Albuquerque Police Department monitor says police at ‘critical crossroads’ in reform effort

Department still fails to get use-of-force review right, independent reviewer warns

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — The latest progress report by the independent monitor hired to oversee court-enforced policing changes in Albuquerque says the department still hasn’t taken to heart key parts of a reform agreement.

The department disagrees, pointing out that it’s met deadlines and brushing past the monitor’s assertion that the fourth progress report represents a “critical crossroads” in the path toward significant change at the beleaguered police agency.

But the monitor, James Ginger, questioned in his report whether APD had actually read his prior updates and criticized the department and APD Chief Gorden Eden for not having a system in place that could assess each report and react to it meaningfully.

“Without tight, executive-level command and control,” the report said, “it appears these steps will not be taken. If this is so, the final result will be monitor report after monitor report that identifies over and over the same issues preventing compliance. We see this as a critical issue.”

Read the monitor’s review >>

The monitoring team keyed in on use-of-force review at the department, noting 20 out of 20 cases checked by monitors had issues. In one instance, monitors found an officer had inappropriately used force three times in a three month period. The department only noted one of those encounters.

Supervisors were poorly trained by policies that have vague language, the report said, and higher-ups continue to make excuses for officers who use force.

The department wasn’t hearing it.

“I think we’re very good at adapting to what the monitor tells us to do. We take everything Dr. Ginger tells us very, very seriously,” Eden said.

The chief noted that the monitor had recently asked that police use a new process to keep him better informed of progress.

City councilor Pat Davis said it’s become clear that an ambitious reform timeline pushed by Mayor Richard J. Berry is unlikely to be met.

“I think what we’re seeing is the administration made it clear that they wanted to try to do this in four years — before the mayor was done — so that he could leave and say he had inherited a problem and solved it,” Davis said.

“And Department of Justice was skeptical, but let them try to set that timeline. What we’re seeing now is that timeline is not going to work and the next mayor’s administration is going to inherit this problem.”

Davis said Albuquerque police have made progress, but criticism of the department has been met with resistance. The pressure of an ambitious timeline, he said, may make police more resistant to reform that may take a decade as opposed to a few years.

“And I think that’s the real struggle you’re seeing… the push to check that box, hire these folks and get the DOJ out of town, versus the people who want to slow down, look at each officer, look at each case and learn from small mistakes so we don’t make big ones.”

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