Nov 16, 2017

Sunland Park, Border Futures and the New Mexico Dream

Official city seal
Sunland Park, Border Futures and the New Mexico Dream
By Kent Paterson/Correspondent
Nov. 13, 2017
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Big themes shaping the U.S-Mexico border are in the news- immigration, NAFTA, the border wall, and the so-called drug war. Largely flying under the radar are the day-to-day concerns facing millions of borderlanders from two nations in places like Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Where are the good-paying jobs? Is the community water supply affordable and safe to drink? What about flood control, traffic, roads and neighborhood security? Are the schools good? Will a pack of stray dogs maul our playing children? Do local governments give a hoot about us? 
Wrestling with seemingly local issues, last week's session of the Sunland Park City Council provided a broader portrait of a border society in transition and some of the early 21st century choices communities must make in a context of tight-fisted state spending, federal funding policies, capital investment priorities, real estate market forces, lifestyle trends, and shifting regional and global environments. 
Crammed into the small city council chambers and spilling into the hallway, dozens of concerned local residents turned out for the November 7 meeting to hear about and debate ambitious economic development projects, flood mitigation, animal control, housing subdivisions and more.
Falling on the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution according to the Gregorian calendar, what proved to be a marathon meeting did not culminate in the storming of the local Winter Palace. Nonetheless, it was certainly one for the historic books in terms of public engagement, impassioned commentaries, legal pot shots and running out the clock.   
"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," Andres Peña told city councilors of achieving his dream of buying his own home. "It's my own little tranquility out there."
Santa Teresa area resident and Sunland Park property owner Orlando Cervantes assessed the progress of the New Mexico border city of more than 16,500 people (U.S. Census estimate, 2016) since the so-called Sunland Park Scandals of 2011-12.
"There have been some good things happening but there are still things that need to be done," Cervantes said, adding that hiring a new city manager, securing strong leadership and reviewing the controversial Santa del Sol housing development are "paramount" needs.
In August, the Sunland Park City Council voted 4-1 to fire City Manager Bob Gallagher; his job is currently filled by Acting City Manager Julian Ruybalid while the hiring process for a permanent city manager moves forward.
Five of Sunland Park's city councilors were present for last week’s session including Olga Nuñez, Carolina Renteria, Donald McBride, Ken Giove and Francisco Jayme. Daniel de los Santos did not attend.
Mayor Javier Perea moderated the evening's packed agenda, getting the ball rolling by having each of the city councilors present affirm he or she didn’t have a conflict of interest with any item on the agenda. Befitting a bilingual community, translation devices were available for monolingual Spanish or English speakers. 
Riverwalks, roads and recognitions
In a plan reminiscent of former Sunland Park Mayor Ruben Nuñez's San Antonio Riverwalk-like development strategy, city contractors Wilson and Company unveiled the Sunland Park Drive Project: Gateway to the Entertainment Business District.
The plan involves expanding Sunland Park Drive, a primary road connecting with neighboring El Paso, Texas, to Anapra Road near the Mexican border. The idea is to move light industrial activity to an international border zone, open a crossing with Mexico, expand parks, schools, recreation trails, ensure wheel chair accessibility, and situate an envisioned entertainment district at Racetrack Drive near the Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Presented by Wilson and Company's Mario Infante, the overview of a future Sunland Park drew questions from city councilors about costs, time lines and amenities. If Sunland Park applies for and receives a preliminary federal grant for 2017-2018, construction could be underway by mid-2019, Infante projected. The total price tag? An estimated $11-14 million, with 85 percent federal funding and 15 percent local matching, he said. 
Sunland Park Community Development Director Hector Rangel said the development goal is to create a community where people can walk to services, dining and entertainment.
Part of the city council meeting was devoted to viewing a video depicting how an innovative road construction technique called "lithification" was recently employed on Santa Teresita Road, transforming dirt into pavement, cutting the work schedule down from five weeks to three and costing $600,000 instead of an original estimate of $1.7 million, according to both Mayor Perea and Rangel.
