeless man whose death triggered protests.
Martin’s death is the second officer-involved fatal shooting since federal officials in April released a report describing a culture of “aggression” that has led to a series of unjustifiable officer-involved shootings.
Residents are outraged that the released video footage does not show the entire chain of events that led up to Martin's shooting, nor the shooting itself. Police have said Martin, a 50-year-old military veteran, came out shooting with two handguns after threatening his wife and children with a gun.
Federal officials, city and police leaders are negotiating a consent decree that could result in the appointment of a monitor to oversee the Albuquerque Police Department.
At Thursday's council meeting, officials will not allow disruptive public outbursts, props or signs other than what can be displayed on an overhead projector during presentations.
Anyone in violation gets one warning. After that, those who fail to comply could be cited, which could result in a fine of $500 and 90 days in jail.