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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry acknowledged this afternoon that the police reforms his administration touted in recent years didn’t go far enough in changing the Albuquerque Police Department.
The Department of Justice findings today showed “challenges I didn’t know about” yesterday, he said.
“We haven’t done enough, obviously,” Berry told reporters in a noon news conference at APD headquarters.
The mayor in recent years has repeatedly defended his administration’s approach to improving APD. The city hired consultants a few years ago after an initial spike in the number of people shot and killed by officers.
Berry has said the city made about 60 reforms based on that consultant’s report and others suggested by the police leadership.
“We have information today — that wasn’t enough,” Berry said.
He said his administration would work with the DOJ to make changes and craft new policies for APD.
“As difficult as the findings in the report are … the good news is, This is an achievable goal,” Berry said.
Police Chief Gorden Eden said change would start at the top, with himself and his command staff, and that he looks forward to working with the Department of Justice.
The DOJ report “is a road map to success for the department,” Eden said.
Berry said he expected to bring in outside consultants with “fresh eyes” to help make changes within APD.
“We have a lot of work to do,” the mayor said.
He wouldn’t offer a cost estimate on how much the DOJ reforms might cost.
“I think it depends on how the plan is crafted,” Berry said.
As for the possibility of a federal monitor, he said: “I believe monitoring is going to be an important part of the equation.”
Asked whether he would take responsibility for the state of APD, Berry said: “I’m the mayor of the city.”
DOJ Morning Press Conference
The Albuquerque Police Department has “fallen far short of its obligations to the community and constitutional requirements,” an assistant U.S. attorney general told reporters this morning.
The U.S. Justice Department plans to begin talks with Mayor Richard Berry and the police
chief today with the hope of reaching a voluntary agreement to carry out reforms intended to fix “systemic deficiencies” in the police force, the official said.
“We will be here for as long as it takes,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn
Samuels said in a news conference Downtown.
In a 16-month civil investigation, she said, the department found several patterns of excessive use of force, including on people who posed minimal threat. Sometimes, the officers’ own actions heightened the danger and contributed to the need for force, Samuels said.
Furthermore, the Albuquerque Police Department doesn’t adequately investigate use-of-force
incidents or train officers well enough so they know what’s permissible. In addition, the civilian oversight system of APD is “broken,” federal officials said.
“All of those structures combined have created a situation in which the Police Department
has fallen far short of its obligations to the community and constitutional requirements,”
But she said the mayor has indicated a willingness to work with the DOJ, leading to
optimism about the possibility of an “amicable agreement” to carry out reforms. Today is
the beginning of that process, Samuels said.
“We hope these issues can be resolved with a voluntary agreement,” Samuels said.
The goal is to put into place “structures that will over time change the culture” of the
department, she said.
The Albuquerque Police Officers Association issued a statement saying it appreciated the DOJ’s recommendations and that it is “committed to assisting all of our officers in this dept. in addressing issues of concern that have been raised… ”
Stephanie Lopez, APOA president, also said officers are glad federal funding will be available “to assist our lack of services for the mentally ill in this city.” She added that police would benefit from additional training.
“We appreciate the changes that the DOJ has recommended and recognize that change is hard for everyone. It takes time to heal the pain in the communities’ hearts and minds,” the statement said.
Federal investigators interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including police officers,
community members and city officials, during an “exhaustive review” since 2012, Samuels
said. They reviewed thousands of pages of documents and did ridealongs.
Samuels repeatedly thanked community activists and the family members of those shot and
killed by police for pushing for reform. She also stressed that officers have a dangerous,
“I assure you the community will have a voice going forward,” she said.