8 years in, APD takes reform reins from DOJ - Albuquerque Journal

8 years in, APD takes reform reins from DOJ

Harold Medina

The Albuquerque Police Department has operated under federal scrutiny for eight long years. For the first time during this reform process, we were able to share good news with the judge who oversees the settlement agreement we have with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Federal monitors reported APD achieved the highest level of compliance to date – following a roller coaster of successes and failures during the past eight years. This is a milestone worth celebrating. Changing the culture of a large police department is difficult, but we have worked hard to make those changes a reality at APD. Officer morale has improved, and we are more attractive to police recruits because of our innovations and commitment to officers.

We now have a plan approved by the DOJ that removes federal oversight for about one-fourth of the requirements outlined in the settlement agreement. I want to assure the people of Albuquerque that APD will still meet the high standards we developed through this reform process. The difference is we now have our own system of oversight to ensure the reforms are here to stay. Less federal oversight means we can shift some of our focus on the remaining challenges, such as improving the quality of use-of-force investigations.

Many people are frustrated because the DOJ is still in Albuquerque. I share that frustration. But we have to face reality. Mayor Tim Keller made a decision last year to take control of a DOJ reform process that was backsliding. The mayor invested in APD and our officers, and refused to cede control of local police work to federal control. We are standing up for our officers, and we are seeing a more cooperative relationship with the DOJ and federal monitors.

I also stood my ground by insisting that fighting crime has to be our top priority. Keeping experienced officers on the force has been a major challenge for police departments across the country. APD is no different. While we continue to aggressively recruit new officers, we are also hiring professional staff to support the work of sworn officers. The biggest example is our success in reaching our goal of 16 homicide detectives while also creating a team of digital intelligence analysts and hiring an advocate who works exclusively with families of homicide victims. We built a team that has successfully charged or arrested 78 homicide suspects this year.

We are taking the same approach to meet the demands of reform and compliance. We are hiring and training professional staff to conduct use-of-force investigations so we can use sworn detectives to fight crime.

We are fortunate to have strong support from Mayor Keller, the City Council and many community partners who want APD to succeed. We continue to reach out and work with others in the community who have concerns.

We have worked to build lasting reform at APD. We created policies based on high standards. We trained officers and supervisors based on these policies, and we are holding officers accountable for meeting those standards. We will ultimately succeed at reform if the public trusts this system of accountability.

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