Prior to the recent paving, crews attempted to repair the road for the past two years but it "kept falling apart," Rangel elaborated, blaming the setbacks on a difficult soil composition and a high saline water table.
"Why aren't Santa Teresita residents here?" questioned Councilor Renteria, saying she knew some residents who were content with the road project’s outcome but still wished to hear their opinions vented because of the previous bad road conditions they encountered.
In a meeting that lingered into the night (the reporter had to leave while the session continued at 10 p.m. after more than three hours), other items that were addressed included flood mitigation in the low-lying Anapra neighborhood, recognition of the finance department for winning a best practice award, and the approval of a $100,000 legal services contract to Holt Mynatt Martinez P.C., a Las Cruces-based firm which currently represents the city in litigation. 
Road sign for Sunland Park
Councilor McBride asked why Holt and partners were the solo applicants for the contract. Sunland Park Purchasing Agent Martin Grajeda responded that others had indeed expressed preliminary interest but did not follow up with bids. Grajeda promised he would send a complete list of the interested but non-acting bidders to all the city council members.
The Battle of Valencia Hills
By far, the biggest display of political fireworks erupted over a proposed ordinance rezoning the Valencia Hills area from single-family residential to multi-family residential, a change that would allow a new 200-unit apartment complex.
Consuming a good part of the meeting, the proposal drew public comments from 16 speakers, with 14 of them adamantly opposed to a zoning change.
The critics represented newer homeowners, many previously from El Paso, who voiced deep concerns about possible crime and vandalism, traffic troubles, lower property values, and dangers to their children. They contended homeowners had not been properly notified of the proposed zoning ordinance change.  Decrying the “anxiety among us,” one man slammed the city government for relying on Facebook to publicize meetings and urged a better method of communications. 
Valencia Hills residents asserted a big apartment complex would disrupt an existing, close-knit community of family homeowners and threaten their New Mexico Dream, as one speaker put it.
"We never received that (notification) letter they sent out last time," said Janet Sanchez, who described herself as a first time home owner. "We don't know who's going to live (in the apartments). We don't know who's going to come in and out...everybody disagrees with these rearrangements. I'm sure nobody would want apartments put in next to them."
Added Carmen Zamarron, "Our main concern is our home value, our security. We bought our house to live comfortable, to have good neighbors, which we do now."
Bemoaning the "insane" traffic of El Paso, Lisa Adame painted a picture of her piece of paradise in New Mexico. "It's a small community. We all say hi to everyone...We want to maintain the beauty in that community."
Introducing himself as the president of the Villa Valencia Homeowners Association, Raul Telles countered that Valencia Hills critics exhibited nimbyism, and studies dispelled the strident criticisms flung of apartment-driven lower property values. Tellez offered an intriguing explanation for accounts of delinquent behavior in existing local apartment complexes.  
"A lot of the crimes that have been happening in Villa Valencia are, unfortunately, self-inflicted gunshot wounds," he said.  
Addressing the city council for the second time in the evening, Orlando Cervantes drew applause when he cautioned against flippant rezoning and warned against government intervention in the real estate market, arguing that it wasn't the function of government to increase or depreciate land values. "That's for the market to dictate," he said.
Among the prominent southern New Mexico chile pepper growers and processors who rode the crest during the great boom of the 1980s and 1990s, Cervantes is the father of state Senator Joseph Cervantes, who is vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in next year's election.
Seated attentively, the developer of the controversial, planned Valencia Hills apartment complex, Russell Hanson, answered questions from city councilors. Geared exclusively for affluent residents, the HUD loan guaranteed apartments would cost more than $20 million to build, the El Paso-based developer estimated, and take into account traffic studies. Suiting an upscale style, the complex will feature a fitness center and a swimming pool, Hanson added.
"We believe there is a market need for this project," he said. "We would not be spending $20-25 million if it wasn't a go." Further, his company was invited to build at the location in question by a Sunland Park city official, Hanson said, a remark which later prompted a jab by Cervantes that such a project origin was improper “if not illegal.” 
