APD is going in the wrong direction on reform - Albuquerque Journal

APD is going in the wrong direction on reform

Federal monitor James Ginger has issued his fifth report on the Albuquerque Police Department’s progress on implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms. The report is very critical of APD’s high-ranking supervisors and command-level officers, accusing them of “deliberate non-compliance.”

Ginger reports his team noticed a “palpable shift” in the police department’s approach to reform and found supervisors and command-level officers made “too many lapses when reviewing use-of-force cases.”

The monitor complains the lack of scrutiny given by the department’s highest-ranking officers in use-of-force cases is “mystifying” and “startling.”

How many times does the federal monitor have to tell the federal court that APD is not complying with the federal court settlement order (and) has misled the court before a motion for contempt of court is filed seeking contempt-of-court sanctions and requesting a special master be appointed?

In his second report, the monitor accused the city attorney of “delay, do little and deflect” tactics, saying his relationship with her was “a little rougher than most” compared with attorneys in cities where he has overseen police reform.

In the July 2016 third progress report, the monitor found “across the board … the components in APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force, for the most part, has failed … the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. … The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture (of) low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews.”

In the Nov. 4 progress report, the monitor found that when “excessive use of force” incidents are investigated by the APD Critical Incident Team, it deploys “carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions” and uses “language and terminology apparently designed to absolve officers and supervisors of their responsibility to follow certain court-approved settlement agreement-related provisions.”

The May 5 report is the most damning and critical report to date, when the monitor found APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” actually denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.

During the May report presentation by the monitor, many in the courtroom were shocked when the U.S. Attorney went out of his way to compliment APD for making “tremendous progress.” The DOJ should seek contempt of court and sanctions against the APD command staff for deliberate noncompliance and seek appointment of a special master to take over APD. The entire APD chain of command must be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.

A national search must be conducted to identify and hire a new chief of police, new deputy chiefs and a new chain of command to assume control of APD. The City Council can mandate civilian management over APD with a civilian police commissioner to assume responsibility for implementation of the DOJ reforms.

APD has repeatedly shown it cannot police itself, and APD Internal Affairs should be abolished. APD Internal Affairs functions to investigate police misconduct cases and use-of-force cases can be done without using sworn police. The investigation of police misconduct cases and excessive use-of-force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm can be done by civilian personnel investigators.

The function and responsibility for investigating APD misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures can be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the city Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit.

Until there is a change in the entire APD command staff, we can expect to continue to be “mystified” and “startled” by the lack of progress and “deliberate non-compliance” of the DOJ consent decree mandated reforms and the disappearance of the DOJ reforms into the black hole known as APD.

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