The following are statements from Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association Vice President Shaun Willoughby on criminal charges pressed against APD officer Connor Rice and a new department policy stating deputy chiefs will now make the final decision on whether officers’ use of force is appropriate:
“The APOA is saddened by the outcome and decisions made by the administration regarding the handling of the incomplete case involving officer Rice. The APOA stands behind officer Rice and will vigorously defend his rights.”
Regarding the policy:
“Our position is that a sudden move to have deputy chiefs review all use of force reports is troubling — especially considering that questionable use of force incidents were already reviewed by deputy chiefs. Any policy change that hints at a lack of trust between mid-level management and upper-level management is cause for serious concern. The association believes in handling the problem itself — and not with what makes the administration looks good. The association is not interested in protecting Mayor Berry’s reputation by tarnishing the reputations of police officers. We are aware that there are some definitive concerns with (the Rice) investigation. However, the investigation is not complete. All the officers involved have not been interviewed as of today. There’s a lot more on the lapel camera footage that will show what really happened out there. Why should lapel videos get tied up in more red tape? Why not allow lapel camera footage to be looked at by current use of force experts and instructors? This would resolve any training issues that may arise. Once again, all police officers have been made to look as though they are being charged with a crime. We understand that we make mistakes sometimes, but these men and women deserve to be treated fairly and their rights should be maintained.”
Mayor Richard Berry’s statement:
“Chief Schultz did bring this video to my attention soon after he learned about it, letting me know that he had proactively launched an investigation into the incident. Details of investigations are left up to the Chief and others within the department.
I have spoken to the Chief about this incident and about other incidents and about the department as a whole. I meet with the Chief on a regular and consistent basis concerning the department – as I do with other department directors and managers. Conversations generally center on keeping the citizens of Albuquerque safe, continuing to progress as a department and policies designed to keep officers and citizens safe.
I have seen portions of the video from the lapel cameras. The video shows entirely unacceptable behavior. I believe the incident needs to be investigated by law enforcement, the DA and potentially the US Attorney’s office. There is zero tolerance for this type of behavior within the department. When individual incidents such as this happen it reflects poorly on all other officers who are following procedures and keeping our community safe.
APD answers over half a million calls for service per year, many of which have the potential to escalate into violent situations. To have several that are handled inappropriately is not acceptable – but I do not believe that they point to a systemic problem within the department. Since 2009 complaints against officers have dropped, both from citizens and from within the department, 11% since the implementation of the lapel cameras.
Based on my overall experience with APD and its officers, and based on conversations with national experts on law enforcement I do not believe there is a systemic cultural problem at APD. I have personally met with national experts including individuals from PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) and MGT (the City Council consultant for the Police oversight commission) and I have specifically asked if they had identified a systemic cultural problem within APD and the answers have been definitively “no.”
There is no doubt that we have had officers who individually have not lived up to the privilege and honor of wearing the APD uniform, but I believe sincerely that these are individual incidents that have been dealt with swiftly and decisively by Chief Schultz. Make no mistake, there is zero tolerance in this administration for illegal conduct by officers, and Chief Schultz has proven time and again that he takes that charge very seriously. I am proud of APD’s overall performance and the vast majority of officers who have worked hard to drive crime rates to 20 year lows in our city. To say that we have a cultural problem without personally believing that to be true would bring discredit to those officers who put on the uniform everyday with honor, pride and integrity.
I commend Chief Schultz for being the first Chief of a large American police department to implement the lapel camera program. Let’s not forget that it is only through the lapel cameras that this inappropriate and potentially illegal conduct was brought to light. We pride ourselves as an administration as being national leaders in transparency, knowing full well that increased transparency will lead to increased criticism. However, we also believe it will help uncover potential problems and lead to better outcomes for our community. Criticism is a price we are more than willing to pay to become better as an organization.
With all this said, this administration and this department will consistently work to create better training, policies and procedures to insure that APD continues to move forward and be progressive as a department.”