Detectives interrupting interviewees giving statements. Interviews that are conducted “somewhat haphazardly in random locations.” Detectives — often “dressed inappropriately and unprofessionally” — asking leading questions and not allowing witnesses to state what happened. A lack of “essential critical listening skills.”
These are some of the issues the External Force Investigative Team laid out in its first quarterly report since it started overseeing and training the Albuquerque Police Department’s Internal Affairs Force Division in July. The report covers July 16 through Oct. 16.
“In one case, a detective told the interviewee, off the record and prior to the interview, that he did not see any issues with the incident,” the report states. “The EFIT investigator addressed this with the detective, explaining it is inappropriate to provide an opinion to an employee – especially prior to concluding an investigation.”
EFIT is made up of three teams with one supervisor, three full-time investigators and one part-time investigator. The contract is with Debra Lynn Gallant, an accounting and consulting firm in Florida, and the teams are each spending three weeks in Albuquerque at a time. During that time, investigators are on call 24/7 and must respond to a scene within an hour of being notified of a use of force, according to the report.
The teams have already made a number of suggestions.
After realizing that “IAFD had a very disorganized approach once on scene, resulting in tactical officers and the subject individual remaining on scene longer then needed,” EFIT made recommendations to streamline the process.
While previously union representatives would interrupt interviews, after EFIT met with them they stopped, according to the report. There are now two interview rooms dedicated to use-of-force investigations and all detectives have to wear dress shirts and ties.
“Prior to EFIT, IAFD would respond to the UOF (use of force) scene, complete the on-scene process and immediately schedule interviews with all Officers,” the report states. “EFIT suggested that the IAFD Detective/Investigator and the EFIT Investigator prepare a detailed investigative plan that would include the appropriate Officers/Witnesses to interview after reviewing preliminary OBRD (on-body recording device) and UOF reports. There now is a policy that within 72 hours only those individuals are interviewed that are essential in making a determination whether the UOF utilized is in or out of APD policy.”
They say this change sped up the process without compromising the investigation and means officers can return to the field quicker.
There are now 21 detectives, five civilian investigators and five civilians in training in IAFD, according to an APD spokesman.
Deputy Chief of Compliance Cori Lowe said EFIT has already been a valuable asset.
“They have a team here — at least one team in town 100% of the time,” Lowe said. “That is actually doing very, very well because if they see an issue on scene, they can fix it right then and there. Or they can make a recommendation in which APD is going to respond. We have yet to not take a recommendation.”
As of October, IAFD and EFIT completed 38 investigations within the mandated 90-day period, a dramatic improvement from earlier this year when IAFD only completed nine within a six-month period. Of those, four out of 38 were found to be not within the use-of-force policies. This is a marked increase from the 3% of closed cases that were found to be out of policy in 2020.
Lowe, who had been the acting commander of IAFD before she was appointed deputy chief, said that doesn’t necessarily mean that the force used was excessive, it also could be out of policy for a lack of de-escalation or other issues.
External Force Investigative Team’s first report by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd