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APD Reform Forum Focuses On Mental Health

Marisa Demarco

People affected by mental health issues in Albuquerque gathered for a meeting on police reform on Monday night. 

Only people who’d signed up online in advance of the forum were allowed to participate in the discussion about the Albuquerque Police Department and mental health. A handful of participants sat in two separate circles with concentric rings of observers radiating from the center.

Jeremy Jaramillo of the Agora Crisis Center made two suggestions. First, he said not all 911 calls should result in automatic police deployment and some should be diverted to Agora’s suicide experts. Second, a mobile team of community mental health responders should be sent in lieu of APD to deal with some situations.

"A lot of other states and cities have them," he said. "They can de-escalate someone in their home and keep them there instead of going to a facility. There’s a lot of things we can do before arresting someone."

He said people at the meeting emphasized that a uniformed officer might not be the ideal person to help calm a person experiencing mental health crisis. "It’s not the most warm feeling to have a police person come up with a weapon and look official in their official uniform," he said. "We would all like to have a police force that isn’t intimidating, however at present, it is sometimes."

Facilitators made careful note of all that was said, and those comments will be compiled by the University of New Mexico to become a list of solutions to APD’s heavily criticized excessive use of force.

The next meeting is Saturday, Nov. 8, at 11:30 a.m. at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center and will focus on families and people who’ve been personally affected by problems with the police department.

For more on this story, including a full list of upcoming meetings and a signup link, go to publichealthnm.org.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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