ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police says its academy cadets will now be trained to work on the department’s Emergency Response Team tasked with responding to mass gatherings like protests and rallies. The new decision comes after roughly 20 APD officers resigned from the specialized police unit following a recent protest at Civic Plaza.

The plaza protest drew hundreds of people chanting against white supremacy on Sunday, April 11. It came in response to a wave of expected “White Lives Matter” rallies planned in cities across the U.S. on April 11.

In response to the recent ERT resignations, APD Communications Director Gilbert Gallegos says those slots are “not being filled.” However, Gallegos says the department currently has 51 ERT members, more than what APD says it had one year ago before the 2020 protests.

The 2020 protests emerged in Albuquerque in late-May following the death of George Floyd. APD responded to various marches and rallies over the course of several weeks throughout May and June.

One of the most notable uses of APD’s Emergency Response Team came following a shooting during a protest at the Juan de Oñate statue near the Albuquerque Museum. That protest ended with one man wounded by gunfire. The shooter was eventually charged for his role in the incident.

“New (police) academy cadets are now going to be trained to serve on Emergency Response Team for their first year as sworn officers,” Gallegos said in an email sent to KRQE News 13. “Field units will be able to assist, if needed.”

The officers who resigned from the ERT unit are still working as police officers employed by Albuquerque Police. The recent resignations mean the officers have stepped down from their role serving on the specialized Emergency Response Team.

Gallegos says APD also works closely with New Mexico State Police when preparing for mass gatherings. New Mexico State Police notably played a large role in responding to protests in Albuquerque following a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in May 2016.