Community leaders say change will take time

Posted at: 04/10/2014 5:35 PM
Updated at: 04/10/2014 5:50 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Much of the Department of Justice’s investigation has been conducted through interviews with community leaders and activists, and several of them were invited to Thursday’s announcement about the Albuquerque Police Department. Community leaders, for the most part, weren’t convinced that substantial change is coming; they say problems will only be fixed once city officials start listening better.

“I'm concerned about the community, I'm pretty emotional about that,” Jewel Hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Council said, “And how they would be included and not be trashed.”

Hall says something’s been missing from conversations about the community.

“When you're dealing with an economically disadvantaged community, who suffers all of these disparities...sometime when they try to have a voice at the table, that voice is ignored. And sometimes they don't have a voice at the table,” Hall said.

She says the current mayor has kept minorities and the mentally ill out of the loop – and if he wants his city to change, he needs to change, too.

“Here in Albuquerque, we have sort of a select group of people who put the mayor in and he's carrying out the orders of those people who financially put him there,” Hall said. “I've never heard him speak to what I would consider the struggling community...the community that's economically disadvantaged.”

Ralph Arellanes, state director of the League of Latin American citizens, agrees with her concern.

“Of the 23 that have been shot and killed, or even 24, a good majority, about 80 percent are Hispanic. From a LULAC perspective, we're very pleased the Department of Justice came out with the findings that they found, we knew they were going to be very scathing findings,” Arellanes said.

He says he wishes the Department of Justice would have gone even further – addressing the administration.

“This is a department that's in shambles, and we've had a mayor there for four years, he's had a chance to address the problems that exist as they are today, and those problems have not been addressed. In fact they've gotten worse,” Arellanes said.

The DOJ plans to hold several stakeholder meetings with community leaders.