Albuquerque police hires from 2007 to 2009 linked to nearly 40 percent of recent shootings

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Albuquerque officers hired from 2007 to 2009 accounted for nearly 40 percent of the police shootings over the past five years, according to a new study.

That hiring came a time when the Albuquerque Police Department lowered its requirements in an effort to increase staff levels and put more officers on the streets, the Albuquerque Journal reports (http://goo.gl/f1IWGs ).

The study completed by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency also found that white male officers were involved in a disproportionate number of the shootings over that period.

The report detailed several patterns of the 51 Albuquerque police officers who shot at someone in 42 recent police shooting cases. It will serve as a primer as the Police Oversight Board prepares to start its review of officer-involved shootings, said Robin Hammer, executive director of the board.

"We're looking for opportunities to see patterns ... and to give feedback to the police department on these patterns," said board member Joanne Fine.

For example, or 98 percent of the officers who shot at someone were male and 76 percent were white, according to the report.

The Albuquerque Police Department is about 87 percent male and 54 percent white, the numbers showed.

The report comes as the U.S. Justice Department and the city of Albuquerque await a federal judge's decision on whether to overhaul the force amid excessive force cases.

Federal officials concluded that there was a pattern of practice of excessive use of force and that officers needed more training on dealing with suspects battling mental illness.

"The (Department of Justice) thoroughly investigated every aspect of the department and didn't find any evidence or claims of biased-based policing," said Celina Espinoza, an Albuquerque police spokeswoman. "And that was directly looked at."

The officers who joined the force between 2007 and 2009 were hired at a time when Albuquerque police changed its requirements and increased cadet class sizes and lateral hires from other departments in an attempt to grow the ranks of the force.

Espinoza pointed out that officers hired during that period came into the department under the watch of a previous police administration. She also said Albuquerque police have improved their recruiting techniques and training since then.

The Albuquerque Police Department under former Mayor Martin Chavez was trying to get to 1,100 officers. The force fluctuated between about 900 and 1,100 officers. It currently is authorized at 1,000, but had 881 officers Friday, Espinoza said.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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