“It’s those changes in latitudes,
Changes in attitudes nothing remains the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”
By Jimmy Buffet
Attending the March 15, 2018 status conference on the Federal Monitor’s most recent report on the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and the reform process, the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet’s hit kept running through my mind especially the line “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”.
The hearing lasted for five (5) hours, and all the running and all of the cunning of the prior administration made it clear why very little progress was made with the DOJ reform process.
The March 15, 2018 status conference was in very sharp contrast to the one held last November, 2017 where Federal Judge Brack eviscerated and admonished the former Administration and the former City Attorney for secretly recording the Federal Monitor in order to show biasness and have him removed as the monitor.
Attorney Steven Robert Allen, the policy director for the ACLU of New Mexico addressed the sharp contrast between the “Old APD” and the “New APD” when he said:
“It seems like night and day, after three years of them playing games with us. … It finally seems like the adults are in the room.”
All the parties and members of the public spoke of hope and optimism.
The March 15, 2018 hearing DOJ hearing was the first ever attended by any Mayor with Tim Keller appearing along with new Senior Public Safety Officer James B. Lewis, new interim Chief Michael Geier and new City Attorney Esteban Aguilar, Jr.
What was revealed for the first time is that Mayor Tim Keller reached out back in December and had meeting with the parties and the federal judge.
Federal Judge Robert Brack said he was so impressed with the new administration’s commitment to the reform process that he decided to keep the case after he goes on Senior Status in November and not give it to another federal judge.
What Keller told Brack is that he campaigned on the reform issue, that he owned it and that he will be judged by the progress APD makes or doesn’t make during his term in office.
Three major changes to the DOJ consent decree were discussed during the March 15, 2018 hearing:
1. A compliance bureau has now been established within APD, something Federal Monitor James Ginger has recommended from day one and that was totally opposed to and resisted by the prior administration.
APD has now completed a compliance plan, and created a compliance bureau for the reform process.
Compliance plans and bureaus have been absolutely critical to all the successful police reform efforts in other police departments dealing with consent decrees, which there are nine cities in the country under consent decrees.
The old APD command staff failed to develop the most basic of compliance plans on implementing the DOJ settlement agreement and for that reason, the new command staff needs an intense amount of technical assistance and personnel to help implementation.
2. The new “use of force” policy to streamline the investigative process was elaborated on.
Previously for any use of force instance, no matter the level of force used, a complete and full investigation that included separating arresting officers for interviews and identifying and interviewing of witnesses was required, all of which was labor intensive and time consuming.
There are three levels of use of force instances defined:
Level 1 use-of- force instances are defined as force that does not result in an injury and “that is likely to cause only transitory pain, disorientation, or discomfort.”
In other words, a level one “use of force” does not involve the infliction of bodily harm or injuries that may be sustained.
A Level 2 use-of-force instance could include striking or kicking a criminal suspect.
A Level 3 use-of-force would include using an electronic control weapon (TAZER) against a handcuffed criminal suspect or during a police shooting.
Under the agreed to changes, APD Sergeants will do a review, and not a complete investigation, of “Level 1” use of force instances.
One of the major arguments made to justify the changes was that sergeants were required to spend hours being part of an investigation of any and all types use-of-force case.
The changes should free up patrol officers to respond to calls for service.
Under the new policy, a supervisor, usually a sargeant, will review the officer’s lapel camera on scene, which police can do using their cellphones.
Within 72 hours of the incident, the supervisor is required to review police reports, documents, on-body camera footage and any other evidence involved with the use of force incident and then write an evaluation on whether policies were followed.
The final report is then required to be sent further up the chain of command.
Final evaluation reports will be filed with a separate bureau that is tasked with ensuring Albuquerque police are following the requirements of the settlement agreement and constitutional policing practices.
3. The Federal Monitor will suspend preparing six month reports until November of this year and he will provide “technical assistance” to APD as opposed to performing audits and gathering data.
Instead of preparing another 500 page audit report, Federal Monitor James Ginger will focus over the next six months to help APD build the procedural infrastructure to be able to comply with the reforms.
Federal Monitor Ginger won’t be issuing a seventh progress report in May but instead issue tow “mini-reports”, one in May and on in August.
“For two years we gave them technical assistance, but it wasn’t accepted or used,” Ginger told Brack.
For more on the three levels of use of force see following blog article: