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Was Crisis Officer Present When APD Shot Foothills Camper?

A still from APD video released March 21, 2014

When police interact with people facing mental health issues, they send an officer trained in crisis intervention to defuse a volatile situation.  Those officers are key in preventing the kind of violence that ended in the death of a camper in the Sandia foothills last week.

APD uses the Memphis Model of crisis intervention, and it’s taught to field officers interested in becoming certified.  The method was first introduced as a law enforcement tool in the 1980s after Memphis police shot a suspect with behavioral health issues.  Albuquerque police introduced it to cadets in 1997.

A CIT officer was brought in on Sunday, March 16, to talk to 38-year-old James Boyd—a common practice, according to Lt. Donovan Olvera, who heads the CIT unit.

“Typically when the officer arrives, he is the primary officer for that scene.”

But police aren’t saying whether that officer was present when the group opened fire on Boyd in the Sandia foothills.

The goal of CIT, according to Lt. Olvera, is to use “verbal judo,” that is, establish rapport with the person. But Olvera said if the suspect threatens officers with, say, a knife ... 

“If he’s being threatening towards officers, officers are going to utilize safety, they’re going to utilize cover when coming into contact, and using that cover they’re going to try to talk him down, to putting the knife down,” Olvera said.

APD Chief Gordon Eden has backpedaled after saying the shooting was justified. Mayor Richard Berry criticized that conclusion as premature.  Berry has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to add the case to 35 others -- including 23 fatal shootings -- under review for possible excessive use of force. 

Eden released a video clip of the shooting to reporters at a news conference on Friday, March 21.

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