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DOJ plan expected next week

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The Department of Justice will come to Albuquerque next week, likely with a draft copy of what will become the blueprint for reforms at the Albuquerque Police Department, APD spokeswoman Janet Blair told the Albuquerque Bar Association over lunch on Tuesday.

Blair, who became APD’s communication director in early May, described her new high-stress position as “sipping from a fire hydrant” and told the assembled lawyers, judges and law students that APD was committed to embracing reforms from the DOJ and listening to the community.

She promised that more department reforms would be announced soon, specifically relating to officers lapel cameras, and said that a policy will be created that will mean officers who fail to have their lapel cameras on could face discipline “up to and including termination.”

She also said the department will begin a series of scenario-based training at the academy designed to test how potential officers cope with stress.

“If we find officers with consistently inappropriate reactions, they will be encouraged to find work elsewhere,” Blair told the association at the Embassy Suites hotel in Albuquerque. “Which is to say, they will be dropped from the program.”

She said the 21-member 110th academy class is the first to have received nearly 100 hours of crisis intervention training, which she said focuses on defusing potentially violent situations and identifying whether someone has a mental illness. She showed the ABA a video of the class, which depicted cadets in physical training and experiencing the effects of Tasers and tear gas.

In addition to federal and community scrutiny, APD is also undergoing a manpower shortage of about 200 officers. Blair said the department wants to expand the force to at least 1,050 officers in the next two years, and she said the academy is rearranging some of the fitness components at the academy to prevent cadets from dropping out early on in the academy.

Blair also told the association about changes the department has made so far in anticipation of the DOJ report, including command structure changes, requiring uniformity in officer weaponry and uniforms, prohibiting shooting at vehicles and instituting a new use-of-force reporting process. She conceded that the changes so far have been small, but she said “If you start with the small stuff, the bigger stuff will follow.”

As for the Department of Justice, she said the it will be in town next week and will probably have a draft copy of a city-DOJ agreement that will outline the reforms for APD. Once the city and the DOJ hash out the agreement, all parties will agree on a monitor to oversee its implementation, she said.

Blair gave the presentation at the ABA luncheon before a continuing legal education seminar from District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

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