US Attorney Jeff Sessions has announced plans in a memo made public that the Department of Justice will be reviewing all existing consent decrees involving police reforms, which includes Albuquerque and APD’s consent decree. (See April 5, 2007 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “AG planning review of police reform projects.”)
According to Attorney General Sessions, the Department of Justice will be reviewing collaborative investigations and prosecutions, law enforcement task forces and “other Justice Department” activities, which are issues addressed in some form or another in the APD’s consent decree.
According to the Session’s memo, the goal of the Justice Department is to make sure the agreements align with the Trump Administrations goals and principals which include improving officer safety and morale, ensuring public safety is an honorable career, fighting crime, and promoting civil rights.
I suspect Mayor Berry, Chief Gordon Eden and the APD command staff are privately jumping for joy over Session’s announcement and they see it as an opportunity to get out from under the consent decree and the agreed to mandated reforms.
Mayor Berry in characteristic style puts a positive and false spin on the news that the Department of Justice will be reviewing Albuquerque’s consent decree saying Albuquerque is committed to the reforms and “I think we have something to show for it but nobody on my administration is saying Mission Accomplished” which reminds me of President George W. Bush.
Of course Berry would say that because APD and the command staff do not want to accomplish the “mission” of police reform.
While the Department of Justice reviews APD consent decree, you wonder if they will also review the 2013 DOJ investigation and finding of a “culture of aggression” found within APD, the 41 police officer involved shootings and excessive use of force cases over the last seven years and the $61 million dollars paid out by the city for excessive use of force and deadly force cases and for civil rights violations by APD.
What the Berry Administration has to show is two years of delay tactics.
The Federal Monitor was extremely critical of the Berry Administration and the APD command staff in his last three reports to the federal court reporting delay tactics and lack of progress in implementing the DOJ consent decree mandated reforms.
The truth has always been that Chief Gordon Eden and his command staff are not committed to implementing the DOJ reforms as evidenced by their actions and performance under the consent decree.
Just five months ago on November 12, 2016, the Albuquerque Journal published an article reporting that city Community Policing Councils were frustrated with Chief Gordon 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.
(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).
APD Forward, an APD oversight group, also said Eden had not been present for many settlement-agreement meetings.
The Berry Administration, Chief Eden and his command staff lack of commitment to the DOJ mandated reforms is documented 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.
As of last July 31, 2016, APD was in compliance with only 25% of the settlement agreement’s 278 requirements which does not show much of a commitment to the reforms by APD.
With Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding the resignation of US Attorney Damon Martinez, Albuquerque lost a federal prosecutor who was committed to implementation of the APD consent decree and all the reforms.
The District of New Mexico will soon have a new United States Attorney to carry out the Trump Administration agenda and only time will tell if that person will be committed to carrying out the consent decree or seek its modification.
Notwithstanding all the changes at the Department of Justice, the fact that APD is under a court approved settlement agreement means that any changes or modifications to the agreement or a dismissal will have to be approved by the federal judge no doubt with input from the federal monitor.
Come December 1, 2017, the City of Albuquerque will have a new Mayor and likely a new Chief of Police.
Voters need to demand candidates for Mayor say what their position is on the DOJ consent decree, if they support the reform effort and to what extent they support the reform effort.
Voters also need to demand from candidates for Mayor if they are committed to hiring a Police Chief and a command staff who will cooperate with the Federal Monitor to ensure genuine implementation of the consent decree and all the mandated reforms.