ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry called it a “historic day for our police department” as he signed an enormous settlement agreement Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal and city attorneys will meet Wednesday, he said, to begin the process required to file the agreement in court and get it signed by a federal judge.
Police Chief Gorden Eden said the agreement is already in effect, as far as he’s concerned, upon Monday’s signing by city executives. The agreement says its effective date is when it’s signed and filed with the court.
“Today is an important day for our city,” the mayor said at a news conference. “It’s a historic day for our police department and our community.”
The agreement, 106 pages in all, requires new use-of-force policies and investigations, the dismantling of a unit that targets repeat offenders and changes to officer training, among other improvements. U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, in announcing the agreement Oct. 31, described it as a “roadmap for rebuilding” the department’s relationship with the community.
A monitor will be hired to oversee the city’s compliance with the agreement, which came after the Justice Department found APD had a pattern of violating people’s rights through the use of force.
Activists say the selection of an effective monitor will be critical to the agreement’s success.
Berry said some improvements already are underway, such as “crisis intervention training” for all officers in the field. The training emphasizes techniques for de-escalating tense situations.
Requiring it for all field officers, the mayor said, is one of APD’s “first-of-its-kind initiatives” for a department of its size.
The department must strive to come into compliance with each of the requirements within four years.
“We did not want the delays that we had seen in other cities,” Eden said.
The public will see greater emphasis in coming weeks and months on improving the relationship between the department and the community, Eden said. The city will launch “Coffee with a Cop” and similar meetings, he said.
The first “Coffee with a Cop” is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at two Weck’s locations: 4500 Osuna NE and 6311 Riverside Plaza NW.
“I’d like for the general public to know who our officers are before they have to make that 911 call,” Eden said in an interview. “I think it speaks to the heart of those who’ve been called to policing and public safety. You have to have a servant’s heart.”
City councilors voted 8-0 to endorse the agreement last week. Councilor Don Harris was absent.