ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An updated look at how Albuquerque Police is handling its reforms has raised a major question in how the department looks at its own use of force cases.
In a 352 page status report filed in Federal Court Friday morning, the Independent Monitor, Dr. James Ginger writes that his team is seeing a “lack of rigorous and legitimate oversight and accountability” in reporting and reviewing how officers are using force.
From both community groups who’ve watched the police department critically, to the police in the middle of it all, both sides say they agree that Albuquerque Police needs to change how officers use force.
“It’s the crux of the entire problem with this broken department,” said Steve Allen, Policy Director for the ACLU New Mexico.
“The use of force policy is the cornerstone of the settlement agreement,” said Chief Gorden Eden of the Albuquerque Police Department.
Since January 2016, the department has drafted and approved new “use of force” policy and given all of its officers new use of force training. However, another major component is accountability.
In his third of ten status reports, Dr. Ginger writes, “across the board, the monitoring team has found that components in APD’s system for overseeing (and holding officers accountable for) use of force, for the most part, has failed.”
“It’s a huge concern to the ACLU,” said Allen of the ACLU New Mexico. “The system that APD has in place for responding to and reviewing use of force incidents seems to be completely dysfunctional.”
While it is just one component of the Independent Monitor’s latest review, it’s a big one. The monitor points to an October 2015 incident where an APD officer is said to have knocked out a suspected car thief with a knee to the head. The case is still under internal investigation, according to the monitor’s report.
In his report, the Independent Monitor says there’s a problem “not only with the officer’s use of force,” but with the work conducted by supervisors. When the department’s higher-ups investigated, they took too long, according to Dr. Ginger: two months. The report also states that APD supervisors “failed to document some of the most relevant issues concerning force.”
The monitor’s words are very clear: there’s concern of a deep rooted problem with Albuquerque Police’s oversight in its use of force cases. However, the city believes that tone could change soon.
“I think that you’re going to see improvement,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden.
In the department’s defense, Chief Eden says the monitor’s latest report only covers data through the end of March 2016, which was before all officers got new use of force training, and before supervisors were re-trained in procedures they should use in “use of force investigations.”
“I think we now have a better trained group of supervisors that understand what their roles and responsibilities are on use of force investigations,” said Chief Eden.
While there are clearly issues that the Independent Monitor says APD needs to address, the report also states, “there are many indications of APD’s and the City’s strong commitment to this effort.”
Ultimately, time will tell. The Independent Monitor’s next report is due in September 2016. That report will cover data from April 1, 2016 through the end of July.