ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Mayor Richard J. Berry sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Wednesday requesting the DOJ to do everything in their power to expedite their investigation of APD patterns and practices and to transmit their findings and recommendations to him as soon as possible.
The Mayor also requested that pending the completion of the DOJ investigation and the publication of findings, the City and the DOJ immediately begin the process of negotiating an agreement to implement a DOJ monitoring plan. That plan would help bring about any necessary system improvements and accountability measures in order to sustain positive outcomes and community confidence moving forward.
In the letter to the DOJ the Mayor stated;
“I believe that a cooperative monitoring partnership agreement with the DOJ, along with the sweeping reforms listed (in the letter) provide an opportunity to improve outcomes and confidence throughout our community while at the same time maintaining the Albuquerque Police Department’s long standing commitment to excellence and adaptability to challenges facing public safety professionals.”
The letter goes on to state:
“I want be clear, nothing in this letter should be construed as an indication that I have lost my faith in the men and women, or the leadership of the Albuquerque Police Department. I believe in our officers and our Department and I know the steps I am taking today will prove to increase both community confidence and enhance our officers’ ability to protect and serve this great City.”
Under Mayor Berry’s leadership, an unprecedented number of reforms have already been implemented as a result of a spike in officer involved shootings that began in 2009 and continued into his first year as Mayor. Those reforms include:
- The Department-wide use of lapel cameras to document interactions with the officers and those they serve
- The development of a metro-wide CIT response plan, comprehensive training for all officers and dispatchers responding to citizens in crisis, dispatch of CIT officers to all high risk calls
- Mandatory field supervisors at all critical incidents
- Independent Review Officer response to all officer involved shootings
- Additional training for recruits and officers in de-escalation skills and techniques
- Equipping all sworn personnel with non-lethal force options such as tasers
The implementation of these reforms has led to a third straight year of below or at average officer involved shootings in Albuquerque. But Mayor Berry believes that by working with the DOJ and the community we can do even better and improve outcomes.
“While previous reforms have resulted in a better trained and equipped police department and a reduction in the number of officer involved shootings in Albuquerque, recent events highlight the need for immediate action and additional improvements.” said Mayor Berry
After 30 days on the job, new Chief of Police Gorden Eden is also proposing sweeping changes within APD to include the following initiatives:
- Hiring of one additional Deputy Chief (bringing the total to 4) within the Department who will be charged with accountability and measures including oversight and implementation of DOJ findings, supervision of the Internal Affairs unit, use of force, de-escalation methods and critical incident training
- Mandated CIT training for 100% of field services bureau officers (100 hours). The Department will also move to a system where all new cadets will be CIT certified upon graduation, starting with the next academy which begins in June of 2014
- Development and implementation of a highly monitored evaluation system for officers that will track performance from the training academy throughout their career, including comprehensive lateral entry officer background checks and evaluations
- The $1 million dollars included in Mayor Berry¹s budget proposal will be used to improve community outcomes including evaluation, training and implementation of policies and reforms relating to police interaction with people living with mental health issues
- Development of an enhanced training plan for all field supervisors with an emphasis on front-line supervisors (sergeants).
- The development and implementation of a community-wide outreach initiative to engage all citizens in ongoing efforts to improve relations between APD and those we protect and serve
“We have heard from our community and we take their concerns seriously. said Chief Eden. “Our partnership with the DOJ will help us to ensure the highest levels of scrutiny and accountability related to use of force incidents.”
The mayor went on to call for a broader discussion on mental health issues. “Forward-thinking solutions should also include a long term analysis of how the larger justice and social services systems deal with those in our communities who are living with mental health issues. We all have a part in crafting solutions and that includes community members, lawmakers and elected officials, service providers and policy experts,” said Mayor Berry.