ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – Albuquerque police and U.S. Justice Department officials have held a series of contentious briefings over an agreement to reform the police department that is awaiting a judge’s approval.
Officers and federal authorities gathered Tuesday for the last of five private meetings on how reforms will be adopted. Some officers expressed anger over how the Justice Department investigated Albuquerque police, and they pressed federal officials on why they only focused on certain excessive force cases.
“They’ve been contentious, yes,” said Stephanie Lopez, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association. “I think a lot of officers are expressing their concerns about being left out of the process.”
The city and the Justice Department recently signed an agreement to overhaul the city’s police department following a harsh report into the agency’s use of force. The agreement is awaiting approval by a federal judge.
Lopez said some officers are upset that federal authorities spoke to critics of the police but didn’t speak directly to officers before the report’s release.
Scott Greenwood, who negotiated on behalf of the city, says the recent briefings were frank and they were opportunities for officers to express their opinions.
“We are embarking on the relationship phase,” Greenwood said. “There’s bound to be some growing pains.”
Overall, Greenwood called the briefings helpful and said they were part of the road to reforms.
The reform agreement calls for new training and protocols for investigating officer shootings. It also calls for the agency to dismantle some troubled units.
A federal monitor will be chosen to keep tabs on whether the department is following the agreement.
In a joint statement, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. attorney’s office said input from Albuquerque officers will provide for more effective implementation of the agreement.
“A variety of viewpoints have been expressed, and DOJ commends the men and women of APD for their commitment to public safety and constitutional policing,” the statement said.
Lopez said despite disagreements on how the Justice Department investigation was conducted, officers are committed to reforms.
“We are ready to move on,” Lopez said. “Officers want to make this a better department.”