Federal monitor: No agreement yet on use-of-force policy

James Ginger
FILE - In this June 23, 2015, file photo Independent monitor James Ginger speaks about his role in helping oversee a federal settlement agreement to overhaul Albuquerque police amid allegations of excessive force during a news conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, N.M. Ginger is set to release his first report Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, as he faces criticism for a lack of transparency and falling behind scheduled. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras,File)

ALBUQUERQUE (AP/KRQE) – An independent monitor overseeing federally ordered changes to the Albuquerque Police Department said Thursday that police are at odds with his team over how to revamp the department’s use-of-force policy.

Court-appointed monitor James Ginger told a federal judge there’s no agreement on a new policy, one of several issues delaying reform. He said officers cannot be trained if a new policy doesn’t exist and that he’s worried APD will not meet the June 2, 2016 deadline for this.

Twice APD has created a new use of force policy and it was rejected, not meeting national standards.

“There is no way out of it from my perspective. These things are nonnegotiable,” he said.

U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Damon Martinez, agreed with Ginger.

“We need policy in place and the reason we need policy in place is because APD will train from there,” Martinez said.

Ginger released his first progress report Thursday, saying despite the lack of agreement when it comes to the use of force, police are in compliance with the goals established so far.

He said up to this point, APD has fulfilled 1.4 percent of 280 mandated requirements.

For example, the department has created a policy review board and has informed officers of the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which stemmed from a harsh report by the agency that faulted police for inconsistent policies and using excessive force, especially in cases involving mentally ill suspects.

The department has also briefed officers on the agreement with the DOJ.

“We met 100 percent of our goals right now and I’ve been told by our team that we’re on track on the next report to meet those,” Mayor Richard J. Berry said.

The police department also had been scrutinized for more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

The Albuquerque police force is one of several agencies nationwide that is under a court-ordered agreement with the Justice Department.

Ginger told the judge that timelines established by the settlement also have been delayed because his contract wasn’t approved until months after the reform agreement took effect.

Ginger has been criticized, with some alleging he has lacked transparency during his review and has not fully engaged with community members and critics of police.

“I have not been too impressed with him,” said Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, who was among those who filed a complaint against police. “I continue to feel uncomfortable with him and this process.”

Ginger said earlier this month that some changes to use-of-force policies are underway. He said a member of his team reported that more officers are being trained in how to handle crisis situations.

Ginger repeatedly stressed that the reform process is a “marathon” and sweeping changes would not come quickly.

APD Chief Gorden Eden expressed similar thoughts, saying “We want policies that are clear, that are concise, that are well structured.”

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