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APD use of force increased from 2017 to 2019

(Courtesy APD)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Use of force and show of force incidents by Albuquerque police increased each year since 2016, with use of force incidents seeing the biggest jump from 2018 to 2019 with a 23% increase.

However, overall the report states that use of force and show of force are “an extremely rare occurrence,” according to the Albuquerque Police Department’s Annual Use of Force Report released Friday.

The department is required to compile the report as part of the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice mandating reforms. A data analyst working for APD’s Internal Affairs Force Division said they realized some of the data compiled for the previous 2016 and 2017 report had to be re-analyzed so they doubled back and included data from 2016 through 2019.

“It is unclear what may be driving the increase in use of force incidents from 2017 to 2018 and again from 2018 to 2019,” the report states. “More proactive policing strategies, better reporting of force incidents and other initiatives may account for this increase. Additionally, four years’ of data is insufficient to draw conclusions about trends over time; the fluctuations may be simply ‘regression to the mean.'”

In 2019 there were 605 uses of force and 163 shows of force reported. Use of force includes instances where officers use empty hand techniques, electronic control weapons like Tasers, less lethal options, and show of force is when an officer points a gun or less lethal option at an individual.

Over the past four years, about one per 500 to one per 1,000 calls for service and officer initiated actions involved police using force, the report states. Between 4-5% of arrests use force.

And the overwhelming majority of use of force incidents, across all years, were found to be compliant with policy. Last year 10 uses of force were found to be out of policy – or about 1.6% of the total.

APD Forward, a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to police reform, said its members hadn’t had a chance to dig into the report yet.

In a briefing with the media on Friday, interim Police Chief Harold Medina said the report will help APD think about how to better respond to the types of calls that have the highest percentage of uses of force – including disturbances, suspicious persons or vehicles, family disputes, and aggravated assaults or batteries.

“One of the visions I have for us is we take how we respond and we advance our training in terms of domestic violence and look to see how we could have more de-escalation in those specific settings…,” Medina said. “That is a great example of how we can use this information to reduce and train our officers better to deal with situations that are very pointed and specific.”

Medina said it will take some time though, as changing policies and training is a lengthy process.

While the report shows a higher number of use of force cases occurred in the Southeast Area Command, data analyst Katherine Jacobs said that’s because that quadrant has the highest number of calls.

“When you norm it against calls for service, when you look at it as a ratio, its fairly comparable across all area commands,” Jacobs said.

She said in looking at demographics, the sample sizes were too small for differences among races to be significant.

“It would appear that African Americans and Native Americans are perhaps over represented when it comes to uses of force; we did run some statistical testing to find if that’s statistically significant and its inconclusive,” she said. “We don’t have a large enough sample size to determine if certain populations are overrepresented.”

APD’s Annual Use of For… by Albuquerque Journal

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