Hanson contradicted a statement by Rangel that the land at stake had been originally zoned for multi-family and then switched to single residential by the same developer who is now favoring a reversion back to multi-family.  “I don’t recall that taking place,” a visibly surprised Hanson replied. 
Rangel quickly apologized, explaining that he had “assumed” Hanson was the same owner during the first multi-family zoning designation when in fact he wasn’t.
Rangel made additional comments that favored Hanson's case. He said a real estate sign had been up for years at the site in contention, and zeroed in on New Mexico state legal technicalities which the city official  insisted do not require that all the people potentially impacted by a zoning change receive notification, only those living within 100 feet of an affected area (excluding roadways) and selected at random.
In compliance with the City of Sunland Park’s legal duty, Rangel told councilors he had delivered them packets containing 35 certified letters sent to residents of the targeted zone.  
 A representative of Holt, Mynatt Martinez then informed city councilors that they could vote yes on rezoning, considering that it appeared all the legal notification requirements were met.  He cautioned that an abstention could be counted as a "no" vote.
Councilor Nuñez asked Hanson what a negative vote would signify for the apartment project.
"It would be dead," he intoned.
Tension rose in the council chambers as the discussion tapered off and headed for a vote. Judging by the looks on city councilors' faces, the decision facing them was a tough one. At the end of the roll call, Councilors Giove, Nuñez and McBride voted in favor of the ordinance, Jayme against it and Renteria abstained. With no majority of the six councilors, one vote short due to Daniel De los Santos' absence, the proposed rezoning ordinance failed. Looking disgusted, Hanson threw up his hands and stalked out of the room. Critics breathed a sigh of relief.
But the Valencia Hills residents’ victory could be short-lived.
"(Rezoning) will come back," Councilor Giove predicted later in the week. "I think the developer did the right things," Giove said. "It was the second or third meeting on this. He stated that he would put in high-end apartments… and I'm good with that."
For his part, Hanson was subsequently unavailable for comment. Looking back at the city council session which he said didn’t finish until 11:30 pm, Giove voiced frustration at the meeting process, the pace of progress in reforming city government and problems in overhauling aging infrastructure.
“We have too much on our plate. We’re trying to recover from 15 years of neglect,” Giove said.
The first term councilman, who is still considering whether to run for reelection in the 2018 city election, contended that numerous deficiencies, obstacles and challenges confront the municipal administration, including the desirability of renegotiating garbage disposal and utility contracts;  new management changes in the long-running campaign to secure a local border crossing with Mexico;  lack of professional expertise in some key positions;  insufficient state government financial assistance; competition over the tight municipal budget;  and a need for independent oversight.
On the other hand, Giove had positive words for regular educational workshops attended by city council members on planning, zoning and other issues. “We should be having a hell of lot more if we’re going to get these things..,” he said. “That requires organization and staff that are competent.”   
 Unsung town hero is recognized
The November 7 meeting also spent considerable time discussing animal control in Sunland Park and the city’s inadequate facility to house captured creatures.  Councilors approved a $30,000 allocation to improve the animal control program, after hearing about the expense in time and money driving animals to the bigger Dona Ana County facility. 
The proposed budget item sparked a larger conversation. Though in support of the requested funding, Rangel warned councilors “this is a band aid solution” demanding a long-term cure like an ordinance mandating dog licensing, microchips and vaccinations. In response to a question from Councilor Jayme, Rangel said it would take about six months to have such an ordinance before city councilors. 
Councilor Nuñez steered the conversation to the working conditions of the city’s dog-catcher, Mr. Chaparro. “I commend him,” she declared, adding she was worried about his health and safety. “Does he have a shower?” Nuñez asked. Provoking chuckles, Rangel agreed that Mr. Chaparro needs shower access, recalling a time when the animal control officer was sprayed by a skunk and physically exuded evidence of the encounter for three days.
Dressed in work garb, Mr. Chaparro graciously accepted the compliments, but stressing he could not do his job completely alone   thanked the Fire Department and other city staff for pitching in. “We’re a team,” he said.
