Councilors at odds over future of POC

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Dueling proposals to change the civilian group that polices the police are part of Monday night’s busy City Council agenda.

Both call for major changes with the Police Oversight Commission, the group that was supposed to keep cops in line, and both proposals are very different.

One side is arguing it’s time to scrap the POC because it just isn’t doing its job. Others say keep it, and in the meantime, start building and designing a replacement commission.

“I think this is so, so important that we must do it right.”

City Council President Ken Sanchez is asking for patience.

“We have taken some time and we’ve been criticized for it, but because of the importance of what’s going on, this has to be almost perfect,” Sanchez said.

He says as it sits, the POC is worthless, and he says it’s time to suspend it immediately.

“I believe that the POC in its current structure is totally ineffective,” Sanchez said.

The civilian group was designed to handle complaints from citizens about Albuquerque police, but three members have resigned, saying they never had any teeth.

“Any kind of oversight is better than no oversight at all,” Councilor Brad Winter said.

Winter is proposing to keep it – at least for now.

A bill he’s sponsoring would begin to create a new group, being dubbed the “Civilian Police Oversight Agency.” It would be built using recommendations from a task force created to study how oversight can be better.

“I think that the citizens out there would really like to have this new task force but as soon as possible,” Winter said.

Sanchez says he would like to see Winter’s bill deferred, but Winter says change needs to start happening right now.

“The problem that I have is I don’t want us to just wait and wait and wait and not start doing things to make our police department better,” Winter added.

But Sanchez says there shouldn’t be a rush.

He wants to see what kind of changes the Department of Justice wants to see first.

“I would hope that we would immediately then look at passing legislation and form a new POC board,” Sanchez said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” Winter said.

Sanchez says those reforms should be coming down from the DOJ any day now.

Both he and Winter agree the POC needs to go. Winter says he would like to see it go by the end of the year rather than right away.

Both councilors do agree that the new oversight group needs to be more independent and more powerful than the one currently in place.

As of now, both proposals are scheduled to be voted on at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

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