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Feds Ramping Up APD Probe

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The U.S. Department of Justice investigation of APD is ramping up.

During the past week, federal investigators have requested hundreds of APD Internal Affairs files, mostly those related to use of force incidents, vehicle pursuits and other types of cases from the past few years, the Journal has learned.

The request for documents comes in advance of Justice Department investigators’ first site visit, which is scheduled to begin next week.

While they’re in Albuquerque, federal officials plan to interview APD brass, IA investigators and others. Justice Department personnel also plan to go on ride-alongs with officers.

Federal investigators also have been reviewing some of APD’s policies and procedures, including those that govern the way officers use force.

“APD has been and continues to fulfill all requests for information as it is received from the Department of Justice as it pertains to the ongoing investigation of APD,” police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said in a written statement. “APD has pledged from the very beginning, complete cooperation in all aspects of the investigation.”

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez announced the federal investigation at a news conference in Albuquerque on Nov. 27. Since then, very little has been said publicly about the investigation, either by federal or city officials.

The investigation’s primary and initial focus is on whether APD officers have a pattern or practice of violating citizens’ civil rights through the use of force, although it could expand. It could take a year or longer to complete, and it could result in anything from a clean bill of health for APD to a court-enforceable consent decree mandating wholesale changes for the department.

Most notably, APD officers have shot at 27 men since 2010, striking 23 of them. Seventeen have died. The majority of officers involved in the shootings have been white, and the majority of their targets have been Hispanic. And in the majority of cases, the man shot had been using alcohol or drugs, had been living with mental illness or some combination of all three.

There also have been high-profile use of force incidents that didn’t involve shootings.

Ongoing federal criminal investigations, which federal officials have declined to comment on, are focused on the actions of individual officers in specific situations. Those probes are separate from the civil rights investigation, which federal officials have characterized as a detailed look at police culture in Albuquerque.

That means probing what Perez calls APD’s “accountability mechanisms” by considering the role everyone in the department plays: from the rookie patrolman who may have been involved in an on-duty physical altercation to the sergeant who reviewed that incident to the Internal Affairs investigator assigned to the case and all the way up to Schultz, who has final say over discipline.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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