Created: 02/06/2014 5:05 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
On Thursday, Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry announced plans to start a task force focused on preventing child abuse. It comes in memory of nine-year-old Omaree Varela, who police say was killed at the hands of his mother.
“When you see and hear things like what happened to Omaree Varela, where he's consistently being beaten down emotionally and then physically and eventually the allegations are he died at the hands of a parent, it just breaks your heart,” Berry said. “It makes you mad.”
The Albuquerque Police Department is investigating whether two officers handled a call to the child’s home correctly. Lapel camera video from that call shows Omaree watching as police question his parents for about eleven minutes without taking further action. The officers could face disciplinary action, and APD policies may be changed.
“But if we just stop there then we are not honoring Omaree's memory and we're learning nothing from this,” Berry said. “We have to start in my opinion from the time when a child died at the hands of a parent and go backwards from there, and find out where there were weak links in the system.”
The mayor says the city will spend $25,000-$50,000 on a task force, bringing in experts on abuse, poverty, hunger, substance abuse and the legal system, to fill in the cracks a young child slipped through.
“We may find out through this process that we already have procedures and policies that are state of the art, well guess what though? There's still a young man who died, allegedly at the hand of his parent - and that means we can do better,” Berry said.