Created: August 08, 2020 10:42 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The national call to defund police departments continued on Saturday.
Protestors organized outside APS headquarters demanding that school officials abolish the Albuquerque Public Schools’ police department and use the money for other programs.
The event was organized by several groups including Fight For Our Lives, the Red Nation and Walk the Talk.
"APS police directly contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline which funnels mainly brown and black students into the criminal justice at an extremely young age,” said one of the organizers.
Hundreds of people showed up to the protest outside APS headquarters. The event lasted a couple of hours and included a march around the uptown area.
According to APS, the department uses $6.5 million from the district’s operating budget to pay for 58 sworn officers and 70 unarmed civilian service aides.
Some schools are staffed with officers from the Albuquerque Police Department or deputies from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.
“The national conversation about the roles police play in our schools is something Albuquerque Public Schools has been examining for years,” said APS spokesperson Monica Armenta.
“We understand many of our students and their families experience public education through a lens not always understood by all, and we will continue to do what we can to eradicate racism where it exists,” she added.
Many protestors criticized APS for criminalizing children, however the district said officers only arrested seven students last year. They also confiscated 11 guns from different campuses.
Protestors told KOB 4 they don’t think that’s a good enough reason to have law enforcement on campus. Instead, they want the district to spend money on program like anti-racism, de-escalation and mediation training.
Organizers listed their demands on the event’s Facebook page:
We demand that the APS Board of Education immediately defund and abolish the APS Police Department - and allocate those funds to the following initiatives every year:
1. Provide wide-spread anti-racism staff training
2. Provide mediation and de-escalation staff training
3. Provide Anti-Racism classes/programs for students
4. Institutionalize ethnic studies as a requirement
5. Invest in a holistic integration of technology that prioritizes digital literacy and creativity for at risk students
6. Conduct equity audits of schools with the biggest racial disparities
7. Reinvest and restructure the restorative justice practices as the primary disciplinary system.
8. Prioritize student and community input throughout this process
District officials told KOB 4 they’re already addressing some of these concerns.
“Albuquerque Public Schools police officers don’t operate in isolation,” said Armenta.
“The district has a deep bench of professionals to assist in times of crisis. One designated member of our police force provides mandatory restorative justice training for all sworn officers. The district has counselors, social workers, nurses, and mediation specialists who assist when needed. In situations where law enforcement is necessary, all resources are used to deescalate situations,” she added.
According to Armenta, the district allocates more than $43 million dollars a year to provide schools counselors, nurses, therapists, social workers and other support staff.
Still, protestors are calling for change.
"We need to bring education back into the system. We need to bring education as a priority and once we start educating our people, we won't need the police as much as they say we do,” said one protestor.
"Black and brown students deserve to go to school and focus on their education without the fear of being criminalized, pushed out of school and being brutalized by APS police,” said an organizer.
"I think and can really appreciate where they're coming from,” said Patricio Ruiloba, the district’s restorative justice manager.
“If you look nationally and at what's happening in our schools in regards to law enforcement, there's some significant issues but I can say within the last two years the focus on our police department is and the relationship to the schools is quite the opposite,” he added.
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