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The city’s plan to suspend outside monitoring in parts of its police reform effort – and instead do self-assessments – has been put on hold.
In a motion filed on Friday, the city attorney cited the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis and asked to withdraw its motion to begin self-assessment. The city’s desire to self-assess about a quarter of the settlement agreement – requirements concerning the operation of a Mental Health Response Advisory Committee, field officer recruitment and training, management of the department’s Special Operations Division, and more – had been announced at the mayor’s State of the City address in January.
A 51-page plan was filed in federal court in March, but hearings in the matter have been repeatedly postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown orders.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said the decision to put off consideration of the plan indefinitely was made in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the police union and independent monitor James Ginger, who is overseeing the reform effort.
“APD was forced to devote additional time and resources over the past six months to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, while also ensuring public safety during 35 protests in the city,” Gallegos wrote in a statement. “APD will need to continue to devote time and resources to the COVID-19 impact for at least the next few months. In addition, we want to continue to get input from the amici groups on these plans.”
He said the city and APD will continue to work on the plan for self-assessment and will revisit the issue when the department is back in a routine. Since the involved parties and the independent monitor did not oppose the motion, a judge does not have to rule on it, Gallegos said.
When the idea was first proposed, advocates such as attorney Antonio “Moe” Maestas and attorney Peter Cubra said they did not believe the police department was ready to assess itself and forgo outside monitoring. They expressed concerns about the compliance bureau and much of its staff being “novices,” as well as the monitor’s ongoing criticism that supervisors frequently fail to hold officers accountable.
The city has been working through a Court Approved Settlement Agreement for the past several years following a Department of Justice investigation that found APD had a pattern and practice of using excessive force. The agreement, signed in 2014, lays out 276 requirements for reforming the police department, ranging from when and how officers should use force, how the use of force should be reported and how it should be investigated, to how such special units as SWAT or Crisis Intervention Teams should operate.
Independent monitor Ginger releases assessments periodically, analyzing how APD is performing in respect to each of the requirements.
In November 2019, Ginger determined for the first time that the city is in 100% primary compliance – meaning all of the policies they need to implement have been implemented. In his most recent report, filed May 4, Ginger found APD to be in 93% secondary compliance – a category that covers training officers on policies; and at 66% operational compliance – which gauges whether officers and supervisors are following protocol and procedures, and are corrected when they don’t.