- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Critics of the Albuquerque Police Department denounced the presence of plainclothes officers at a large but peaceful protest last weekend, saying the move amounts to “spying.” But police say they were there to ensure public safety after previous demonstrations turned violent.

Organizer James Bowe said Monday there was no need to place undercover Albuquerque officers within a march and rally Saturday because no laws were being broken. The demonstration attracted about 500 people who spoke out against the 40 police shootings - 26 of them fatal- since 2010.

Bowe said Albuquerque police instead should be using its resources to fix the agency as reforms are negotiated with the U.S. Justice Department, which has issued a harsh report over officers’ use of force.

Undercover officers were sent “for the sole purpose of monitoring for public safety issues” after three previous demonstrations turned rowdy, police Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement.

“Officers at such events are normally assigned to watch for criminal behavior such as theft, emergency situations or otherwise suspicious activities in order to ensure public safety, regardless of the topic or nature of the event,” Eden said.

In response, the ACLU of New Mexico filed a public records request seeking the release of any surveillance data collected during the rally.

“Unless the APD had evidence that a crime was taking place during Saturday’s protest, they had absolutely no business gathering intelligence on protesters,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the state ACLU.

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