ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than 100 protesters marched in uptown Saturday night, calling on Albuquerque Public Schools to defund its police department. The message from protesters was to abolish the APS police department and reallocate the funds to different services they believe will better serve students.
“Police in schools continually criminalize our students and put them at risk and in unsafe situations, thus having police in schools is not in the best interest of our students,” said Ruth Clark, one of the organizers of the protest
Saturday’s peaceful protest started around 6 p.m. at APS headquarters. It was organized by a social justice group called “Fight for Our Lives,” with most members being APS students or former students.
For more than two hours, protesters were calling on the district to invest in more anti-racism training for staff and mental health services for students. Police stayed about a block away, monitoring the protest.
Officials with APS said they haven’t had any talks of defunding the police. In the last fiscal year, they spent $6.5 million on the district’s police department. They said they have 58 officers who carry weapons primarily in the district’s high schools and 70 civilian service aides who do not carry weapons in elementary and middle schools.
A representative with the district said these officers are needed. “Focusing on providing a safe community, engaging that community, but also being available to respond to meet the needs of the students, but also protect them in case someone is trying to cause harm,” said Patricio Ruiloba, the APS Restorative Justice Practices Manager.
APS officials said in the past year, the district has required each officer to go through restorative justice training, which focuses on de-escalating situations with students and suspending or arresting students as a last resort. They said last year, the district’s police confiscated 11 guns from campuses and made seven student arrests, but did not provide any details to the arrests.
KRQE reached out to APD to find out if any arrests or citations happened during Saturday’s protest. But did not hear back. However, KRQE crews there said it remained peaceful and didn’t see any arrests made.
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