Workers Vanguard No. 1048

13 June 2014


Albuquerque Cops’ Killing Spree

Across the country, outrage greeted the release of a video documenting a March 16 shoot-to-kill operation carried out by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The target was James Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man with a history of mental illness who was “illegally camping” in the hills outside the New Mexico city. After shooting Boyd once, an APD assault team closed in on him as he lay prone, moaning: “I can’t move” and “Please don’t hurt me anymore.” They again opened fire; he did not survive.

Far from an aberrant horror, Boyd’s killing was another grisly addition to the APD’s body count, which has continued to grow. At the time, a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of the department was underway. When its findings went public in early April, 23 people were revealed to have been shot dead by the Albuquerque police since 2010. Two months on, the APD has taken three more lives.

Long-simmering anger erupted as the Boyd video went viral, with hundreds taking to city streets on March 30. The APD responded with what it knows best: vicious repression. Ten hours into the demonstration, local riot cops, along with the National Guard and police from other cities, fired tear gas into the dwindling crowd, arresting six. On June 2, after Boyd’s autopsy had confirmed that the fatal bullet struck him in the lower back as seen in the grim footage, some 20 people—among them relatives of victims of police killings—entered the mayor’s office to stage a sit-in. Thirteen protesters were arrested, 12 of them on trespassing and other misdemeanor charges. The remaining person, David Correia, a University of New Mexico faculty member, was hit with a bogus fourth-degree felony: “battery of a peace officer.” It is no accident that this well-known opponent of police brutality was singled out. Drop all charges against the protesters now!

Victims of the APD’s terror are often homeless and/or mentally ill. Mostly, they are poor in a state that, with Mississippi, ranks among the poorest of all 50 states. One APD officer, who in 2011 gunned down a man, described his job on Facebook as “human waste disposal.” Such murderous appetite is nothing new to the department. In “The Return of the Albuquerque Death Squads” (CounterPunch, 23 November 2011), Correia described “the extrajudicial police shootings that turned 1970s Albuquerque into a killing field,” particularly targeting Chicano and Native American activists. When not outright killing people, the APD is busy torturing them. Cops fired stun guns at a deranged man who had doused himself in gasoline, setting him ablaze; at a 75-year-old homeless man for refusing to leave a bus stop; and at a 16-year-old boy for refusing to lie on a floor covered in broken glass.

The crimes of the APD should be met with massive, militant protest. As Marxists, we seek to direct outrage over cop violence into a fight against the entire so-called justice system and its police enforcers. Reformist socialist outfits active in the Albuquerque protests, however, preach reliance on the same justice system to allow some kind of popular control of the cops. One of them, the Solidarity group, calls to “organize and protest in the streets, in the ballot boxes and in the courts to ensure the DOJ holds the APD accountable” (16 April). “Accountable” to whom? Along with local police, the courts, prisons and armed forces, the DOJ is part of the bourgeois state apparatus—armed bodies of men whose job is to violently repress class and social struggle in service of the capitalist rulers. Society’s castoffs are especially vulnerable to the cops’ sadistic brutality.

The DOJ investigation found a pattern of the APD using deadly force “in an unconstitutional manner,” no news to city residents who live in fear of the thugs in uniform. The Feds often step into such situations to help with damage control and make a show of “cleaning up” local police so that they can more effectively go about their business of terrorizing the population. When the DOJ examines the conduct of its own, lo and behold, it turns up nothing. The FBI cleared its agents 150 times out of 150 shootings from 1993 to 2011, just as APD internal affairs and the local District Attorney’s “investigative grand juries” have given the cops a pass on all the shootings in Albuquerque. For that city, the DOJ proposes 44 remedies—including the usual palliatives like revising the “civilian oversight process”—none of which are to be implemented without the approval of the local cops!

Peddling measures to supposedly allow civilian oversight and control of the police is the stock and trade of the ANSWER coalition led by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). When in 2010 PSL/ANSWER joined a National Day Against Police Brutality in Albuquerque, they proclaimed: “We want police accountability. We want the police oversight commission to have some power to represent the community” (, 2010). Albuquerque is itself glaring proof of the worthlessness of such schemes. Its oversight commission dates back to the 1990s, when the APD was engaged in a similar killing spree. Over the years, the police chief has simply overruled the commission whenever it found a cop killing “unjustified.” On April 15, three commission members resigned, noting its impotence, complicity and cozy relations with APD brass. Today, PSL/ANSWER seem to have quietly shelved the call for more robust civilian oversight in favor of the no less bankrupt strategy of pressuring the mayor—who as the APD’s boss is complicit in its murderous rampages—to rein in the cops.

From Oakland to New York City, New Orleans to Boston, cop violence is endemic to the capitalist system, as are imperialist wars and occupations, the mass incarceration of black and Latino youth in this country and the poverty that stalks working people. The capitalist state cannot be reformed to serve the interests of the working class and minorities. The families of those who have been killed by the police have won some money in lawsuits and deserve every penny they can wrest from the city. What is necessary to win justice is to destroy, root and branch, the whole state apparatus that upholds capitalist class rule and in its place construct a workers state, laying the basis for the emancipation of all the exploited and oppressed.