The Albuquerque Free Press is reporting that Civilian Police Oversight Board (CPOB) Chair Joanne Fine is once again blasting the Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff for going on three years for refusing to accept civilian oversight and it is for good cause.
Fine asserts the current administration will ride out the next six months collecting paychecks and doing nothing to reform itself.
CPOB Chairperson Fine calls it thievery on the command staff’s part when she says:
“They are zero percent compliant with us. It’s apparent that between now and December, when a new mayor comes in [and, presumably there is a new police chief], they will do everything to put obstacles in our path to delay, deny and deceive,” Fine said. “They have six months to float and they know it. So we will pay them and they won’t do the work. I call that thievery.”
For the past 10 months, the CPOB has asked APD for information on officer-involved car crashes and APD has been stonewalling on giving the information.
In April alone there were 66 officer-involved crashes and that’s a lot of totaled cars and property damage not to mention the very tragic deaths.
The CPOB had asked the police department for a report on how other police departments are doing when it comes to such collisions and the report the CPOB got from APD was so weak that Fine described it as a “post-it note.”
Chief Gordon Eden and the APD Command Staff have an extensive history of resisting civilian oversight not only to the Civilian Police Oversight Board, but also resisting the Community Policing Council’s (CPCs) and the Federal Court Appointed Monitor.
To understand the seriousness of the problem, people need to understand what both the Civilian Police Oversight Board (CPOB) and the Community Policing Council’s (CPC’s) are, what they do and how they function.
CIVILIAN POLICE OVERSIGHT AGENCY (CPOA)
The Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) is a separate and independent agency of the City of Albuquerque from the Office of the Mayor and City Council.
The CPOA employs eight (8) full time employees with an annual budget of $860,000 a year.
The CPOA reports to the APD Citizens Police Oversight Board (CPOB), an appointed board which consists of private citizens who volunteer and who are appointed by the Mayor with approval of the City Council.
The CPOA receives and investigates complaints and compliments about the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and its employees from community members.
The CPOA also reviews APD practices and policies to makes policy recommendations to the Chief of Police, the Mayor and City Council.
City Ordinance mandates that the CPOA function independently from the City Administration and City Council to carry out the Agency’s mission to be free of any perceived or actual bias.
The CPOA goals are to foster and perpetuate policing policies and practices that effectively maintain social order and which at the same time foster mutual trust and cooperation between police and community members.
The mission statement of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) is to provide a means for receiving complaints and compliments about Albuquerque Police Department (APD) sworn personnel.
Under the ordinance that created the CPOA, it must conduct prompt, impartial, and fair investigation of all complaints from the community against APD.
The CPOA also provides for community participation in setting and reviewing APD policies, practices, and procedures.
COMMUNITY POLICING COUNCILS (CPCs)
Community Policing Councils (CPC) are mandated by the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
There are six (6) CPCs, one for each APD area command.
The CPCs consist of private citizens who are volunteers.
Before becoming members of a CPC, all volunteers must have and pass two (2) APD criminal background checks, do APD “ride alongs” and attend and graduate from the APD Citizens Police Academy, all of which take months to accomplish.
The function of the CPC is to meet monthly, interact with the APD area commanders and officers and to review APD policy and practices to make recommendations by enacting resolutions to be passed on to APD, the Chief and his staff.
The individual monthly meetings of CPCs are usually very well attended by citizens and the few I have attended have anywhere from 50 to upwards of 75 citizens in attendance.
APD COMMAND STAFF RESIST CIVILIAN POLICE OVERSIGHT
On June 12, 2017, I attended the Community Policing Council (CPC) Summit with all the council chairs.
The Federal Monitor, the US Attorney and the head of the CPOA also attended the meeting.
No one from the press attended the meeting.
Gus Pedrotty was the only candidate for Mayor that attended the meeting and no City Council candidates attended.
During the meeting, an extensive amount of the time was spent by the CPC chairs discussing the fact that they spend an inordinate amount of time giving input to APD and passing resolutions that are then totally ignored by Chief Eden and the APD command staff.
One committee chair wondered out loud if anyone read their reports or resolutions at all.
A point that needs to be remembered is that CPC’s are advisory and have no authority over APD, but citizens input is critical to implementation of the DOJ reforms so that APD and the City know the reforms are working.
Ed Harness the head of the City Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) gave a lengthy report giving specific cases on how Chief Eden refuses to respond to the agencies recommendations and ignores or refuses to implement disciplinary recommendations made by the CPOA.
Under the City’s Citizens Police Oversight Board (CPOB) ordinance, Chief Eden is required to explain in writing why he disagrees with discipline that has recommended for police officers.
Chief Gordon Eden has an extensive two (2) year history of ignoring both the CPOA and the CPCs.
In fifty-four (54) cases in which Eden has disagreed with the CPOA, he has offered no explanation as to why he has had any disagreement with the city agency.
On November 12, 2016, the Albuquerque Journal published an article reporting that city Community Policing Councils (CPCs) were frustrated with Chief Eden not attending their meetings after committing to do so with last minute excuses.
(See November 12, 2016 Albuquerque Journal article “Police reform groups say APD Chief not involved”)
The Police Oversight Board (CPOA) has repeatedly complained 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.
An APD statement issued to the press describes Eden as having a “very good sense, very good understanding and a hand in” the reforms.
The APD statement is true when viewed in the context that Eden and his command staff have never been committed to implementing the DOJ reforms, so why should they attend any meeting involving citizens police oversight?
Community groups are dismayed and frustrated over Eden’s failure to attend meetings, ignore findings and disciplinary recommendations, and failure to attend settlement hearings and they say Eden allows the City Attorney to explain APD’s reform efforts.
NO COMMITMENT TO DOJ REFORMS BY MAYOR NOR COMMAND STAFF
Proof that the Berry Administration, Chief Eden and his command staff are lying when they say they are committed to the DOJ mandated reforms is contained in the second, third, fourth and fifth 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.
The May 1, 2017 fifth report is the most damning and critical report to date when the monitor found that APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.
LIP SERVCE BY CITY COUNCIL TO DOJ REFORMS
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 Albuquerque City Council was ultimately responsible for police oversight, the City Council Committee Lewis was chairing all had a good “uncomfortable” laugh.
Lewis rephrased his question apparently not liking the truth he got from Dr. Ginger and wanting Ginger to say the Mayor was ultimately responsible for APD.
On March 3, 2017, Albuquerque Free Press reported that City Councilors joined with Albuquerque’s civilian police oversight agencies charging that APD Police Chief Gordon Eden and APD were deliberately thwarting all attempts at civilian oversight and stalling on the DOJ reforms.
(See March 30, 2017 Albuquerque Free Press article “APD Still Stalling On Reform”)
The Albuquerque Free Press quoted 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? Exactly how has your attitude and leadership been in reforming APD been helpful in any way?
The Albuquerque Free Press quoted 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? Who is being cute after you were told what was going on with APD before you even got elected and sworn in two years ago?
Councilor Ken Sanchez said he’s “concerned” about “why they [APD] are not responsive.”
Really Councilor Sanchez? Why are you so concerned now after seven years of APD spiraling out of control while you watched and did nothing?
Albuquerque 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, claims he will replace Eden.
Dan Lewis has never complained publicly about Eden’s job performance nor demanded Eden’s resignation.
For the last eight (8) years, the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council have 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, the CPOA and CPCs 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 new 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.
December 1, 2017 when a new Mayor and new City Councilors are sworn cannot come soon enough and hopefully we will get a new Chief that is committed to civilian oversight of APD.