ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Editor’s note: This year Target 7 is taking a look at Albuquerque’s crime crisis and at other cities in America that have tackled similar issues. This is the third story in an ongoing series.
With the lights flashing and the siren blaring, Michael Fisher was chasing a vehicle.
The driver has just shot another man in the head and was still shooting.
Fisher had no choice. He had to catch the suspect and put him in cuffs.
But the moment he did, everything changed. He realized he no longer wanted to be a cop.
“A crowd had formed around me,” said Fisher, an African-American who has now been retired from the Albuquerque Police Department for two years. “They were calling us racists pigs, saying we planted the gun. I knew then the public had turned on us.”
The public turned because of the Department of Justice, Fisher said, and that’s why he left.
Just a year earlier, the city of Albuquerque had reached a court settlement agreement with the DOJ after an investigation found that the “Albuquerque Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force including the use of unreasonable deadly force,” DOJ attorneys said in a 2014 news conference.
At the time, there had been 36 officer-involved shootings in just four years.
More than four years later, Target 7 has found that nearly all of the cities that reached settlement agreements or consent decrees with the DOJ during the same time as Albuquerque have seen double-digit increases in violent crime – crimes like murders, rapes and robberies. Cops are also leaving the departments.
“No, I am not shocked,” said Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association. “Wherever the DOJ goes, crime goes up.”