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Director of police oversight agency has contract extended

Ed Harness

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The director of the city’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency can remain at the helm another three years.

Despite a new request from members of the city’s Police Oversight Board to hold off, the Albuquerque City Council on Monday voted 8-1 to extend Ed Harness’ contract as the head of the independent entity that investigates citizen complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department.

The city’s Police Oversight Board – to which Harness reports – had in May voted to recommend extending Harness’ contract for another three years. But the City Council had made no decision on his future, twice delaying scheduled votes on the recommendation. The latest postponement came last month, with councilors voting 5-4 to wait until this week.

But in a move Harness told the Council surprised him, three members of the POB – all of whom said they were speaking as individuals and not representing the board – asked the council Monday to defer the action for another two weeks. They said that would give their board a chance to meet and address some questions Councilor Diane Gibson had recently posed to Harness.

The board members did not detail the questions in their public comments or in response to Journal questions.

“I’d like to hear Director Harness’ response and also like to understand why Councilor Gibson was raising these questions,” POB member Chantal Galloway told the Journal.

Gibson said during the meeting she had spoken with Harness and felt he had been forthright.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said prior to the voting to extend his contract.

The city created the CPOA in 2014 as part of the reforms mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice following its investigation into APD’s use of force.

Only Ken Sanchez voted against the Harness reconfirmation, saying after the meeting that the three POB members’ comments gave him pause.

“I had some real concerns,” he told the Journal. “That’s 50 percent of the active members on the board right now.”

Some councilors voiced concern about a lack of timely reporting out of the agency and other communication issues but expressed confidence that Harness was the right person to lead the agency.

“We’re in a really good place,” Councilor Brad Winter said before the vote. “A lot of us were here when the Department of Justice came in, and I’m telling you it was a rough four years. But I think we’re in a really good place. If we make this confirmation, we’ll keep moving forward.”

In other action Monday, the City Council:

• Elected Klarissa Pena as new council president.

• Approved the issuance of up to $20.5 million in metropolitan redevelopment bonds for the Broadstone Highlands North development on the north side of Central near Presbyterian Hospital.

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