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Police reform group asks for changes to union agreement

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

APD Forward, a coalition of organizations dedicated to police reform, is calling for changes to the city’s collective bargaining agreement with the Albuquerque police union.

And it’s joined by more than a thousand city residents.

Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the coalition delivered a petition signed by more than 1,200 residents to the Mayor’s Office on Thursday demanding three changes to the agreement in order to enhance police accountability. The collective bargaining agreement dictates terms and conditions of a worker’s employment and, in the case of police departments, establishes the mechanisms for disciplining officers.

Police unions and collective bargaining agreements received renewed scrutiny over the summer following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and nationwide protests calling for reform. Paul Haidle, an APD Forward spokesman and the executive director for the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said over the years unions have used the agreements to make it almost impossible to hold officers accountable for violating people’s rights or using excessive force, including deadly force.

“This creates a culture of impunity that is toxic to good policing and destroys community trust,” Haidle wrote in a statement. “With this petition, the people of Albuquerque are asking their mayor to take a step towards finding balance between fairness to officers and officer accountability. Going forward, we must also ensure additional accountability measures are enshrined in state law.”

Currently the collective bargaining agreement calls for internal investigations to be completed in 90 days, with a possible 30 day extension. If they’re not complete within that timeline, the officer cannot be disciplined. The petition calls for the time limit to be increased to 180 days – which it says is standard for most other police departments in the country – in order to guard against complaints expiring as the clock runs out.

The petition also calls for the Civilian Police Oversight Agency board to be able to have more information about investigations, including the officers’ names so the board can identify “repeat offenders.” And the petition calls for anyone making a complaint against an officer to be able to shield their name, so as not to face possible retaliation.

The last collective bargaining agreement was put in place on July 7, 2018, and expired June 30, 2020. Both the city and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association president said negotiations for the next agreement had been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related financial impacts.

City Attorney Esteban Aguilar said he doesn’t have a date for when negotiations will resume and there is no deadline.

“We share some of these concerns and will review the recommendations and take them into consideration when the negotiations resume,” Aguilar wrote in response to questions about whether the city will take the petition into account.

Shaun Willoughby, the APOA president, said the city and the union got an early start on negotiations and already came to a successful agreement in everything except for financial matters in early March. Although, he acknowledged, it has not yet been signed.

“In my perspective … what’s agreed upon is pretty ironclad,” Willoughby said. “From the APOA’s standpoint we would not be interested in changing what we already agreed to because of somebody’s petition.”

He said the agreement he saw did increase the investigation time limit by automatically providing 120 days, plus five days in the beginning for the department to decide if an investigation is merited.

“I don’t think we quite get to their 180-day request but there is going to be an extension,” Willoughby said. “A lot of the other requests that they have, I don’t agree with.”

But the city pushed back.

“Negotiations are not final until a formal agreement is made,” Aguilar wrote in a statement.

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