Civil rights groups, city councilors differ on DOJ reforms

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Some of the Department of Justice’s findings into the Albuquerque Police Department are what many local civil rights groups have been hoping to hear for years but while they’re welcoming change, many are concerned the DOJ isn’t going far enough.

The report consists of 46 pages of the DOJ calling for top to bottom change at APD and its a report with sweeping reform that Mayor R.J. Berry says the city is finally ready to take on. “This report is actually that milestone we need to start the process of building trust,” said Mayor R.J. Berry.

However, some community members are already saying they don’t trust the city will follow through. “Many of us do not have a great deal of confidence or faith in the Mayor or the Chief,” said Stephen Torres during a press conference Friday. Torres’ son, Christopher Torres was shot to death by an APD officer years ago.

“There hasn’t been enough action to rectify the problem,” said Ralph Arellanes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC.)

Arellanes says he wanted the DOJ to come down with hard-line charges that would be forced on APD right now. He worries the DOJ isn’t acting harsh enough. “We’ve been bringing these issues forward for seven years and we’re still getting cases like the James Boyd case,” said Arellanes. “We think that the Department of Justice should take a strong leadership role within the APD and monitor everything.”

The ACLU says it’s also worried about the voluntary agreement the city and the Feds will likely sign on to. “I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see the Department of Justice proposed an actual consent degree an actual court order, enforced agreement with the city,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Mexico.

The city is expected to negotiate changes with the Feds but it’s unclear how long that could take.

A federal monitor would eventually watch over the department to make sure it’s living up to its end of the deal, but the ACLU says top brass has constantly denied problems.

Simonson indicated Thursday that he’s afraid the culture will not change drastically enough under the current way the DOJ is negotiating with APD. “Leaves us feeling uncertain about whether or not the police department can get this done with a gentleman’s agreement,” said Simonson. “We need a department that’s going to own its problems.”

Meanwhile, Albuquerque City Councilors are also weighing in. Councilor Dan Lewis told News 13 on Thursday that he welcomes the reforms just as he did in 2011. Lewis was the only Republican councilor to vote for a resolution that would have invited the city council in.

“It says what we’ve said since 2011, that there are systemic problems within the department that need change,” said Lewis.

Council President Ken Sanchez says he also welcomes the changes. He wouldn’t comment at to whether or not he thinks the DOJ is going far enough, however, he did say it was a first step. “I would hope that the police officers that look at this and hear this, which each and every one of them needs to, you know will work with us, work with the mayor in implementing these changes,” said Sanchez.

But another fellow councilor, Rey Garduño says his initial read of the DOJ report is concerning because of a lack of forced monitoring that he sees in the report so far. “They were hoping the department of justice to be more clarifying and more able to then direct how the department moves forward,” said Garduño.

Four city councilors, including Ken Sanchez will meet with the DOJ in a closed door meeting Friday. They’re expecting to get a better idea of what’s next at that time.

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