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Filings show concerns over crime study

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The conclusions of a city-sponsored study on crime in Albuquerque and city officials dismissing an independent monitor’s assessments of the police reform effort were among concerns that community groups have raised in recently filed federal court filings.

City officials countered that they have not dismissed the monitor’s reports and that a researcher, not city officials, reached the conclusions in the crime study.

Letters from Peter Cubra, an Albuquerque attorney as well as APD Forward, a coalition of community groups interested in Albuquerque police reform, were among documents filed in court last week in anticipation of a status conference on the police reforms scheduled for next month.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack is presiding over a years-long reform effort by Albuquerque police that stems from a Department of Justice investigation, which found Albuquerque police have a pattern of excessive force. Throughout the process, Brack has asked community organizations involved with policing issues to raise their concerns in letters filed in court prior to public hearings.

James Ginger, an independent monitor, files periodic reports that outline the progress, or lack of progress, that the department has made. After each report, city and police have pointed out that the monitor’s reports are outdated and police have already taken steps to correct the problems that Ginger found.

“Accusing (Ginger) of ‘mischaracterizing’ the department’s progress is a little like a student accusing his teacher of mischaracterizing his academic performance at report card time,” wrote Peter Simonson, the executive director of the ACLU in New Mexico, which is part of APD Forward.

City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said city officials haven’t challenged Ginger’s findings. She said they’ve only pointed out that by the time the reports are made public, Albuquerque police already have taken steps to address the problems.

“Each time the city receives a report from the monitor, it devotes considerable times and resources to developing ways to address the areas of concern,” she said.

In his letter, Cubra questioned the validity of conclusions reached in a city-commissioned crime study. The study found that the declining jail population is tied directly to an increase in crime.

The conclusion has been controversial, especially among law enforcement experts who have worked to lower jail overcrowding as part of a years-long federal civil rights lawsuits over conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

“I believe (the study) proves absolutely nothing,” Cubra said, in an interview. “The mayor is using the report to blame someone else for the fact that crime has risen in Albuquerque.”

Rhiannon Samuel, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the city hired an independent researcher to analyze crime in the city. And the researcher reached the conclusion about the declining jail population leading to an increase in crime.

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