AG Sessions’ memo raises questions about APD-DOJ settlement agreement

Jeff Sessions
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2016, file photo, Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sessions, is set to be questioned by his peers at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 10. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Could the Trump Administration put an end to the short Albuquerque Police-Department of Justice reform era? That’s the question after new Attorney General Jeff Sessions made comments on the settlement agreements between the DOJ and troubled police departments across the nation, like the Albuquerque Police Department.

In a memo released Monday, Sessions has ordered DOJ officials to look into all Obama-era consent decrees with police departments to make sure they follow the new Trump Administration’s goals, which include promoting officer safety and morale while also protecting and respecting the public.

The order by Sessions puts into question whether the settlement agreements, like the one mandated on APD in October 2014, will continue or be abandoned.

For more than two years, APD has rigorously implemented the DOJ changes, particularly to its use of force policy — which was the driving factor behind the feds’ scathing report on the department.

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby says the union is dedicated to following the reforms, but would love to use to this opportunity to sit down with the DOJ.

“There’s unrealistic expectations from a law enforcement, boots on the ground perspective that I don’t think was taken into account when they negotiated this agreement,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby said the agreement came with both good and bad.

However, Police Chief Gorden Eden, in a statement, tells KRQE News 13 regardless of what happens on the federal level, APD will continue with the implemented reforms.

The full statement from Chief Eden reads:

I have maintained that regardless of what/if any changes may occur on the national level, APD is committed to our reform efforts and the successful implementation our Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement is an agreement with the people we proudly serve. Our team will continue with the reforms and the substantial progress we have made.  We believe that the changes have improved our training, our responses, our accountability and  our unwavering collaboration with our community to fulfill the terms of our agreement.

While acknowledging APD’s progress over the last two years, the executive director of the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union still expressed concern over what could happen if APD’s agreement with the DOJ is abandoned or weakened.

“If we don’t have a Department of Justice that’s assertively, aggressively prosecuting our interests in this case, we might not get what we need out of the reform,” Peter Simonson said.

APD is one of 14 police agencies under consent decree from the Obama administration. Other cities, like Baltimore and Chicago, have pending agreements.

The legality behind abandoning the agreements is unclear. They were approved by federal judges.

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