Activist: Racism, lack of education is root of police problems

Posted at: 08/18/2014 10:12 PM
Updated at: 08/18/2014 10:19 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

As tension continues to escalate in Ferguson, Missouri, an Albuquerque activist said the problems with police there - and in Albuquerque - stem from institutional racism and a lack of education and opportunities for the underprivileged.

"It's decades of problems," Jewel Hall said.

She's been outspoken against Albuquerque police for years.  She's been part of nationwide discussions about the use of force after police in Saginaw, Michigan shot and killed her son, Milton Hall, in 2012.  Officers shot at him more than 40 times.

Hall said she's been watching the protests in Ferguson, Mo.  She said she immediately began to think about the underlying causes of the tension.

"Here are some people who have been trained to disregard the lives of other people, and to serve and protect is to protect the affluent political power," Hall said.

She finds fault with the racial makeup of that community's police force and city leadership.  They're nearly all white in a community that's more than 50-percent African-American.

She also believes the city's troubled education system and struggling economy don't help the situation either.

In Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, Hall believes elected leaders are not representative of the community's nearly 50-percent Hispanic population.

"It does not reflect that.  And that's a part of the boiling pot," she said.

Hall compiled a list of recommendations she submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) a few weeks ago.  Among them was a call to address "racism, barriers and disparities in the consent decree."

View Jewel Hall's recommendations

The city is in the process of negotiating a consent decree with the DOJ after it determined APD had a pattern of violating residents' constitutional rights.

"What we need is leadership to have a bottom-up conversation and look at the issues, and formulate comprehensive plans to address those," Hall said.

In response to Hall's opinions, Mayor Richard Berry's Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montano, issued a statement:

"We are proud that Albuquerque is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. As a city we will continue to move forward to build trust with the citizens of Albuquerque and our police department, all the while celebrating the rich diversity that makes Albuquerque such a wonderful place. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Missouri and we hope as a city and country we can all move forward in a positive and inclusive direction."