Ironically, after the reporter left the meeting and was driving outside the racetrack and casino a naughty little Chihuahua was running loose along the road, perhaps taking advantage of the absence of city officials still immersed in their long meeting to make mischief.  


Nov 3, 2017

Relatives Revisit the Albuquerque Police Shootings

Suzanne Saiz, a granddaugther and friend
Annette Kaylorq at family vigil outside APD.

Special to the Digie Zone Network
Relatives Revisit the Albuquerque Police Shootings
Kent Paterson/Correspondent
Photos by Theresa James
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - Weeks before the administration of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry becomes history, the U.S.  Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that led to court monitored reforms of the local police department are back in the headlines. A Huffington Post story chastising the compliance of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) with the reforms, a slew of comments by New Mexico politicians and a new department website ( ) touting a new day are making news.  
"APD Reform is designed to increase transparency of the Albuquerque Police Department and the changes we are making within the department," APD Chief Gorden Eden said at the campaign's late October rollout- only days the latest report on reform compliance by the court-appointed monitor was scheduled to be released and almost sure to whip up more polemics.    
"It is important for the public to understand and know the progress their police department is making to better serve the people of Albuquerque.” 
But what do some of the relatives and friends of people whose killings by APD officers prompted the DOJ investigation in the first place have to say about the pace of reforms and prospects for change? 
"I think it started to work a little but to me nothing has changed. There have been improvements but not as far as justice and the police getting reprimanded for their actions" said Suzanne Saiz, aunt of Dominic Smith, who was shot to death at the age of 30 by APD officer Jacob Welch in 2009, after an alleged robbery of a Walgreen's drug store. "It's very sad that (police) can get away with it."
In 2010, the Albuquerque Journal reported that a Bernalillo County grand jury quickly ruled the shooting was "justified under New Mexico law."
Candles for loved ones at APD headquarter

The Smith killing was documented in a 2014 DOJ report that found an unconstitutional pattern of excessive force by APD. The findings resulted in a court-monitored settlement between the former Obama administration and the Berry administration encompassing crisis intervention training, use of force and other reforms.
According to the DOJ report: "Smith did not pose a threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others. Smith used a threatening note to rob a pharmacy for drugs before fleeing on foot. No one at the pharmacy saw Smith with any kind of a weapon and he did not commit acts of violence during the alleged robbery."
The report detailed how the situation escalated after Smith attempted to flee an officer who now confronted him with an assault rifle:   “..With Smith just a few feet away, the officer claimed that Smith motioned near his waist, which the officer believed to indicate that Smith was reaching for a gun. The officer shot and killed Smith. Smith did not have a gun...."
According to the aunt, Dominic Smith "wasn't in his right mind" when the shooting occurred. By then, the young man was in the depths of an opioid addiction. Prior to his addiction, Dominic was studying electrical engineering and had helped his mom in a new business, according to Saiz.
"A very hard working guy" who learned construction and woodworking, she described her nephew as generous to even to the homeless, a man who would give away his last five bucks. "You needed something fixed and he was the handyman to do it, a jack-of-all trades," Saiz said.
Dominic didn’t have children but possessed "two Chihuahuas he loved," one of which is still alive, she added. The descent of a caring, industrious son and a nephew into drug addiction was "shocking" to Dominic's family, and his mom's efforts at securing rehabilitation encountered closed doors or unaffordable treatment slots, Saiz said.  
"Losing Dominic just tore her apart, mentally and physically," Saiz said of her sister's condition after the October 1, 2009, shooting, which fell only nine days before Dominic's birthday. "That's always been very hard. October is very hard. Those days are hard."
Back in 2008-09, with the world plunged into the Great Recession and New Mexico tattered to economic shreds, the trials and tribulations of a working stiff who suffered two successive accidents and ended up hooked on opioid painkillers ranked low on the public policy action agenda. And despite the Trump Administration's opioid-related public health emergency, many would argue that the Dominic Smiths of today are still low on the totem pole of priorities.
