“There remains work to be done,” court-appointed independent monitor James Ginger says of reforms at the Albuquerque Police Department.
That will always be the case — with any police agency. The question is when will APD finally come out from under federal oversight and when will the city finally stop paying Ginger and his team $1.6 million a year?
After nine years, the answers look encouraging.
Ginger’s 17th Independent Monitor’s Report says APD has reached near full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement after making substantial progress in back-to-back reporting periods. APD has reached 100% compliance in terms of officer training and 92% operational compliance. It will be at full compliance when it reaches 95% operational compliance. The finish line is finally within sight.
There were serious issues within APD back in 2014 when the U.S. Department of Justice found APD had a pattern of using excessive force with insufficient oversight, inadequate training and ineffective policies.
The federal oversight has produced results. APD officers are routinely using force less than they were three years ago and well-documented use-of-force investigations are now being produced in a timely manner.
However, officers shot at a record-high 18 people in 2022, up from 10 in 2021. Some of those cases involved people apparently having mental health crises. An internal review of those 18 shootings found officers are sometimes still failing to de-escalate and use less-lethal weapons. One of the major reasons the DOJ came in in the first place was because of APD’s high number of officer-involved shootings.
Ginger says some use-of-force incidents are still being misclassified and the quality of reviews by some members of the Force Review Board has decreased, but there will always be room for improvements in any agency as large as APD.
The question now is whether Ginger and his team should get a substantial pay cut given how close APD is to full compliance. The answer is yes.
The workload of Ginger’s team should be considerably less now that APD is self-assessing on dozens of requirements of the CASA.
The city sent Ginger a letter on April 17 suggesting the Independent Monitoring Team take a 40% pay cut effective June 1, from $133,000 a month to $80,000. The city’s initial five-year contract with Ginger cost $4 million. An amendment in 2019 increased that to $1.6 million annually. Ginger and his small team have been paid over $10 million since 2015.
The city and Ginger are currently negotiating “a reasonable amount that is fair to taxpayers,” said an APD spokesman.
While the CASA has resulted in much-needed reforms, it’s also proven very costly in terms of tax dollars to pay Ginger, and the substantial amount of money the city invested in the reform process for things like creating a Compliance Bureau and many other positions dealing directly with reform efforts and the responsibilities that come with self-assessment.
Ginger should agree to the pay cut, wrap things up and get out of town, freeing up city money for other much-needed purposes. That doesn’t mean the reforms end. The city needs to continue to monitor itself and support the right culture. But it’s time to get out from under Ginger’s watch.
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.