More power sought by APD oversight group

New agency, more power sought by oversight group

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – For years, people have complained that the citizen group that rules on police behavior in Albuquerque has no teeth. That’s become a big issue in the wake all the APD controversy.

Now, there’s a proposal to give the group more power, an idea the police union hates.

A task force has spent the last six months preparing recommendations for the City Council, but a lot of their ideas are drawing heat from APD’s union.

The Albuquerque Police Department has been in the spotlight for shootings, officers in trouble and a Department of Justice investigation.

The Police Oversight Task Force wants a bigger say in how citizen complaints against officers are handled.

“I think our biggest goal is to establish a sound system of accountability and oversight,” said task force member and activist Ralph Arrelanes.

To do that, the task force wants to form a new, more independent body – the Civilian Police Oversight Agency.

“There’s going to be a number of initiatives that are pretty powerful and bolster oversight,” Arellanes said.

Some of those initiatives include access to IA files, the ability to subpoena records and the authority to recommend punishment of officers.

They also want the chief, whoever that ends up being, to explain in writing whenever they reject those recommendations.

“The chief having to explain himself is completely ridiculous,” Shaun Willoughby, with APOA said.

The city’s police union calls the task force biased and says the Civilian Police Oversight Agency should not have investigative powers.

“This particular body of individuals who are not professional law enforcement officers has no idea what we do,” Willoughby said.

Arrelanes is confident the recommendations will be adopted by the Democrat-controlled City Council.

“I think this city is really craving some accountability and a real positive police force,” Arellanes said. “I think it’ll improve morale within Albuquerque Police Department and the city.”

Accusations against officers that don’t involve the public would still be handled by APD and their IA unit.

In their letter to the City Council Monday night, the task force asked that their report and recommendations be shared with the Department of Justice.

The Civilian Police Oversight Agency would be made up of the public, chosen by a commission named by City Council. They would have to do ride-alongs with police and spend time at the academy to get a better understanding of what officers do.