In Dominic's memory, his family erected a metal cross near the spot where he was killed on Albuquerque's West Side. Recently, the cross vanished. Relatives searched but came up empty handed until a local television outlet ran a story and the cross was mysteriously found the next day in a dumpster the family had previously searched. Now the cross is back and fastened in concrete, Saiz said.        
A Small but Emotional October Vigil 
Holding a red rose and wearing a button with Dominic's picture, Saiz was part of a small group of people that gathered October 22 on the steps of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). A few candles decorated the building's entrance as people spoke and remembered loved ones. October 22 is commemorated annually by activist groups as the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality,
Most of those who assembled at APD were veterans of the mass protests of hundreds that erupted in the Duke City more than three years ago after APD officers shot to death homeless camper James "Abba" Boyd.
"It interrupted my peace reading it. There is no reason for it all," said Annette Kaylorq of her motive for joining the earlier Albuquerque protests. "When I read about James Boyd, I came down."
A Dallas Cowboys fan, Jay Martin Murphy, Sr. was killed
by APD on June 5, 2007.

Larissa Lewis arrived toting her familiar placard with photos of her late son Kerry and his girlfriend smiling to the stars, beautiful young people imbued with the excitement of life, and a stark message: "Corruption equals brutality. APD wasted lives and millions $$$. #Chain of corruption.”
 Murdered in Albuquerque back in 2009 at the age of 21, Kerry Lewis  wasn't slain by police per se, but a mother’s grueling search for the truth led her through layers of a justice system she depicted as inhabited by highly questionable investigators, murky informants, drug dealers and musical chair players who move between government law enforcement and private security firms.
Although the DOJ investigation and subsequent court settlement focused on the specific issue of excessive use of force, Lewis is one who insists that the APD shootings are merely symptomatic of a far deeper problem embracing influence peddling, nepotism and systemic corruption which hasn't been rooted out by the DOJ or any other authority for that matter.
She berated U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, the federal judge overseeing the APD reforms, for being too cozy with people he is supposed to be impartially overseeing by ending a July 28, 2016 status hearing on the process with a courtroom picnic attended by officers, DOJ officials and other stakeholders.
“Maybe this was a good time for a topping out ceremony. We now have a framework in place,” Brack was quoted last year in the Albuquerque Journal. “We aren’t a big, beautiful, endearing place yet, but the framework is there. We’re building something here that can be a model for the nation.”
"It all funnels in his lap. What did he show everybody last July 28? He should've been recused," Lewis contended.
Political Geography is a factor not addressed in the DOJ-City of Albuquerque settlement. The agreement only covers APD and not the multitude of police agencies which have jurisdiction in their respective parts of the metro area, some of which like the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department (BCSD) have become increasingly visible within the city limits during a time of a widely-perceived APD officer shortage.
A review of local media reports reveals at least 15 deaths stemming from police actions in the metro area during the first ten months of 2017. Six mortalities were linked to officer shootings, one from a tasering and eight from vehicle accidents or police pursuits frequently involving chases of stolen vehicles. In addition, an APD officer reportedly shot and killed an Albuquerque murder suspect who was cornered in San Rafael, Cibola County, last May. Of the fatal incidents, APD was involved in seven, BCSD five, Los Lunas school police one, Rio Rancho police one and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office one.
In October, the BCSD announced it had begun employing a GPS tracker,  StarChase, which is fired from a pursuing deputy’s car and attaches to a suspect’s vehicle, a technique allowing officers to remotely monitor the vehicle and recover it. According to the BCSD, the device was used in 18 incidents from late June to early October, yielding the recovery of approximately $100,000 in stolen property.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is excited to be the first agency in New Mexico to use this technology,” Sheriff Manny Gonzales said in a statement. “As we have all seen, high-speed pursuits are very dangerous…”
The Siege of the Kirtland Addition
Saiz and others who turned out for the October vigil form a frayed "family" of relatives and friends that was especially vibrant between 2010 and 2014, when members staged public demonstrations, jammed city council meetings, demanded the intervention of the DOJ and called for the indictments of "killer cops." Their voices resounded nationally months before Ferguson, Missouri.
