The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has reached an unfortunate milestone after recording its 17th police shooting of the year, marking an all-time high.
According to Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina, the officer-involved shooting took place after a knife-wielding man lunged at officers and was subsequently shot and killed.
Prior to the shooting on November 10, police responded to a call about a man who allegedly broke a window at a bank and threatened someone after having problems with his debit card.
The story continued when police encountered the man again 12 hours later outside the police prison transport center. When officers attempted to speak to the man, he fled.
The man had apparently been arrested three times over the past three months and had received help from a crisis intervention unit. However, at 2 a.m. that same night, officers confronted him outside a downtown building and attempted to negotiate with him before he charged at them with a weapon.
“Yesterday’s shooting is just a grim reminder that we need to work with our state legislators, we need to work with our partners in the criminal justice system, we have to find answers,” the chief said. “We have to find answers as to how we can reduce the number of contacts with these individuals.”
Several common patterns were found throughout the 54 shootings involving Albuquerque police officers between 2018 and 2022. According to the chief, shootings typically took place either when officers attempted to apprehend violent suspects, individuals were in the midst of a mental health episode or when people were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
According to data released by the Albuquerque Police Department, 85% of the shooting victims were either armed with a gun or weapon, or held something that appeared to be a firearm.
In 55% of cases, victims happened to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There were only two cases where the victim was sober.
In 2022, New Mexico has recorded 50 instances in which police officers opened fire.
Albuquerque has, for the past decade, experienced its fair share of controversy for excessive force instances. In fact, the department was investigated by the Department of Justice and subsequently agreed to improve its training and dismantle problematic units.
A report by a federal monitor has indicated that the city continues to adhere to the mandates set in the DOJ’s agreement.
Meanwhile, the city has been facing a surge in violent crime, surpassing record homicide totals in 2021 and is on pace again this year to smash that record.
In late September this year, the city recorded its 100th homicide. Seven of those were double homicides.
Earlier this year, Albuquerque Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said repeat offenders are emboldened due to a soft criminal justice system.
“The same criminals know it’s a joke. They know they can just come out and keep doing these crimes over and over,” Hartsock said. “They know how easy it is to avoid detection of pretrial services monitoring, of probation officers and even police. Keeping certain violent criminals incarnated until their trial is honestly one of the only ways to keep this society safe.”
With violent crime up in the city and state, it shouldn’t be a surprise that officer-involved shootings are up as well.
ACLU activists and other community leaders are calling for police to release more details of the recent shooting, and some are advocating for a state-wide reform of use-of-force policies with protocols for de-escalation.
Medina responded by saying the department continues to work on policy changes and training with the goal of reducing the need for deadly force.
Medina said that disengagement — not just de-escalation — needs to be included in officer training.
Department data shows that over the last five years, six officers underwent additional training as a result of shooting someone. Five letters of reprimand were issued, three verbal reprimands were given, one officer was suspended and two officers were fired.