Letters: Dear Mayor Berry, Et Al.

Dear Mayor Berry, Et Al.

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The below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Mayor Berry. So far he hasn’t responded, nor has he, District Attorney Brandenburg or Police Chief Gorden Eden given any indication that they truly understand what’s at stake for Burqueños and New Mexicans. I believe they either need to show some leadership or get out of the way so that someone who cares about the health, well-being and economic viability of this city can do so.

Who I am …

I’m a 22-year resident of Albuquerque and have lived in several neighborhoods including the Northeast Heights, South Valley, UNM and Downtown.

I’m also a successful entrepreneur, run an art/music gallery Downtown and work for a well-funded tech startup. I share these things not to brag but to illustrate that I understand and care deeply about Albuquerque, and I know what makes this city a remarkable place to live and work. I also know how to get things moving, build from scratch and fix complicated situations because I’ve done that work.

Two stories I want to share …

Story #1: One story is about an interaction I had with two APD officers a few nights ago.

A friend of mine had a rock and roll show at her house, and a neighbor called in a noise complaint. The officers showed up and were friendly and asked her to be respectful—it was before 10pm—and to keep things under wraps, which we did. I’ve put together a lot of music shows in basements, warehouses and my own house, so I know that the key to everyone being friendly is to be open and to understand what each person needs in a situation.

The same officers showed up a little later and said there was a second noise complaint; although the bands were done playing, there was music on in the house, and it was loud and bothered the neighbors.

One of the officers started lecturing my friend, which is when I came out. I introduced myself, and he said to me “Hey, I don’t want to look like a jerk in front of my boss? What do you expect me to do if I come out here a second time?”

I told him that we weren’t trying to hassle him, and I said “Hey, we understand you have a job to do. We’d be happy to find an equitable solution. How do you think we can resolve this?”

Frankly he seemed confused. When I let him know that we were happy to work with him, figure out a solution and be good neighbors and citizens, he didn’t
know what to do.

Think about that for a second. A police officer, paid for by my own taxes, can’t even talk to me: a polite, regular citizen who cares deeply about the people in this city, including civil servants.

He mumbled a bit and then basically let us go. But the point here is, when faced with something other than “Hey, I’m going to tell you what to do and/or lecture you and/or escalate the situation,” he didn’t know what to do. And that’s been pretty typical in my interactions with the police here.

Story #2: A friend of mine told me this one. She’s worked in Uganda for years, and a man she knows came over to the US and visited Austin, Texas.

While he was there, he got lost, and naturally he went up to a police officer and asked him for directions. The police officer seemed thrown off by the fact that this tall, coal-black man with a foreign accent was asking him for directions and put his hand on his gun and started asking interrogative questions.

The Ugandan man immediately said to him “Hey!
Wait a second. I am a guest in your country. I am lost. You are a police officer. You are supposed to help me. It is your job to care about the well-being of citizens.”

The police officer apologized and even ended up being very helpful and later became friends with the man.

The point …

Look, I don’t know what all of the pressures of being a mayor, DA or police chief are. But I do know what it means to collaborate with people and to build good structure, good business and community.

The police department here needs to change.

The change is not just better training around weapons and force and escalating situations—all of which are sorely needed—it is also a change in the culture, attitude and relationship of the APD to the City.

APD is here to serve us, as are our elected officials. And we are here to communicate and collaborate with them to make this a better city and strengthen our culture and economic viability.

very few police officers wake up in the morning thinking, “Oh hey, great I might get to shoot someone today”—to be clear, the ones that do relish violence have no place being paid with taxpayer money. It’s a hard job, but if I’m being completely honest, the leadership—and that includes the mayor, police chief, DA, City council and State government—have failed them by refusing to acknowledge the problem.

Forget for a moment about the citizens. Think about the police officers who feel awkward around the public, don’t have a framework for developing relationships with the community and feel they are paid simply to enforce laws and deal with criminals. That’s an awful and dehumanizing experience, and I’m ashamed that our leadership has put them in that position.

This isn’t meant to demonize anyone but to suggest that it could be different—that we could be teaching police officers to collaborate with and not be in opposition to the community. Then the motto stamped on every single police car might actually come true.

Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number via email to letters@alibi.com. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence, we cannot reply to every letter.

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