Nowadays, the "family" which rattled Duke City politics and beyond is diminished and dispersed: some of the more active members passed away, some accepted legal settlements and lowered their profiles and still others vanished into the woodwork; personal crises nag at many; the woman who called for the October 22 vigil at APD didn't show up for the event reportedly because of a robbery.   
A movement veteran, Theresa James doesn't fit the stereotype of the rowdy protester glibly portrayed by Albuquerque media in the hot spring of 2014. A serious woman who studies the Bible, James is a working mother and grandmother whose roots tap into the multiple veins of America.
Of black, white and Native American heritage, James' family traces its lineage to the historic Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. A great great, great, great African-American grandfather, George James, was discharged from the Union Army in Pennsylvania in 1865.
10 years later: A memorial for Jay Martin Murphy, Sr. 

When she was younger, James said she socialized with police officers and her father worked a stint as a probation officer. But Theresa James today has issues with the system dating back to 2007, when her ex-partner and father of two of her children, Jay Martin Murphy Sr., was shot to death by APD at his home in the historically African American Kirtland Addition neighborhood following a dispute with a neighbor that escalated into violence with police. Allegedly armed with a knife, the 42-year-old Murphy had retreated into his home in an agitated state, according to court documents.
James recalled getting a call of the confrontation in progress while she was working at a restaurant, but had to show up late to the scene. “By the time I got there, they were already in an ambulance,” she said. “I screamed and I told the SWAT team, I’m here and why don’t you shoot me too.” 
According to James’ records, then-APD Chief Ray Schultz and three deputy chiefs were among dozens of officers from APD’s Tactical Unit Entry Team and other divisions, the BCSD, New Mexico State Police and Albuquerque Fire Department who were present at the scene and/or participated in the assault on Murphy’s home.
Prior to the deadly day, Murphy had been in a fight over the condition of his house with the city government and its Safe City Strike Force, a nuisance abatement squad under the Martin Chavez/Pete Dinelli municipal administration which ultimately became embroiled in controversy over the seizure of properties allegedly involved in illegal drug transactions or substance abuse. A federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs alleging harm from the program, Lowery vs. the City of Albuquerque, was settled in 2012 for $1.7 million by the Berry administration, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
“They gave Jay his house back and a week later they killed him,” James added. Although the couple had separated years before Murphy was killed, the former classmates remained close and James handled Murphy’s financial matters. However, James said she could not keep paying for Murphy’s house after he was killed and the property was lost. 
She’s acknowledged that Murphy suffered from drug, depression and PTSD problems, but points to a positive side that included an earlier career helping students at West Mesa High School, the same campus where the future couple were students and Murphy was the "most popular" guy back in 1983.
As an adult, Murphy landed a job at the school assisting the administration with students. Athletic, sports-loving and a black-belt in karate, Murphy had a certain rapport with the student body, James remembered. “He was good with young kids, just like he was with my kids,” she said.
In 2009, James filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department, naming ex-Mayor Martin Chavez, former APD Chief Ray Schultz and APD officer Russell Carter as individual defendants.
But in 2103 U.S. Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit Judge Phillip A. Brimmer ruled against James. Checking out another spigot of justice, James met with DOJ representatives during their APD investigation but then learned that the federal officials were not citing cases prior to 2009. 
The New Mexico mom maintained that impunity in police involved killings is the rule. "Well, I think it’s a general thing across the country and the world. Cops generally don't get indicted. It's hard to prove that a cop outright murdered somebody." And if a case goes to trial, the cards are stacked in favor of the police since juries consist of people who aren't empathic to "others situations" or believe offenders deserve to be in jail, she added. James admitted she used to think the same, until her son went to the D-Home one time, subjecting a mother to getting "slapped in the face with reality." 
