Several hundred supporters of the Albuquerque Police Department filled the steps of police headquarters a little after noon Sunday in a show of support for the embattled department.
Demonstrators, many of them retired police and their families, held signs reading "I support" over the APD's logo.
Supporters stretched from the sidewalk next to headquarters from Fourth Street and Roma west and south to Fifth Street and Marquette. The demonstrators then grouped together on the police building steps and shouted "APD" to cheer for the department.
Yolanda Cline, whose husband was an APD officer killed in the line of duty, thanked the crowd for the support being shown to officers.
Gerald Cline, who was killed by Joel Lee Compton in 1983, was involved in an officer-involved shooting about 10 years before his death, Yolanda Cline said.
She said the incident left him with post-traumatic stress and was one of the most difficult decisions of his life. Her husband daily called the hospital to check on the condition of the man he shot. The man ultimately died of complications from his injuries, she said.
"I have been on the other side of it," she said, adding that officers do regret taking a life.
Steve Polisar, a retired military police officer who works at Sandia National Laboratories, said it is important for police supporters to publicly respond to the anti-police protests in Albuquerque in the past two weeks.
"If you support them, it's important to come out and show it," Polisar said. "I hope it makes (APD officers) feel good to see the majority of people support them and the job that they do."
Richard Almeter, an Albuquerque police supporter who served in the Air Force, said the recent officer-involved shootings stemmed from complicated, dangerous situations.
"Police officers want to go home to their family same as anybody else. And they are stuck in situations when sometimes they have to use lethal force," he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police in New Mexico helped organize Sunday's event along with other community members, said Bob Martinez, the order of police's New Mexico president. The Blue Knights, a motorcycle club aligned with law enforcement, also had a strong presence at the rally. Martinez estimated 400 people attended.
"Clearly, there is a need to make improvements to the police department," Martinez said. "It's important we start a dialogue that's not one-sided."
Organizers are planning a second rally to support law enforcement officers on Saturday. That rally is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Civic Plaza.
Another protest against APD violence is also scheduled for Saturday, also at Civic Plaza, but from 5 to 11 p.m.
Sunday's rally, which began breaking up around 1:15 p.m., comes after two weeks of protests against the department following the release of a video showing police shooting homeless, mentally ill camper James Boyd. Police say Boyd threatened officers with two knives during the hourslong confrontation that ended after officers set off a flash-bang grenade and used lethal and non-lethal force. Boyd appeared to be turning away from officers when he was shot. He died in the hospital the next day.
Officers Keith Sandy -- a controversial hire from State Police -- and Dominique Perez fired three shots each at Boyd.
The Boyd video sparked widespread outcry from both within the New Mexico community and beyond, prompting at least three protests against the department's use of force, as well as a candlelight vigil for Boyd. Police said a protest on March 30 turned into an unruly mob that vandalized a substation and tried to topple a traffic light. Protesters said militarized police -- who tear-gassed protesters twice -- provoked the confrontation.
Mayor Richard Berry, along with APD Chief Gorden Eden, asked the Department of Justice last week to expedite its findings in a sweeping investigation into the department's use of force that started in late 2012. Berry had previously said the investigation wasn't necessary.
Berry also asked for a separate Justice Department investigation into the Boyd shooting.
Eden has not yet released video from officer Sandy, despite numerous requests.
Copyright 2014 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service