Fault Lines

Albuquerque Police: A History of Violence

Fault Lines investigates how the Albuquerque police department became one of the most violent in the United States.

Since 2010, police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have shot 40 people, 27 of whom have died from their injuries.

For a city of only 550,000 people, Albuquerque now has the highest rate of fatal shootings by police in the United States, eight times that of the police in New York City and nearly double that of Chicago’s police department.

They come in here, knowing that 'we can shoot anybody and get away with it. Our badge is my license to kill'.

by Mike Gomez, father of an APD shooting victim

In early 2014, police officers killed James Boyd, a homeless man with a history of schizophrenia. 

His killing, caught on an officer’s body camera, sparked national outrage over police brutality, and two officers are facing murder charges. It’s the first time in decades that an Albuquerque police department (APD) shooting has led to criminal proceedings against a police officer.

In the past few years alone, the city has paid tens of millions of dollars to families bringing civil lawsuits against the police. Yet the families say that many of the officers involved have escaped scrutiny and remain on the force. Officers, who, they say, should have never been allowed to join the police force in the first place. 

After Boyd’s death, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) released a scathing report on the APD, which was based on a 16-month investigation. It highlighted patterns of unconstitutional and deadly use of force and “culture of aggression”.

Since then, the police have insisted that they are implementing reforms in agreement with the DoJ.

But in interviews with Al Jazeera, former officers, local lawyers and journalists say that change is only scratching the surface and that the corrupt and violent culture of the police department continues unabated.

Fault Lines investigates how the Albuquerque police force has become one of the most violent and deadliest police departments in the US and asks if any of the officers will face any accountability.