Despite accusations of excessive force, Albuquerque police purchase 350 AR-15 rifles

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The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Police Department has ordered a cache of high-powered rifles despite reprimands from the US Department of Justice, as well as widespread community protests, over the department’s recent record of excessive force.

Albuquerque police have called on a local vendor to supply 350 AR-15 rifles, according to KOB-TV, which cost approximately $1,000 each. The contract calls for the rifles to arrive over the next two years. Subsequent quantities of 50 rifles are part of the deal, if the department deems them necessary.

An AR-15 was used to kill James Boyd, a homeless man who was gunned down by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) in March. APD approached Boyd because he was camping in a mountain area outside the city.

Video footage of the shooting quickly went viral, inciting mass demonstrations in the city and pleas with police to institute training programs that would better prepare officers for confronting the mentally ill.

The US Department of Justice recently released the findings of a 16-month review into the APD, stating that the department’s use of excessive force had caused a number of unjustified fatal shootings by officers in recent years. The DOJ recommended a “systematic change.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels addressed Albuquerque Mayor Richard Barry in a 46-page letter, which discussed the circumstances around 20 fatal shootings by the APD between 2009 and 2013. Federal officials determined that in the majority of those cases where police killed citizens, the amount of force was unnecessary because the individual killed did present an immediate threat to anyone around them.

“We have determined that structural and systemic deficiencies – including insufficient oversight, inadequate training and ineffective policies – contributed to the use of unreasonable force,” the letter said, as quoted by the Albuquerque Journal.

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