ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The newly named Albuquerque Police Department chief said Tuesday that he is considering stripping APD sergeants of their administrative responsibilities to make them more effective at fighting crime in the field.
It’s part of incoming chief Gorden Eden’s three-pronged plan to revamp the embattled department, which he’ll take over Feb. 27. Making APD sergeants less distracted with paperwork is one way to strengthen the APD leadership structure, Eden said in an interview Tuesday with Journal reporters and editors, and he’ll also focus on community outreach and increasing the number of APD officers.
The chief-to-be did not have many other specific ideas for what he’ll do at APD to accomplish his main three objectives, saying that he hasn’t had a chance to review all the department policies yet or speak with employees. He said he’ll soon begin going over what the department has turned over to the Department of Justice for its ongoing investigation, probably by Friday, to get an idea about what types of reforms, if any, the DOJ will implement at APD.
The DOJ is investigating whether APD has a pattern or practice of violating Albuquerque residents’ constitutional rights, particularly through the use of deadly force.
In addition to the DOJ review, Eden, currently the Cabinet secretary for the state Department of Public Safety, said he’ll spend his first 100 days as chief meeting with staff, working to “restructure and redefine” the Internal Affairs Unit, and making changes to the APD police academy to strengthen its standards.
Eden, who attended the Tuesday interview alongside Mayor Richard Berry, said that he has the right perspective for the job, never having worked at APD but having dealt with the department for decades while working for State Police, the Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“I am an outsider, but I do believe I’m an insider because of the relationships I’ve built with the department,” Eden said at the meeting.
The mayor said he is giving Eden free rein to do as he sees fit with the department, including allowing him to overhaul police training as it relates to use of deadly force, changing hiring standards for officers and making changes to the way officers are investigated within the department.
Eden touted the success of the IA process at DPS, where he said cases are completed within 14 days barring other “extenuating circumstances.” He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll implement the same 14-day rule at APD, which often takes far longer to complete its internal investigations, though it seems to be working well on the state level. He said quick turnaround on IA cases can bring a greater sense of accountability and discipline for both officers and the community they’re serving.
Also, the incoming chief said that the number of officer-involved shootings at APD since 2010 might be reason for him to review department training, but he said it’s also important to consider a nationwide increase in attacks on officers as a possible reason behind the spike in shootings.