ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some advocates for Albuquerque police reform said the motion filed by the city on Tuesday is just the latest attempt to undermine the independent monitor overseeing a police reform effort.
Members of APD Forward, a coalition of 18 community groups in favor of police reform, gathered outside police headquarters on Wednesday afternoon to criticize a recent filing by the city of Albuquerque in the police-reform case being litigated in federal court.
Albuquerque police on Tuesday filed a motion asking for an evidentiary hearing to test the neutrality of James Ginger, the independent monitor overseeing the police reform case. U.S. District Judge Robert Brack is presiding over the case, which was brought against the city after a Department of Justice investigation found the police had a pattern of excessive force.
Ginger writes reports for the court about how well the city is completing the necessary reforms.
The city, in its motion, said a recording of Ginger made by an assistant police chief during a meeting in March 2016 coupled with recent statements by members of the monitoring team, who reportedly said that Ginger had an “ax to grind,” raise questions about whether Ginger is a neutral monitor.
“This is one of the main experts in the country on police reform. He has an incredible reputation and he’s been doing this for decades,” said Steven Robert Allen, an APD Forward spokesman and a policy director for the ACLU.
“He’s released six reports. He has laid out what the department is doing right, and there are many things the department is doing right. And he also lays out what they are doing wrong.”
Ginger’s sixth report was released Wednesday. It found that while APD has made progress on some fronts, command-staff officers in particular are not meeting expectations in some cases.
“The city has worked diligently and in earnest on reforming (APD) for several years, and we are still fully committed to those efforts. Although significant work remains to be done, even the latest report issued today shows that progress continues,” City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in a prepared statement. “However, when the city learned of the very recent statements from the monitoring team, that, if true, would seriously undermine the integrity of the process and our reform efforts, we are obligated to raise those with the court of behalf of the taxpayers and the community we serve. Although difficult questions will be asked, other groups committed to this reform process should be just as concerned with ensuring its fairness and integrity.”
Allen said APD and the city seem to be trying to undermine the monitor. In addition to Tuesday’s motion, last week, three city councilors called for a special audit of Ginger’s contract compared to the amount of work he has done in Albuquerque. And police also launched a website last week that highlights their accomplishments during the reform but doesn’t mention the police department’s ongoing struggles, Allen said.
“We believe the pattern that we have seen over the last week, potentially shows us that the department is moving toward more overt tactics to undermine our monitor,” he said. “From our perspective the monitoring team is doing excellent job of overseeing this.”