Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
A bipartisan group of Albuquerque city councilors on Monday called for the city auditor to review the performance of the independent monitor overseeing Albuquerque police reform.
City Councilors Brad Winter, Ken Sanchez and Don Harris said that since being tapped for the position in early 2015, James Ginger has spent an average of just 42 days in Albuquerque per year. The councilors said at a news conference Monday that Ginger’s budget calls for him to be in Albuquerque 200 days per year.
The budget Ginger submitted for the first four years of the project calls for him and his team members to be on-site with Albuquerque police for a total of 800 workdays per year, according to federal court documents.
U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, who is presiding over the case, approved in April 2015 a $4.5 million budget for the monitoring team for the first four years of the reform effort. City councilors said at the news conference that the city has paid Ginger and his team about $3 million in recent years.
The councilors sent a letter to Acting City Auditor Lawrence Davis asking him to review the performance of Ginger and his company, Public Management Resources, based in South Carolina.
“I attended several meetings where Dr. Ginger … stated that he was going to have a presence in Albuquerque and he was going to relocate here,” Sanchez said.
Reached by phone on Monday, Ginger said rules agreed to by the parties in the case prohibit him from commenting publicly on the councilor’s audit request. Ginger’s next report detailing the department’s progress is scheduled to be made public early next month.
Albuquerque police are implementing reforms in the aftermath of an investigation by the Department of Justice that found Albuquerque officers too often used excessive force, which included police shootings. The reforms are outlined in a settlement agreement reached in late 2014 between Albuquerque and the Department of Justice.
Ginger and his team file periodic reports in federal court that outline the status of APD’s efforts to become compliant with the settlement reforms. The city and the DOJ jointly selected Ginger as monitor in January 2015.
The entire project was originally expected to take four to six years. But Harris said other police reform projects across the country have lasted much longer than expected.
“These federal monitors … tend to last a lot longer than they are supposed to,” Harris said. “One of the reasons could be … that there is no real incentive for the monitor to wrap up because he’s getting $1 million a year.”
In Ginger’s most recent report, in May, he found that Albuquerque police had achieved “operational compliance” with 47 percent of the tasks outlined in the agreement. But the report also accused the department’s highest-ranking officials of “deliberate noncompliance” in some cases and described their lack of scrutiny in use-of-force cases as “mystifying.”
City councilors said the city has spent $10 million on reforms in recent years, with $3 million going directly to Ginger and his team.
Winter said councilors must make sure that money is being used responsibly, which is why councilors are calling for a review.
“We can’t just go to the federal judge with our impression,” Harris said. “We need really good data if we’re going to raise these concerns.”
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said Albuquerque police officials have raised concerns about the communication and face-to-face time the department gets with Ginger during the reform effort.
Sanchez said he’s hopeful the audit could be done in 30 to 60 days. The City Council is expected to vote at its Nov. 6 meeting to approve $25,000 to expedite the audit.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico declined to comment Monday.