Reforming the Albuquerque Police Department has at times over the past eight years felt like a Sisyphean task.
As APD inches closer to compliance with a 2014 Court Approved Settlement Agreement regarding use of force, full compliance remains elusive.
That’s what makes the latest report from independent monitor James Ginger so encouraging. For the second reporting period in a row, APD is credited with making substantial progress in its federally mandated reform effort.
Ginger’s recently released report found that APD is at 80% operational compliance, a 10% increase over the previous reporting period. Operational compliance tracks whether officers follow policies and if they’re corrected when they don’t. The CASA requires 95% operational compliance.
APD has since October 2019 remained at 100% primary compliance — meaning all required policies and procedures are in place — and sits at 99% secondary compliance regarding the training of officers.
That’s quite a shift from recent years when Ginger had said APD “failed miserably in its ability to police itself.”
City leaders say the latest report shows the city and APD’s work is paying off. But as Ginger’s report notes, DOJ will eventually transfer oversight back to APD, testing APD’s ability to maintain oversight of itself.
Meanwhile, officer-involved shootings have spiked. APD officers shot and killed a man they said lunged at them with a knife near police headquarters on Nov. 10. It was the 17th shooting involving APD this year. APD officers, who have shot at 54 people since 2018, shot 10 or fewer people in each of the four previous years. The recent spike is troubling.
Chief Harold Medina says firearm sales during the pandemic, mental health episodes and intoxicants are causing some people to make “irrational decisions.”
It’s worth noting that one of the major reasons DOJ was brought in was due to APD’s high number of officer-involved shootings. Those shootings decreased for several years. Now, the uptick is concerning. So while Ginger’s latest report is encouraging, thorough investigation and transparency surrounding APD’s police shootings are crucial to moving the department in the right direction.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.