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Judge quizzes DOJ lawyer on APD reform

U.S. District Judge Robert Brack

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal judge presiding over the Albuquerque police reform effort said in court Wednesday that he found parts of the latest report on progress with reforms “troubling.”

But Luis Saucedo, an attorney with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said that police have made “remarkable progress” in their compliance with the settlement agreement, which aims to correct a pattern of excessive force within the police department.

Albuquerque police are about two years into a reform effort brought on by a DOJ investigation. Throughout the effort, James Ginger, an independent monitor, writes reports that analyze how the police are complying with the reforms.

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His latest report, filed in court earlier this month, found that police have made considerable progress in some fronts, such as creating new policies and training officers to them.

But Ginger also found some cases of “deliberate non-compliance” and he said in the report that he’s noticed a “palpable shift” in the leadership’s attitude toward reform.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack is holding a hearing in Albuquerque today to discuss the monitor’s latest report.

During this morning’s proceedings, Brack listened to presentations from Ginger and stakeholders in the reform process, including from an attorney for people who suffer from mental illnesses who get arrested by Albuquerque police, the city civilian oversight groups and a coalition of community groups interested in police reform.

All the groups raised specific concerns about the department’s actions during the reform effort, and Brack ordered that the city respond in writing to all the groups concerns within 30 days.

After listening to the DOJ discuss improvements police have made recently in and the fact that officer-involved shootings have significantly decreased, Brack asked why the DOJ didn’t discuss the “elephant in the room,” which was ongoing problems the monitor is having with police leadership.

In one specific matter, Brack said he was concerned that Ginger noted in the report that police had made a change to a policy outlined in the settlement agreement. The policy change allowed police to significantly reduce the number of officer’s lapel camera videos that supervisors review every month.

Ginger said the police made the change without telling the monitoring team. And when the team inquired about the special order that made the policy change, they were told it didn’t exist.

Saucedo said the order did exist and was made because of the amount of work the policy was creating for supervisors.

“It’s not OK for them to say they don’t exist when they do,” Brack said of special orders. “The city doesn’t get to say ‘because it’s hard we’re going to do it differently and not tell anybody about it.'”

Brack is expected to hear from the police union and the city this afternoon.

 

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