For the third consecutive day yesterday, U.S. Justice Department officials sat in rooms big and small listening to disgruntled people pour out their frustrations about the Albuquerque Police Department, which was castigated in a Justice Department report in April for systemic and unconstitutional use of excessive force, reports the New York Times. The sessions were as unusual as they were cathartic: This was the first time the Justice Department had issued an open invitation for comments in a city where it had intervened over police misconduct. More often, in cities where the agency has found fault — including, recently, New Orleans, Portland, Or., and Seattle — only civic leaders and what the Times called other central constituents have been consulted about remedies.
In Albuquerque, hundreds of people turned out in March for a demonstration after a video was released showing the fatal shooting of a distraught homeless man by police officers. The event grew so heated that the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. The Justice Department meetings this week were largely polite: Hundreds of people showed up to voice their distrust of the police, suspicions of the union that represents officers, and disdain for Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican whose four-and-a-half-year tenure has been marked by the shooting deaths of 24 people by the police. “What a lot of us would like to know is if the police and the mayor are going to be held accountable for past injustices, or is it all going to be swept under the rug?” Charles Zdravesky, 70, asked Damon Martinez the acting U.S. Attorney for New Mexico.