The city of Albuquerque is seeking a 40% pay cut for the team overseeing the Albuquerque Police Department’s reform efforts, citing a lighter workload and the progress made with recent compliance gains.
Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael proposed lowering the fee of attorney James Ginger and his Independent Monitoring Team to $80,000 a month.
In the letter sent to Ginger on April 17, Rael said the pay cut was appropriate with APD making “significant strides” in its Court Approved Settlement Agreement, or CASA. He said the department is also now self-assessing on dozens of requirements of the CASA, which Rael said has reduced Ginger’s workload as monitor.
“If the (Independent Monitoring Team) feels that a different amount is appropriate, we ask that you provide documentation to justify the requested amount,” Rael wrote, asking Ginger to respond “whether these terms are agreeable” by Thursday.
Ginger could not be immediately reached Tuesday.
“The city and APD have made a significant amount of progress, which the Department of Justice and the Independent Monitoring Team has acknowledged,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in a statement Tuesday. “The time is right to reduce the compensation to the Monitoring Team so we can invest that money into Mayor (Tim) Keller’s plan to boost pay for new police cadets and put more officers on the streets to fight crime.”
City Councilor Pat Davis said it was “disingenuous” for the city to say they don’t need as much monitoring due to making gains in compliance. Davis said he worried less monitoring would slow the process down.
“I would rather have 100% of the monitoring resources focused on the last 20%,” he said, noting that APD has done a good job of moving forward but compliance is a matter of “you are or you’re not.”
Shaun Willoughby, president of the police union, said he completely agreed with the city’s pay cut request, adding that Ginger is doing nearly 40% less work with the department’s progress in self-monitoring.
“I think the taxpayer for the city of Albuquerque is long overdue from relief for this process… It is 100% natural and acceptable for him to be getting less money, he was hired to do a job, that job is getting completed,” he said.
Albuquerque entered into the CASA in 2014 after a Department of Justice investigation found officers displayed a pattern of using excessive force against civilians with insufficient oversight, inadequate training and ineffective policies contributing to the practice.
Since then, Ginger has issued 16 reports tracking APD’s progress.
In his most recent — released in November — Ginger found APD had reached 80% operational compliance, which tracks whether officers are following policies and being corrected when they don’t.
The significant progress report also came in 2022, a year when Albuquerque police shot at a record high of 18 people, with 10 of those incidents being fatal.
A review of those shootings by APD leadership found that, in some of those cases, officers failed to de-escalate, use less-lethal weapons or exhibited other shortcomings.
Councilor Louie Sanchez pointed out the city was trying to save money on the police reform effort but he wondered how much may be eventually paid out for lawsuits related to the recent spike in shootings, in which multiple suits have been filed.
“How do these shootings still happen? When we supposedly have layers upon layers of protection and training against this, are we just going through the motions of compliance?” he asked.
In his letter, Rael said the city has a duty “to ensure that the IMT’s compensation is just and appropriate.”
“There have been significant developments, in recent years, that have reduced the workload of the IMT,” Rael wrote. “In particular, the City has made significant strides toward full and effective compliance under the CASA.”
Rael cited the 80% compliance in Ginger’s 16th report and a further increase in a draft of his next report, which has not been released publicly. He also said 37% of the paragraphs in CASA were being self-monitored by APD.
Rael said both have reduced the IMT’s workload and said the IMT “no longer performs specific tasks, and no longer incurs specific expenses, that were anticipated when the IMT prepared the current budget.”
He said the IMT’s fee “would be subject to further reduction” in the future as the workload lessens. Rael asked that, if Ginger doesn’t agree to the amount, that he provide documentation of expenses and hours worked by each member of the IMT.
If Ginger agreed to the pay cut, according to Rael, it would take effect June 1.