“Running the Clock Out” On DOJ Reforms and the Consent Decree

APD Still Stalling on Reform

Two years ago, soon after Federal Court Monitor James Ginger was appointed, I met with him in the United States Attorney’s Office and tried to convince him that APD Chief Gordon Eden and his command staff were not committed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to and mandated reforms.

During our meeting, I told the Federal Monitor that Chief Eden and his command staff were “running the clock out” on the DOJ reforms until the end of Mayor Berry’s term.

I recommended to the Federal Monitor that it was time for the appointment of a civilian police commissioner to take charge of the reform effort or that the Federal Court should appoint a “special master” to take over APD to implement the mandated and agreed to DOJ reforms.

Federal Monitor James Ginger told me that the APD command staff were being “friendly and cooperative” and he was optimistic that APD would implement the reforms.

Two years ago, I recall vividly telling Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Ken Sanchez and Diane Gibson that APD was “running the clock out” on the DOJ reforms until the end of Mayor Berry’s term, but they did not believe me.

I told City Counselors that time was of the essence and the Albuquerque City Council needed to take immediate action to remove the APD command staff, appoint a civilian Police Commissioner to implement the DOJ consent decree reforms and remove Internal Affairs from APD and civilianize APD oversight.

The city councilors I talked to told me there was nothing the Albuquerque City Council could do and that we needed to wait until a new Mayor was elected.

Albuquerque has now had at least two years of delay by the Albuquerque City Council and we can expect more delays.

On November 12, 2016, the Albuquerque Journal published an article reporting that city Community Policing Councils were frustrated with Chief Eden not attending their meetings, the Police Oversight Board complaining that Chief Eden ignored its findings and discipline recommendations, and the city attorney, instead of Chief Eden, was often the person who publicly explained the reform efforts.

APD Forward, an APD oversight group, also said Eden had not been present for many settlement-agreement meetings.
(See November 12, 2106 Albuquerque Journal article “Police reform groups say APD Chief not involved” at https://www.abqjournal.com/887736/groups-where-is-eden.html)

An APD statement issued to the Albuquerque Journal for the November 12, 2016 article described Chief Eden as having a “very good sense, very good understanding and a hand in” the reforms.

The truth has always been that Chief Eden and his command staff have never been committed to implementing the DOJ reforms as evidenced by their actions and I said so in my November 12, 2016 blog article entitled “Eden Knows Exactly What He Is Doing And Should Be Fired For It”.

The Berry Administration, Chief Eden and his command staff are lying when they say they are committed to the DOJ mandated reforms and proof of the lie is contained in the second, third and the fourth progress reports submitted by Federal Monitor James Ginger to the Federal Court.

In his second report to the federal court, Federal Monitor James Ginger accused the City Attorney of what he called, “delay, do little and deflect” tactics saying his relationship with her was “a little rougher than most” compared with top attorneys in other cities and where he has overseen police reform.

The July 1, 2016 federal monitor’s third report states “Across the board … the components in APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force, for the most part, has failed … the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. … The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews. …”

The November 1, 2016 fourth federal monitor’s report states that when “excessive use of force” incidents are investigated by the APD Critical Incident Team, it“ [deploys] carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions” and “[uses] language and terminology apparently designed to absolve officers and supervisors of their responsibility to follow certain CASA (Court Approved Settlement Agreement) related provisions.

During a city council briefing by Federal Monitor James Ginger on one of his reports, City Councilor Dan Lewis asked the Federal Monitor who is ultimately responsible for APD.

When the Monitor said the City Council was responsible for police oversight, the City Council Committee Lewis was chairing all had a good “uncomfortable” laugh and Lewis rephrased his question apparently not liking the truth he got from Dr. Ginger and wanting Ginger to say the Mayor.

Under City’s Police Oversight Board (POB) ordinance, Chief Eden is required to explain in writing why he disagrees with discipline the POB has recommended for police officers.

In fifty-four (54) cases in which Eden has disagreed with the POB, he has offered no explanation as to why he has any disagreement with the POB.

The Albuquerque Free Press now reports City Councilors are joining with Albuquerque’s civilian police oversight agencies and charging that APD Police Chief Gorden Eden is deliberately thwarting all attempts at civilian oversight.

The Albuquerque Free Press quotes City Councilor Isaac Benton saying “Their relationship sounds like he [Eden] is just stonewalling them. … The problem is the attitude of leadership at APD, and under this administration the attitude has not been helpful.” Really Councilor Benton and exactly how has your attitude and leadership been in reforming APD been helpful in any way?

The Albuquerque Free Press reports Councilor Pat Davis saying “APD is playing cute with the process” and that the department “is not following the spirit” of the city’s oversight law or the reform process. Really Councilor Davis, and who is being cute now after you were told what was going on before you got elected two years ago?

Councilor Ken Sanchez said he’s “concerned” about “why they [APD] are not responsive.” Really Councilor Sanchez, and why are you concerned now after seven years of APD spiraling out of control while you watched?

Councilor Brad Winter, who helped write the POB oversight ordinance, said, “the whole City Council is concerned.” Really Councilor Winter and why any concern now?

And City Councilor Dan Lewis, who is now running for mayor, and who prides himself saying he voted to bring in the Department of Justice to investigate APD, does not even return ABQ Free Press phone calls for comment yet Lewis claims he will replace Eden even though Lewis has never complained publicly about Eden’s job performance nor demanded Eden’s resignation.

For the last seven (7) years, the Albuquerque City Council has been an absolute failure in exercising their oversight authority over APD.

Chief Eden and the entire chain of command of APD need to be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership committed to the reform process before any real progress will be made with the DOJ agreed to and mandated reforms.

What is just important is that we need an entire City Council and a Mayor that are as equally committed and determined to implement the DOJ mandated reforms and not just give it lip service.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.