In the Absence of a Father
As the tenth anniversary of Murphy's death approached this year, James remembered a man who had such an impact on her life. Attired in black dress, she drove over to the Albuquerque cemetery where Murphy is interred and put flowers on his grave during Memorial Day weekend. Murphy’s buried only about 20 feet from the grave of Ken Ellis III, an Iraq war veteran who was fatally shot by APD in 2010 and whose killing resulted in one of the more celebrated civil trials involving APD- and a multi-million dollar judgment against the City of Albuquerque.
On June 5, the tenth anniversary of Murphy's death, James published a  memorial of her old "best friend" in the Albuquerque Journal that consisted of a photo of the young Murphy and a few words:  "In Loving Memory of Jay Martin Murphy Sr. Forever Loved-Never Forgotten."
James and her daughter Mariah Murphy later visited the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, a tranquil, shaded slice of the Duke City nestled in a section of the city where the shrieks of sirens and the pops of gunshots are frequently heard. There the two women halted at the red brick Murphy has his name etched into with the words:  "Jay Murphy Sr. U.S. Marine. Semper Fi."
Mariah Murphy was 14 years old when her dad was killed, and she was present for the APD assault on his home. In an interview, she recalled a police bullet zipping by her. "It hit the wall beside me and that's when I got scared and ran downstairs," she said. "I thought I was going to die, like they were going to kill us." At first APD alleged that Murphy was holding his daughter as a hostage, but Mariah disputed that account, adding she was accorded odd treatment for a rescued hostage. "They claimed I was a hostage and threw me in handcuffs," she said.
Now 24 years old and the mother of two children, Mariah grapples with the killing of her father, a trauma she said pops up in her mind every day, triggers nightmares and has left her with a case of diagnosed PTSD.   
In her book, a violent day produced lasting emotional scars and an irredeemable loss to a family. "We were very close," the Albuquerque woman continued, recalling sledding in the mountains and family barbeques Murphy liked to organize at his home. "I was a daddy's girl. I was always with I really don't have that to look forward to. He kept the family together and now I can say the family is apart. It just messed things up."
Moreover, Mariah's two young children don't have a grandfather and ask what happened to him when they visit the cemetery, she lamented. 
The Politicos Stake Positions
Though overshadowed by Albuquerque's crime issue, police reform is still a sizzling matter on the local political scene. In September, APD Forward, a coalition formed by the local ACLU, Common Cause New Mexico, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos and other activists, sponsored a mayoral forum on police reform attended by more than 300 people.  
Three Democrats, Tim Keller, Brian Colon and Gus Pedrotty were joined by independent Susan Wheeler-Deischel. Independent Michelle Garcia Holmes, an ex-APD officer, along with the three Republicans in the race at the time, Dan Lewis, Ricardo Chaves and Wayne Johnson, were no shows.
The evening's discussion delved into an array of issues besides policing-poverty, economic development, homelessness, behavioral health, drug addiction, and the public spending priorities of the outgoing municipal administration.
"If we don't change conditions that put people in the first place, we'll have repeat offenders," Colon said. There's a direct correlation between deep poverty and crime." 
Community policing was the watchword of the evening. State Auditor Tim Keller, who emerged from the first round of voting October 3 as the frontrunner in the November 14 runoff, provided hints of the direction APD could undertake if he is elected mayor. Keller is a supporter of DOJ reforms and the endorsed candidate of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.
Revealing that he had participated in APD ride-a-longs, Keller advocated diversity as a police recruiting principle, equity in the police department, community reengagement, law enforcement education programs in the public and charter schools, an immigrant and refugee friendly policy, and a new police chief who could be an "outsider" to APD but someone who is familiar with Albuquerque.
Perhaps most important, Albuquerque will have a mayor who will take responsibility for finishing the DOJ brokered reform process, he said. “Every month it takes (police reforms) longer to do, this prevents us from hiring more officers,” Keller asserted. 
Both Keller and Dan Lewis, his opponent in the officially non-partisan November 14 runoff election, are on record vowing to sack APD Chief Gorden Eden if elected.
Meanwhile, APD and the DOJ-sparked court settlement are also on the lips of other politicians.  
