Statewide used-of-force policy for police isn't the answer - Albuquerque Journal

Statewide used-of-force policy for police isn’t the answer

Shawn Willoughby

We never seem to learn our lesson in this state. Recently, I read Senate Bill 252, which calls for a statewide use-of-force policy, and I shook my head in utter disbelief. How could any legislator think that enacting a statewide use of force policy would be a good idea after seeing the disaster that has taken place in Albuquerque over the past few years?

Albuquerque police have been working under the most ambiguous, misunderstood, impossible-to-implement use-of-force policy for more than a decade. It’s a nightmare, and every day it has unintended consequences that are the direct opposite of what the policy was intended to do.

Did you know that APD was involved in more deadly use-of-force incidents than ever before in 2022? No, you probably didn’t, but that’s the truth. We were. And it will probably seem crazy to hear this from the head of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, but many should have never happened, and frankly it bothers me every day.

This is what happens when politicians try to police. They write policy and laws that they truly have no understanding of. It just sounds good on paper, but it’s a mess when it gets to the real day-to-day decisions in policing. You know why? Because they aren’t officers; they don’t carry a gun or other law enforcement tools; and they have never encountered the millions of different scenarios that an officer confronts every day. Politicians almost never even talk to law enforcement about their great policy ideas, and if they do it’s to properly notify it’s happening, so tough luck.

It’s all too bad, because officers want common-sense, applicable use-of-force policy, and you know what else they want? Training. We would like to be trained and taught good policing procedures so we can do a better job in these tense and difficult situations. Do you know what politicians never want to do? Train our officers. They love to create the illusion of change but fall desperately short on how to implement change.

It’s hard to not call for a use-of-force policy when you see what happened in Memphis, but the truth is that these were bad officers; no policy would have changed what they did. We will always have bad guys on both sides of the line; no legislation will change that. What we can do is train our officers in good techniques and then hold them accountable to that training. We can give our law enforcement the tools they need to be better officers and then provide training and policy that is developed with law enforcement, not policy that is used as a sword against law enforcement.

Using the least amount of force sounds good in principle. De-escalation sounds like a great idea. We should do that, but it’s not always the right answer. When half an hour of trying to rationalize with someone who is passively resisting ends in their death, we are doing something wrong. This is exactly why APD just changed its use-of-force policy again, and why we cannot under any circumstance allow Senate Bill 252 to pass this legislative session.

The unintended consequence of this bill is quite simply a loss of life.


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