Mayor Tim Keller and APD Interim Chief Michael Geier are reporting progress in all areas of compliance with the Department of Justice’s Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
APD acknowledged in the most recent a report filed with the Federal Court that a backlog of use of force investigations exists that are over 120 days old or had not been closed.
In response to the use of force backlog, APD defined and prioritized a review of the backlog and identified processes supervisors will have to follow when reviewing the investigations.
According to a court filing by city officials, the Albuquerque Police Department is developing a new streamlined use-of-force policy that was created with input from the community.
The “streamlined use of force policy” is nothing new in that it was already announced with great specify in mid-March:
Further, APD announced that Internal Affairs was divided into two sections: Internal Affairs – Force and Internal Affairs – Misconduct.
Interim APD Chief Michael Geier said of the changes:
“We take seriously the monitor’s recommendations to address use-of-force reviews so we can understand the magnitude of past problems. … We want objectivity and consistency in use-of-force investigations to ensure we are holding officers to the standards required under Constitutional policing.”
Mayor Tim Keller for his part said of the changes:
“Our administration is owning the responsibility of transforming law enforcement and creating a new APD. … We instituted the most extensive restructuring of APD in recent history, so that every taxpayer dollar we invest in the Department will result in an institutional commitment to community policing.”
The last announcement of an “extensive restructuring of APD” occurred a mere two and a half years ago on December 14, 2015 when then APD Chief Gordon Eden announced a reorganization of APD to get 80 more sworn police officers on the street and created the positions of Major.
The goal was again to renew APD’s commitment to community policing.
On December 15, 2015, APD had 836 sworn police and the goal was to grow APD to 1,000 for community policing and it never happened.
Under Mayor Tim Keller, APD currently has 898 sworn police officer positions filled and the APD budget commencing July 1, 2018 has funding for 1,040.
If performance history of APD’s academy is any indication, the city will be lucky to have 950 sworn police officers by this time next year.
DIVIDING A PROBLEM CREATES TWO PROBLEMS
The announcement that APD Internal Affairs has been divided into two sections, Internal Affairs – Force and Internal Affairs – Misconduct, should be viewed with great skepticism.
APD dividing Internal Affairs into two separate function will only create two sets of problems.
APD has consistently shown over many years it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by the Office Independent Council or Inspector General office in order to ensure and achieve true civilian oversight of APD.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators.
The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit where necessary.
“Deadly use of force” cases would continue to be investigated by the Critical Incident Review Team and the final reports with finding and recommendations submitted to the Police Chief for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
Self-proclaimed progress to the reform measures is something we have heard way too often during the last 3 years when it comes to the DOJ reforms only to find they were not true.
There were 5 times the Federal Monitor issued his status report that he took issue with APD management and reported resistance to change and the reforms by APD.
Just a few weeks ago, Interim Chief Geier and Mayor Tim Keller made proclamations that APD followed “all policy and procedures” and APD “did everything it could” in a child abuse case and the collection of the blood-stained garments of a 7-year-old child.
The APD Officer said he could not collect the child’s garment nor tag it into evidence and proceeded to trash the evidence.
The Mayor and the Chief were forced to reverse themselves when it was revealed that APD did not act on all the information it had access to from the Children Youth and Family Department.
As a result of media scrutiny, Mayor Keller also went so far as to apologize and ordered an Internal Affairs Investigation and announced major changes in policy when dealing with child abuse cases.
At the time of his apology to the Albuquerque Journal editors, Mayor Keller had this to say about APD:
“There are still lots and lots of issues at APD. The deep-seated bunker mentality culture goes right down to every unit and shows up in a different way. It’s just a realization that reforming APD in reality is going to be a unit-by-unit exercise and that is going to take years.”
During the March 15, 2018 day long status conference hearing on the consent decree, it was announced that the Federal Monitor would suspend preparing his six-month reports until November of this year.
The Federal Monitor also committed to provide “technical assistance” to APD as opposed to performing audits and gathering data.
Instead of preparing his usual 500-page boiler plate audit report, Federal Monitor James Ginger has been focusing on helping APD build the procedural infrastructure to be able to comply with the reforms.
Federal Monitor Ginger did not issue his seventh progress report in May, but instead is supposed to issue a “mini-report” in August of this year.
Both Mayor Keller and Chief Geier would be wise to let the Federal Monitor make the pronouncements in November if APD is in compliance before they try and take so much credit themselves and telling the public APD has made so much progress with the reforms and how committed APD is to the reforms.