Albuquerque police officers do not have to get approval to speak with the U.S. Department of Justice about its reforms of the police department but they do need to alert the chief’s office so that a representative of the office can attend the meeting, an APD spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden apologized Wednesday for the way he communicated the order to his command staff that requires officers to send their intentions up the chain of command if they wish to speak with the DOJ about impending police department reforms.
“Regrettably, the method of communication that I chose was not the best, and I apologize to each and every one of you,” Eden told the Economic Forum of Albuquerque on Wednesday morning at Hotel Albuquerque.
Eden said officers do not need to get his “permission” if they wish to meet with the Department of Justice. He just wants to know if they are meeting.
APD spokeswoman Janet Blair later said that the order requires officers and APD employees to notify Eden’s office if they intend to meet with the DOJ so that someone representing him can attend.
A text message, which the Journal obtained Monday, said officers would need “authorization” from the chief if they wanted to meet with the DOJ. That text message came from one of the APD major’s offices.
Also, an email sent from the APD crime lab director to his subordinates appears to prohibit officers and APD employees from contacting the DOJ entirely.
However, Blair said the chief’s message is not a “gag order” but instead just a requirement that officers notify the chief’s office.
Asked if having someone from the chief’s office in attendance might deter some officers from reaching out to the DOJ, Blair reiterated that the officers and APD employees can meet with the DOJ if they wish.
In addition to the apology, Eden told Economic Forum members about his plans to comply with the Department of Justice’s reforms. The DOJ is in town this week and expected to deliver a draft agreement laying out the changes it believes need to be made in the Albuquerque Police Department.
In April, the DOJ released a report finding that the department systematically violated the rights of people living here through excessive force. APD has shot and killed 25 men and one woman since 2010.
At the forum, Eden warned members of his command staff that they need to get on board with the DOJ reforms or get out.
“If you are not committed to working with the Department of Justice, and if you’re not committed to implementing the reforms that have to happen, you can retire,” Eden said.
He also stressed the importance of community involvement, including the business community, in ensuring that the reforms take root and help to rebuild community trust in the police department.
Outside the hotel ballroom, between six and a dozen protesters gathered to call for Eden’s resignation and criminal indictments of officers involved in shootings.