Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden on Monday issued an order to all employees that forbids them from meeting with the Department of Justice without his permission.
A dozen or more such unofficial meetings have been held, according to the Albuquerque Police Department.
The DOJ is expected to issue a draft agreement this week laying a blueprint for reforms at the department aimed at overhauling how APD uses force, trains cadets and holds officers accountable. Police have shot and killed 26 people since 2010, and the DOJ in April issued a 46-page report that said APD systematically violated citizens’ constitutional rights through the use of force.
Also on Monday, the federal agency met with community members in a three-plus-hour meeting, at which representatives from various groups and families of people shot by APD weighed in on how to move forward and to ensure residents can comment during the process, according to those at the meeting.
Eden’s message, the text of which was obtained by the Journal, appears to have been sent shortly before noon Monday. It says officers have been meeting with the DOJ for various reasons and that the meetings should stop immediately.
The message came from the office of one of two majors at the department, new positions created to ensure officer accountability and improve communications to officers in the field.
APD spokeswoman Janet Blair said Eden and his command staff have created a protocol to ensure all communications to the DOJ come from those in the negotiations, including the chief.
“This morning (Monday), Chief Eden was informed that this may have not occurred,” Blair said in an email. “He was informed that there have been as many as a dozen or more meetings between the DOJ and APD personnel that he had not been made aware of through normal internal communications at the department.”
Blair said the chief issued the directive because of his role in the negotiations.
“He feels strongly that he needs to be made aware of all meetings so that he or his designee can participate,” Blair said, adding that the chief has no idea who was at the meetings or what was discussed.
A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined comment and DOJ representatives at the meeting couldn’t be reached for comment afterward.
Those who attended the meeting said the DOJ suggested the agreement will be completed and given to the city by the end of this week.
Stephen Torres, whose son Christopher was shot and killed by police in 2011, said the meeting assured him that the DOJ will do its job in reforming the department and said the public will have an opportunity to weigh in later.
However, a member of one APD activist group said he was disappointed the DOJ is not going to allow a community observer to sit in on negotiations as they happen, something that several community groups had asked for.
“(DOJ representatives) spent several hours listening to people and very quickly rejected out of hand the notion that a community observer be represented at the meeting,” said Chris Banks, an organizer with the ANSWER coalition.