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APD reforms on track; save millions, drop case

This November it will be a full five years since the city entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The CASA was negotiated to be fully implemented over a four-year period, which is achievable given the amount of progress APD has made implementing the reforms.

APD has completed the following mandated reforms under the CASA:

1. After a full year of negotiations, the new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written and implemented. All APD sworn officers have received training on the policies.

2. All sworn officers have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training.

3. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.

4. The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use-of-force incidents.

5. Sweeping changes – ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to a ban on chokeholds, to an audit of every Taser used by officers, to a re-write and implementation of new use-of-force and deadly force policies – have been completed.

6. All other federal consent decrees in the country involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and the use of excessive force or deadly force against minorities. APD’s consent decree deals with APD’s interactions and responses to suspects that are mentally ill and having psychotic episodes. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods, and mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented, with all sworn officers having received the training.

7. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use-of-force incidents, with personnel procedures implemented detailing how use-of-force cases are investigated.

8. APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.

9. The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.

10. The Police Oversight Board has been created, funded, fully staffed, and a director has been hired and his contract renewed.

11. The Community Policing Counsels have been created in area commands and meet monthly.

12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.

13. The CASA identified that APD was severely understaffed. APD is returning to community-based policing and has gone from 850 officers and to a projected 1,000-plus by July.

14. Under the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all three compliance areas, the case can be dismissed. The May APD monitor’s report found APD achieved a 100% compliance with primary tasks, 79% secondary compliance and 61% operational compliance.

15. According to the Use of Force Report for 2017 and 2018, APD’s “use of force” and “deadly force” is down, which was the primary objective of the CASA reforms.

The biggest complaint of all the DOJ consent decrees in the country is implementation and enforcement “go on and on” for years, costing millions in taxpayer dollars. With expected, continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been realized. A 95% to 100% compliance with all the CASA primary, secondary and operational compliance goals should be achievable within 12 months, if not sooner. The role of the federal monitor should be reduced, as well as the continued costs of the monitoring team reduced.

The city should commence negotiations immediately with the DOJ for a stipulated “Order of Compliance and Dismissal” of the CASA, and all causes of action the DOJ has against the city and APD. Otherwise, the city and taxpayers will be sucked into “year after year” of expenses and costs associated with a consent decree whose primary objective has been achieved and whose federal monitor wants another $4 million to audit progress.

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