- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - After two rowdy meetings disrupted by protesters, the Albuquerque City Council approved late Monday a measure that would allow councilors to have more say on the hiring of a police chief.

Under the proposal, councilors would have to confirm a police chief selected by the mayor, and the council could remove the chief by two-thirds of the vote.

City voters now will have to approve the changes in the fall.

The move comes as Albuquerque faces more protests from police critics who are angry that officials aren’t doing enough as the process begins to implement reforms recommended by the U.S. Justice Department. The demonstrators want city officials to make immediate changes to the Police Department, which has had 39 officer-involved shootings since 2010.

A competing proposal that would allow voters to elect a police chief failed by an 8-1 vote.

“We’ve been called upon by the public to find a way,” Councilor Isaac Benton said. “Yes, the chief would be answerable to nine city councilors.”

Earlier this month, demonstrators packed the council chambers, demanded that Police Chief Gorden Eden face a citizen’s arrest and forced councilors to abruptly end the meeting.

A few days later, councilors adopted stricter rules on public comments, and a handful of demonstrators were removed from council chambers for holding silent protests. The protesters were cited for disrupting the meeting and banned from City Hall for 90 days, but city officials later said they likely won’t enforce the ban.

Albuquerque police are under tough scrutiny following the Justice Department’s harsh report over use of force and officers’ interaction with suspects who have mental illness. The report also faulted how the police SWAT team resolved conflicts.

David Correia, a critic of the police and an American studies professor at the University of New Mexico, said protesters plan to challenge the citations over freedom of speech violations. He said demonstrators have no intention of quieting down their displeasure and are planning more civil disobedience in the future.


Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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