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Latest DOJ monitor report faults APD brass

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The independent monitor overseeing a yearslong Albuquerque police reform effort on Friday cited improvements in reporting use-of-force incidents, but he found the department is “well below what could reasonably be expected at this point in the project.”

James Ginger, the monitor, on Friday filed a 41-page “outcomes assessment report” that is intended to determine if the Albuquerque Police Department’s efforts have achieved the goals outlined in a settlement between the Department of Justice and the city of Albuquerque. The settlement was reached after a DOJ investigation found Albuquerque police had a pattern and practice of excessive force, which included numerous police shootings.

“Eventually, the monitor will no longer be engaged to provide an oversight function for APD. That role will need to be provided by supervisory, command and executive personnel,” the report states. “At the current time, such oversight is sorely absent.”

APD Chief Gorden Eden said Friday in a statement: “APD has made progress in all areas of the (Court Approved) Settlement Agreement. As the Monitor has previously stated, ‘This is a marathon, not a sprint. … Our goal has been and will continue to be sustained, long-term compliance and reform in all areas of the CASA.”

Ginger files reports in federal court that describe APD’s progress throughout the reform effort. Earlier reports have faulted Albuquerque police supervisors for their reviews of use-of-force incidents, and he echoed those statements in the report filed Friday.

“In short, we are not yet convinced that APD screens, evaluates and classifies use of force incidents in a manner consistent with the (Court Approved Settlement Agreement),” Ginger said in the report.

But at the same time, Ginger did credit the department for an improvement in recognizing when officers violate the department’s use-of-force policy.

Ginger’s report said that APD in 2014 identified only one police use-of-force violation, and in 2015 only two. The number of violations in 2016 jumped to 14.

“It appears that APD oversight was much improved in 2016,” the report states.

Ginger also recognized APD’s tactical units – SWAT, bomb and canine teams – for their practices.

The city received a draft of the report several weeks ago and was able to read it and submit comments to Ginger before he filed the report in court.

In Friday’s report, Ginger was critical of some data APD submitted to him and his team.

For example, 2014 use-of-force data that Albuquerque police submitted earlier this year didn’t include the fatal shootings of Ralph Chavez, Armand Martin, Mary Hawkes, Alfred Redwine or James Boyd – a shooting for which two officers were tried on murder charges, but not convicted.

And submitted data also reported no police shootings in January 2015. But that month, former Lt. Greg Brachle shot and nearly killed detective Jacob Grant in a botched drug sting in east Albuquerque.

“This, in effect, means that one of the most critical and significant ‘errors’ in APD’s recent history went un-reported in the very database that should be designed … to easily and quickly note without fail such events,” the report states.

In his statement Friday, Eden said that APD kept track of its shooting cases separate from other use-of-force cases, which contributed to the errors Ginger reported. He said the department will work to improve how it communicates with the monitoring team.

In addition to the report filed on Friday, Ginger has also filed five regular reports and a special report in court to U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, who is presiding over the reform process. Ginger’s sixth report is scheduled to be filed in November.