Under DOJ Pressure The Albuquerque Police Department Agrees To Reform Its Use Of Deadly Force

Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry and US Attorney of New Mexico Damon Martinez meet to discuss APD reforms Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)Albuquerque Journal – by Mike Gallagher

Issues to address
The agreement signed Thursday says the final agreement filed with the federal court and overseen by an independent monitor will address the following:

  • Use of force policies.
  • Interactions with individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.
  • Tactical units (like the SWAT and ROP units).
  • Training.
  • Internal investigations and civilian complaints.
  • Management and Supervision.
  • Recruitments and selection of officers.
  • Community engagement and oversight.

Federal and city officials say there is an “urgency” to their negotiations to correct problems within the Albuquerque Police Department to help ease community tensions over APD’s use of deadly force.

U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez and Mayor Richard Berry acknowledged as much Thursday in announcing that the Department of Justice and the city have formally agreed that an independent monitor will oversee implementation of any agreement reached on revamping APD.

The agreement, when it is reached, will be filed and approved by a federal judge who will be able to enforce provisions of the agreement if APD fails to meet the requirements laid out in the document.

“There certainly is an urgency here,” Berry said in reference to the negotiations. He added, “We are making great progress.”

Martinez said the “Statement of Principles” signed Thursday sets out a road map for the ongoing talks and serves as an update to the community on efforts to reform APD practices.

Berry and Martinez on Thursday signed the agreement, which states, “The parties recognize the urgency of this matter and seek to complete negotiations expeditiously.”

Department of Justice investigators reviewed 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque Police between 2009 and 2013 and found that in the majority of cases the level of force used was not justified because the person killed by police did not present a threat to police officers or the public.

In April, the Civil Rights Division issued a scathing findings letter that outlined a pattern and practice of excessive and sometimes fatal force by APD that wasn’t justified by the circumstances.

The DOJ also reviewed the use of nonlethal force involving significant harm or injury to people by APD officers and found a similar pattern.

The DOJ investigation did not include the six people killed by police officers since January, including the shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia foothills in March before the report was released.

Boyd’s death, captured on police video, fanned already simmering anger in some parts of the community into more widespread and passionate protests. The Justice Department has referred Boyd’s death to the Criminal Division for investigation and has gathered evidence from APD and other law enforcement agencies.

Four of the shootings, including one on Tuesday near a busy Albuquerque intersection, have occurred after DOJ released its findings.

The acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., Jocelyn Samuels, said in telephone interview Thursday that community concerns continue to rise because of more recent shootings that have raised some of the same issues as the cases the DOJ investigated.

Samuels said she was encouraged by the negotiations but that no timeline has been set.

The talks are secret legal negotiations between the DOJ and city administration. When completed, the City Council will receive a briefing on broad aspects of the deal but not the final agreement, Samuels said.

The public will get its first look at the agreement when it is filed with the U.S. District Court.

“The negotiations are not a public process,” Samuels said. “But we continue to seek community and (police) officer input.”

Samuels said the statement signed Thursday shows the city administration is committed to making systemic changes within APD to correct “very serious problems” within the department.

She said the final agreement filed with the court would lead to a better police department, “a department that is safer for officers and the community.”

“We have to make sure it works for the community and works for the police department,” she said.

U.S. Attorney Martinez said once the final agreement is filed, the monitor should be issuing periodic reports that will be public.

He also said he has held 17 meetings with APD officers and their families since the report was issued in April.

“Their voices will be reflected in the final agreement,” Martinez said. “This has to work for the officers as well as the community.”

Martinez said he will continue to meet with community leaders and officers as negotiations continue.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, called the agreement encouraging but warned the “devil will be in the details” of any court supervised final agreement.

“Until we see the final text, we will not know what level of rigor the agreement will rise to,” Simonson said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “This agreement marks an important step forward in addressing the unreasonable use of deadly force uncovered in our investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department.”

“The residents of Albuquerque depend on their police department to serve their community with honor and integrity,” Holder said. “In the overwhelming majority of cases, our dedicated law enforcement officials – who put their lives on the line every day – do just that.”


2 thoughts on “Under DOJ Pressure The Albuquerque Police Department Agrees To Reform Its Use Of Deadly Force

  1. “We are making great progress.”

    Making great progress? In negotiations to curb the cops’ crime wave? Why not try arresting criminals and putting them in jail? Isn’t that how things are supposed to work?

    The cops are committing more crimes than the wet-backs. They’re just well-practiced at pretending they’re “protecting” us. I don’t know which group needs to be eradicated first, but it looks like BOTH groups are only here to attack and terrorize Americans.

  2. our local paper runs stories about the homeless, the crime wave, and all the released prisoners and what to do about it. you said it, the police are the crime wave.
    another excessive force victim dies and they paint him as a mental patient from the word go. they kept him alive for about a week or more but I called it and said he’s already dead but since its so soon after the last guy that was killed and that mothers lawsuit was denied all in the same week, it was safe to report it now that was out of the way. the latest victims fiancée is suing but I doubt she stands a chance either when the mother of the other guy should have won.
    dead bodies turning up here and there or people dying of suicide, heart attacks, accidents all of a sudden who were at odds with certain people if you know what I mean.
    so much is being hidden from the public. and to top it off open immigration. americans can’t even get along with each other long enough or intelligent enough to pull there heads outta their ass. personally, I think its too late.

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