"It's clear the DOJ intervention has had little to no impact on APD and its unconstitutional and deadly practices. Community trust has been severely broken, and hardworking New Mexicans have forked over millions in taxpayer dollars to pay for an ineffective "monitor" of the failed consent decree process," Democratic Congressional hopeful and Deb Haaland, said last week. The former New Mexico Democratic Party chair urged a vote for Tim Keller as a key to “substantive change.”  
For their part, Albuquerque City Councilors Brad Winter, Ken Sanchez and Don Harris lashed out recently at a widely-reported press conference where they questioned the multi-million expenditures of the court-appointed reform monitor, Dr. James Ginger, since 2015.
Ginger’s budget aside, the money expended on the monitor and his staff pales in comparison to $63.3 million in payouts and settlements from civil rights lawsuits connected to APD which were made by the City of Albuquerque between 2010 and 2016, according to an estimate published earlier this year by the Albuquerque Journal. The hefty sum flowed from city coffers at a time when the Duke City was undergoing one of its worst economic downturns in memory.  
What’s more, the legal tab is likely balloon. According to recent media reports, pending lawsuits include the 2014 fatal APD shooting of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes; the brutal rape and murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, whose killing some contend might have been prevented had APD investigated a prior accusation of child abuse; and Tito Pacheco, a father of three who died from injuries after his vehicle was struck this past summer by a RV police were chasing.     
Albuquerque at a Crossroads: Stagnation or Transformation?    
To say that the relatives of men killed by APD are skeptical of elected officials, DOJ-APD reforms, campaign pledges and the future of Albuquerque is an understatement.
Locally, an emblematic case for many is the 2016 trial of Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, APD officers who were charged with murder in the James Boyd shooting in a rare indictment but walked out of court with a hung jury. A new Bernalillo County prosecutor, Raul Torrez, later announced he would not pursue the case. Sandy retired from APD, but Perez was reinstated to the force and awarded back pay earlier this year, APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza told the Albuquerque Journal.  
APD’s killing of her father alienated Mariah Murphy from law enforcement and the justice system. "I can't be around cops or see cops, of course...I don't think of cops as people who want to help. I think of cops as people who want to kill," she said, adding that other African American residents of Albuquerque she knows are scared of being killed by police or even interacting with them.
Will Tim Keller or Dan Lewis make a difference? "Honestly, no," Mariah retorted. "They got rid of Schultz, now it's Eden and it’s the same shit. It's getting worse. They're going to bring in a new chief and its' going to be the same thing."
Suzanne Saiz offers mixed opinions about the police department, local government and the city as a whole. She contrasted the $100 million-plus Albuquerque Rapid Transit system under construction on Central Avenue and the "beautification" projects undertaken by the current municipal administration with unaffordable housing, homeless encampments across the city, violence and government impunity.
Reserving hope that the new mayor "can do a better job than Mayor Berry did," Saiz nevertheless held that justice is elusive. "It's so hard to believe there's justice out there. It's brought me to believe that people don't care," she added.
For Larissa Lewis, the DOJ influenced reform process has run its course.
“It’s stagnant. It’s done as much as it’s going to do,” she opined.
Despite pending debts with justice, Lewis credited the relatives’ activism with encouraging bad actors to jump off the law enforcement ship as reforms loomed. She termed James Boyd, Mary Hawkes and others killed by APD as “sacrificial martyrs” whose deaths prompted “divine intervention.” Lewis added, “I think it was all worth it. If we had laid down and been sheep, the (cops) would still be gangbanging.”
Theresa James said she had “kind of lost interest” in the media back-and-forth among APD, politicians, lawyers and groups like APD Forward, calling the discourse and posturing a “big joke.”
As one solution to the policing controversy, James has a proposal decidedly outside the current frame of debate- requiring prospective officers to be at least of 30 years of age, because twenty -something males are still trying to prove their "manhood" and don't have the necessary maturity.  
"You need an extra ten years to learn empathy, just to learn your ideas aren't the only ones in the world," James insisted.  
Author-journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on New Mexico politics. He is former editor of Frontera NorteSur.