Not So Fast Gordo

Channel 7 reported that the number of officer-involved shootings within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is the lowest it has been in years.

APD data shows there were only five incidents in 2016 where officers opened fire at suspects during incidents.

This is a sharp decline from previous years, where in 2010 the number was 13.

The high number in 2010 was the main reason the Department of Justice (DOJ) did its investigation and found a “culture of aggression” within APD.

In May, 2014, the City of Albuquerque entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the DOJ which mandated the implantation of major reforms, including more training to deal with the mentally ill, and the appointment of a Federal Monitor.

Chief Gorden Eden says that nearly two years into the process, the new rules under the consent decree appear to be working because police shootings are down.

Not so fast Gordo.

Chief Eden is essentially arguing there is substantial compliance with the settlement agreement because shootings and excessive use of force cases are down.

Shootings may be down, but that does not mean compliance with the court order nor the mandated reforms.

The DOJ has not said the “culture of aggression” within APD has been eliminated.

What has been said by the Federal Monitor is that the APD command staff has engaged in deliberate “non-compliance” with the DOJ mandated reforms.

The May 5, 2017 Federal Monitors report says that APD is going in the wrong direction when it comes to the reforms and an out-of-control department that desperately needs new leadership.

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.

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”.

On May 11, 2017, I attended a 3-hour private meeting in the United States Attorney office with approximately 15 other private citizens to meet with Assistant United State Attorney Luis Saucedo with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division in Washington to discuss APDs progress on the settlement and the May 10 hearing.

No press was invited to May 10th meeting.

The overwhelming majority of those in attendance at the May 11 meeting objected to the US Attorney praising APD’s progress given the Monitor’s past and recent report that APD has deliberately undermined the reform process and engaged in questionable tactics, resistance to the reforms and noncompliance.

One attendee said their jaw dropped at Mr. Salcedo’s courtroom comments while another felt that his presentation was a setback and that the reform progress had been seriously undermined by Mr. Saucedo and that Saucedo did a disservice to many who have demanded action by the DOJ.

Another made the observation they felt Saucedo was making arguments for the City and APD and not the Department of Justice in what is supposed to be an adversarial proceeding.

Many felt the DOJ was no longer committed to the reform process and that it was time for the appointment of a Special Master to take over APD.

During the May 11 meeting, I went over past monitors reports and requested the US Attorney file a Motion for Contempt of Court and seek sanctions against the City and APD command staff for intentional violation of the settlement agreement.

I also suggested that given the recent monitors report of noncompliance by APD, the Department of Justice should seek the appointment of a Special Master to take over APD with both requests declined.

Mr. Saucedo asserted the DOJ was committed to the reform process and would work with any new APD Chief if one is appointed after the October 2 election of a new Mayor.

The number one worry that many people have is that the current command staff, including the current chief, will tell the monitor and the federal judge that so much progress has been made that it would be ill-advised to replace them and that they need to stay and complete the work that they started.

Another worry is that the City will seek dismissal of the CASA before the October 2, 2017 municipal election arguing that there has been substantial compliance with the settlement and that shootings and excessive use of force cases are way down.

This is unacceptable given APD’s history of noncompliance and resistance to the reforms.

No doubt Mayor Berry would love to say before he leaves office “Mission Accomplished” and when he runs for Governor and when it comes to reforming the very police department he and his appointed Chief’s have destroyed.

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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.