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New deputy chief hired to oversee DOJ reforms

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A retired Albuquerque police commander has returned to the department as a deputy chief to oversee its implementation of soon-to-be-announced reforms imposed by the Department of Justice.

Robert Huntsman began his new job Tuesday as deputy chief of the Professionalism and Standards Bureau. He joins three other deputy chiefs and will make $112,000 a year.

Huntsman is filling a newly created position and will also supervise police officer training, Internal Affairs and the police academy.

“We are fortunate to be able to bring on an experienced law enforcement leader with a broad perspective in police management and oversight,” APD Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement. “Deputy Chief Huntsman’s focused leadership in training and accountability will be of tremendous benefit to both the department personnel and the community we serve.”

Creation of the new position was announced last week during a news conference by Mayor Richard Berry, during which he asked the Department of Justice to expedite its investigation into APD.

The DOJ has been investigating APD since November 2012 to determine whether it has a “pattern or practice” of violating the Constitutional rights of those living here. Albuquerque police have shot and killed 23 men since 2010 and have faced mounting criticism about the way officers use deadly force, interact with the mentally ill and hold themselves accountable.

The Justice Department will announce the long-awaited findings of its investigation Thursday, and it could require costly reforms to the department, in addition to other changes.

Huntsman retired from APD in May 2012 as commander of APD’s Northeast Area command. He spent 10 years as the lieutenant in charge of the SWAT team, bomb squad, K-9 unit and horse-mounted patrol. He has also served in the police academy in the early 1990s, according to an APD news release. He graduated from the police academy in 1983.

One of Huntsman’s first tasks as deputy chief will be to oversee the spending of $1 million that has already been put aside by Berry in his latest budget, which still must be approved by the City Council. The money has been designated for reforms in the way officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill and to de-escalate potentially chaotic and deadly situations. Huntsman also will be responsible for ensuring that 100 percent of field officers are certified in crisis intervention, another of the reforms Berry announced last week.

“Deputy Chief Huntsman is ideally qualified to take the lead on these initiatives which will be directly tied to DOJ findings, but will also involve proactive measures to ensure we are providing the best and most progressive training as it relates to de-escalation and police response to calls involving people living with mental illness,” the mayor said in the news release.

An APD spokeswoman said Huntsman was not available for an interview Tuesday because he was being “transitioned into his new position and briefed on the DOJ investigation in preparation for Thursday.”

Police union president Stephanie Lopez said she was disappointed that Eden did not appoint the new deputy chief from the ranks of what she said are highly qualified current employees. However, even though Huntsman is retired, she said he still knows the ins and outs of the department and she hasn’t heard anything bad about his performance during his time at APD.

A call for comment from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been among the groups calling for reforms at APD, was not returned Tuesday.