Why We’re Bothering With the APD Files


Aerial view of Albuquerque — Credit: Ron Reiring / CC by 2.0

By Marisa Demarco

— I’ve lived in Albuquerque all my life, excepting some infant days in Farmington, N.M., where I was born. Like many of you, I’m a stakeholder.

I know the onset of weariness that comes with bad news in the 505, the tired feeling when we get with one more public black eye as national news outlets leap in to take a look—and then leap right back out.

Remember that author who penned an op-ed about Albuquerque for the NYT connecting the beatings of the homeless men to the APD shootings and painting the city as a pit of despair? My strong, frustrated reaction as a city resident to that piece left me with a lot of questions about what I’m up to as a journalist.

My job is to find and tell the truth. I can’t manufacture a nicer truth. But what does it mean when facts provide fodder for sensationalism? I don’t get to pick what happens to the stories once they’re told. I don’t get to choose who runs with the narrative—or which direction they head.

I’ve spent some afternoons lately with the family members of people who were killed by the Albuquerque Police Department, and there are many more interviews on the horizon with people who’ve spent a lot of time thinking about criminal justice, mental health care, substance abuse and law enforcement. I’ve also been heading Downtown to pick up the audio and video associated with fatal police shootings—like yesterday when the records custodian finally released all of the James Boyd video. It’s part of a project we’re working on here at the Compass. We’re creating a database of what we’ve received through public records requests about the fatal police shootings that includes context, articles, a look at the bigger picture, and back-and-forth with stakeholders.

After speaking with these people who bravely share painful and intimate stories of their family members, I do not want to see those details become part of the “Albuquerque is Scary—You know, Like ‘Breaking Bad’ ” series.

Why do these parents and grandparents bother to meet with me? Why am I pursuing this? Because we want things to get better. Here. In our city.

I believe that armed with information, people in Albuquerque can participate in changes—big and small. When residents are uninformed or ill-informed, when access to information that’s supposed to be publicly available is restricted, power and decision-making authority rests in the hands of a few.

We can’t alter what’s happened. But The Compass can try to uncover as much of it as possible, so we can start to have a real conversation about what’s going on.

Even though I’ve spent just about all of my 33 years here—and the last 12 investigating this place—I’m regularly surprised by things in New Mexico. I can say with confidence that it’s full of smart, inventive people who are great at carving something from nothing, at finding solutions to impossible-looking problems.