ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thursday night, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry was awarded the first ever “public safety award” by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, and protesters gathered outside to show their disdain.
“Well, first I laughed. I thought, well maybe I’m reading something from like ‘The Onion,’ but then I look at the source and it was legit. Come to find out it was Terri Cole from the Chamber giving the award,” said Dinah Vargas.
Vargas and about two dozen other people chanted and held signs outside the award ceremony. The award ceremony also prompted the police union to give the chamber the “Most Out of Touch with its Community Award.”
“I believe that the Chamber of Commerce is completely out of touch with what is going on in Albuquerque,” Police Union President Shaun Willoughby said.
Despite the protesters, the chamber says it’s proud to give out this award.
“These awards were decided a long time ago. We don’t hold an award back because of any particular timing issue. So we’re very honored to give these awards today and to give the award to Mayor Berry for two programs that will be real important,” said Terri Cole, President and CEO of Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
Cole says they decided Berry deserved this award because of two of his initiatives, the AleRT and the Innovation Program. The Innovation Program is a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation and is designed to help the city deal with crime in a more “intelligent” way.
“Frankly, what we’re looking for here are solutions that are data driven, long lasting and that approach solving crime in a more intelligent way than we’ve done in the past,” said Cole.
Mayor Berry accepted the award in front of other city leaders and state legislators on Thursday night.
“This award this evening is about the long-term effort that we are making to try to understand. Look, we don’t want people in jail that shouldn’t be in jail. That is a worthy goal,” said Berry.
Berry said he is proud to accept this first ever “public safety award,” and credits this distinction to partnerships. Specifically, partnerships with the Albuquerque Police Department.
“This is about partnerships. This is about working together, and about the men and women who work everyday to keep our lives safe,” said Berry.
Protestors say they feel let down by Berry and the city council, and that they do not think he is deserving of this award.
“I don’t feel any safety after what happened to him,” said Naomi Mullins, a widow whose husband, cab driver Larry Mullins, was killed in February after he was stabbed during a carjacking.
“I don’t want any family to experience what ours is right now,” Mullins said.