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DOJ oversight here for a reason

On April 27, news articles about policing in Albuquerque were published in the Albuquerque Journal, “APD union launches campaign against ‘endless DOJ oversight,'” and the Washington Post, “When communities try to hold police accountable, law enforcement fights back.”

The Journal article describes the police officers’ union public information campaign that urges the public to tell city leaders to focus on crime “instead of wasting millions of dollars on endless Department of Justice oversight.”

Union president Shaun Willoughby asserted that police officers can’t fight crime under the constraints of the DOJ settlement agreement that was adopted after a federal investigation found a “pattern and practice” of excessive force and violation of citizens’ constitutional rights.

The article also notes the benefits of the DOJ agreement for the community and its acceptance by police officials, given its legal standing as a court order.

The November 2020 evaluation by independent monitor James Ginger found the Albuquerque Police Department achieved 100% compliance for policies, 91% compliance for training, but only 64% compliance for following procedures and correction by supervisors when officers do not.

The Washington Post article addresses civilian oversight of police departments across the U.S., finding that law enforcement fights back when communities try to hold police accountable. Over 5,700 words long, a third of the article is devoted to Albuquerque.

Readers are reminded that when Albuquerque remade its civilian oversight group in 2014, the police officers’ union sued the city, claiming the ordinance that created the Civilian Police Oversight Agency would violate the union contract. The union dropped the lawsuit when the City Council amended the ordinance to protect certain internal police files from CPOA scrutiny.

Also, a CPOA board member resigned when attacked by the union and accused of anti-police bias. The Post quotes Shaun Willoughby as saying the union “is opposed to allowing civilian boards to discipline or fire officers,” according to the Post article.”

Given the prevalence of police use-of-force cases in the U.S., and the demonstrated need for greater APD compliance with its procedures and their enforcement, the DOJ agreement protects the public by adding a mandated layer of police accountability.