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Albuquerque couple helping to draw criteria for police chief has personal stake

Caleb James
October 17, 2017 10:24 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Their son was shot and killed in his own backyard by the Albuquerque Police Department in 2011, in an incident whose subsequent investigation became a cornerstone of APD reform efforts.

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Now Stephen and Renetta Torres are leading an effort to carefully choose the department's next chief. The couple discussed their next chapter exclusively with KOB.

In the backyard where Christopher was shot, his mother has built a sanctuary. 

"I don't think we've ever had anybody back here that we didn't feel completely comfortable with," Renetta Torres said.

An invitation into this space is an invitation to hallowed ground.

"This is where Christopher was killed," Renetta Torres said, gesturing to a spot marked by a small statuette. "Right here on this patio. He laid his head for the very last time right there."

For the Albuquerque mom, it is no longer a terrifying place.

"It's very peaceful, it's very serene," she said. "I feel Christopher here."

Her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Long before his death, his parents asked APD to contact them during any police interaction that might take place with Christopher.

They knew what to do if their son became agitated. But they were never contacted the day the 27-year-old died.

He was shot and killed after police entered the backyard where he was playing with the family dog. 

"Renetta was very…she was very hesitant to come home after Christopher was killed," Stephen Torres said. "I told her, I said, 'If we don't go home, they win. We have to go home.’” 

The couple has since used their home as a source of empowerment, and a symbol of determination to reform the department that took their child.

"The struggle for reform, I think, is the least that we felt we could do for Christopher," Renetta Torres said.

Through his work with the local coalition APD Forward, Stephen Torres is developing a list of criteria for hiring APD's next chief.

"We're looking at this as an opportunity," he said.

Two committees within the group are currently drawing up a master list that will be presented to mayoral candidates Dan Lewis or Tim Keller – whoever takes office following a runoff election on Nov. 14.

So far, Renetta Torres said she expects the next chief to embrace the terms of APD's settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, and to work within its constraints to build protocol and process.

Stephen Torres says he wants to see a chief who will welcome and champion outside civilian oversight by the Citizens Police Oversight Agency.

"And the chief has to be able to work with that group," he added.  

KOB reached out to the Keller and Lewis campaigns on Tuesday about the criteria-in-progress and asked if they'd be open to it.

Dan Lewis provided the following statement:

"I'll listen to anyone and everyone that wants to help solve our rampant crime problem and cares about the safety of our families.”

Tim Keller, meanwhile, said the following:

"As mayor, I want to restore the trust in the police department by considering the diverse perspectives of people across Albuquerque, including APD Forward. That is the only way we can move Albuquerque forward and ensure every community across the city is included in the solutions to our challenges."

Credits

Caleb James

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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