Appoint Special Master To Take Over APD To Implement Reforms

Many thanks to the Albuquerque Journal for publishing my guest editorial commentary.

(See May 25, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-7, “APD is going in the wrong direction on reform; Latest federal report shows an out-of-control department that desperately needs new leadership.)

The Department of Justice and the US Attorney should seek contempt of court and sanctions against the APD command staff for deliberate noncompliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement and seek appointment of a special master to take over APD.

The entire APD chain of command must be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.

Following is the full text of the letter:

Federal Monitor James Ginger issued his fifth report on the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) progress on implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms.

The report is very critical of APD’s high ranking supervisors and command-level officers, accusing them of “deliberate non-compliance”.

Ginger reports his team noticed a “palpable shift” in the police department’s approach to reform and found supervisors and command-level officers made “too many lapses when reviewing use-of-force cases”.

The Monitor complains the lack of scrutiny given by the department’s highest ranking officer’s in use of force cases is “mystifying” and “startling”.

How many times does the Federal Monitor have to tell the Federal Court that APD is not complying with the federal court settlement order, has mislead the Court, before a “Motion for Contempt of Court” is filed seeking contempt of court sanctions and requesting a Special Master be appointed?

In his second report, the Monitor accused the City Attorney of “delay, do little and deflect” tactics saying his relationship with her was “a little rougher than most” compared with attorneys in cities where he has overseen police reform.

In the July 1, 2016 third progress report, the monitor found “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.”

In the November 1, 2016 fourth progress report, the monitor found 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 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,” actually denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.

During the May 10, 2017 report presentation by the monitor, many in the courtroom were shocked when the US Attorney went out of his way to complement APD for making “tremendous progress”.

The DOJ should seek “contempt of court” and sanctions against the APD command staff for “deliberate non-compliance” and seek appointment of a Special Master to take over APD.

The entire APD chain of command must be removed and replaced with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.

A national search must be conducted to identify and hire a new Chief of Police, hire new Deputy Chiefs and a new chain of command to assume control of APD.

The City Council can mandate civilian management over APD with a civilian Police Commissioner to assume responsibility for implementation of the DOJ reforms.

APD has repeatedly shown it cannot police itself and APD Internal Affairs should be abolished.

APD Internal Affairs functions to investigate police misconduct cases and use of force cases can be done without using sworn police.

The investigation of police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm can be done by “civilian” personnel investigators.

The function and responsibility for investigating APD misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures can be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit.

Until there is a change in the entire APD command staff, we can expect to continue to be “mystified” and “startled” by the lack of progress and “deliberate non-compliance” of the DOJ consent decree mandated reforms and the disappearance of the DOJ reforms into the black hole known as APD.

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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.