- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque’s mayor unveiled a plan Tuesday to put more money toward police training and the city’s response to a still-pending federal investigation into the embattled department’s use of force.

Mayor Richard Berry’s budget plan sets aside around $1 million for those purposes as the city continues to draw intense criticism over recent police shootings.

The move comes as the Police Department faces scrutiny over a string of 37 police shootings since 2010, including two fatal ones in March that prompted a large, violent protest on Sunday. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Albuquerque police over allegations of civil rights violations and excessive use of force.

As the mayor sought money to train officers on de-escalating run-ins with suspects and to institute any future Justice Department recommendations, mental health advocates called for a renewed push to get people the help they need.

A coalition of advocates and business leaders on Tuesday announced a campaign to bring a new mental health hospital to Albuquerque, a move they say could reduce police confrontations with residents battling mental illness.

The group says a 100-bed facility much needed in the Albuquerque area.

“We believe these beds can make a difference,” said Dan Serrano, a retired Albuquerque police officer and president of the Westside Chamber of Commerce. “Too often, our officers in blue are encountering people who have not gotten the help they need and something bad happens.”

Last month, Albuquerque police shot and killed a homeless man, James Boyd, 38, after a long standoff in the Sandia foothills. A helmet camera video of the shooting showed Boyd turning away before officers shot him.

Boyd’s death helped spark a violent protest Sunday that forced the city to call out riot police and unload tear gas on demonstrators. The FBI said it would investigate the shooting.

Meanwhile, Berry also included in his budget proposal $1 million for seven new civilian Police Department jobs to handle public-records requests and boost staffing in telecommunication, finance and the crime laboratory. That money is on top of the $1 million earmarked for training and carrying out possible federal recommendations.

Those requests are part of a $496 million operating budget, a 3 percent increase over what was budgeted this year.

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