“CIT-ECHO”, “EPIC”, “LEAD”, “DOJ”, “CASA” and “APD” reflect a full alphabet of law enforcement priorities that Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque City Council need to make sure are fully funded.
There are 3 major programs that have now been implemented to deal with the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) interactions with the mentally ill and substance abuse defendants.
All 3 programs involve the training of police officers.
All 3 programs have the potential to reduce or have reduced the use of excessive force and deadly force by APD.
Two of the programs have existed for the last 3 years, with one recently announced.
One of the programs is about to be discontinued because a federal grant program has now run its course.
The three APD programs are:
The EPIC program
The LEAD program
All three of the programs are either directly or indirectly the result of the Department of Justice Consent Decree known as the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
DOJ INVESTIGATION OF APD
It was 2012 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) came to Albuquerque to investigate the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) for excessive use of force and deadly force.
On April 10, 2014, after two years of a federal investigation, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a scathing 146-page investigation report.
The DOJ said APD’s policies, training and supervision of officer encounters with people with mental health issues were inadequate and all too often led to use of excessive force and deadly force.
You can read the entire DOJ report here:
APD is one of 18 law enforcement agencies in the United States operating under a consent decree brought on by a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.
The DOJ investigation found systemic problems and a “culture of aggression” within APD.
The single biggest difference the DOJ’s investigation of APD from other federal investigations and consent decrees is the other consent decrees involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and use of unnecessary excessive force to make arrests and deadly force against minorities.
In APD’s case, the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” within APD after reviewing as many as 18 “deadly use of force cases” and cases of “excessive use of force” mostly with the mentally ill and not with racial profiling.
JAMES BOYD KILLING WAS GAME CHANGER
It was the killing of mentally ill homeless camper James Boyd by APD that laid to bear and exposed just how poorly trained APD was when it came to dealing with the mentally ill and how costly it can be for taxpayers.
On March 16, 2014, homeless camper James Boyd was shot and killed by APD SWAT during a standoff with police.
James Boyd had an extensive a history of mental illness.
APD police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez were charged with the murder of James Boyed, but the jury deadlocked with three jurors voting guilty and nine voting not guilty.
One of the defenses offered by Sandy and Perez was they were doing their job as they were trained to defend other officers and the public.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez eventually dismissed the case against both officers choosing not to proceed with a second trial.
The Boyd family filed a civil wrongful death action against the city and the city settled with the Boyd family for $5 million.
CASA CONSENT DECREE
On October 31, 2014, the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department entered into a 106-page Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the US Department of Justice after the DOJ investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” within the APD.
Under the court approved settlement agreement (CASA), APD is mandated to implement numerous reforms including a significant increase in officer training in crisis intervention and training (CIT) on how to deal with the mentally ill.
Virtually ever sworn APD officer has now been given 40 hours of crisis intervention training mandated by the consent decree.
The CIT-ECHO project arguably is the continuation of that training.
THE CIT-ECHO PROJECT
CIT stands for Crisis Intervention Training and ECHO stands for Extension for Community Healthcare Options.
In 2014, the CIT-ECHO project was launched by the city with a grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance to raise awareness of how law enforcement should deal effectively with those struggling with mental health issues.
The CIT-ECHO Program consists of weekly video conference workshops with APD and CIT officials.
Similar ECHO projects have existed for health care professionals to help providers in rural parts of the state treat various health conditions.
APD is the very first law enforcement agency in New Mexico, perhaps the country, to roll out such a program for law enforcement officers.
In March 2014, according to a report by CIT-ECHO program, an alarming 43% of the Albuquerque Police Department’s officer-involved shootings occurred with people living with mental illness.
The 3-year-old DOJ federal grant for CIT-ECHO Program is now out of money and has issued a final report.
The final report reflects unmistakable results that the program works.
According to the report, the perception of when participants thought use of force was required for officer safety dropped by an impressive 20% to 3%.
Law enforcement and crisis intervention participants who participated felt more confident in dealing with people with a mental illness and better informed of the resources available to them as a result of participating with the program.
The 3-year-old DOJ federal grant for CIT-ECHO Program is coming to an end and the program will be shut down if new funding is not found by the city.
There is a minimal cost to keep CIT-ECHO going in that it mainly would be covering the coordinator’s position and ancillary expenses.
THE EPIC PROGRAM
The acronym “EPIC” stands for Ethical Policing Is Courageous.
The EPIC program originated in the city of New Orleans’ Police Department, which like APD, is under a federal consent decree for civil rights violations.
EPIC aims to stem police officer misconduct and use of force and deadly force by police officers.
The program uses “hands-on scenarios” and role-playing enactments and demonstrations to teach police officers on how to defuse calls for service that start escalating and that could easily result in the use of excessive force or deadly force.
EPIC focuses on proactively preventing uses of force, rather than just punishing officers when damage is already done, including the killing of a suspect.
The primary purpose of the EPIC program is to provide police officers with effective and proper training to learn just how and when to intervene when they themselves see other police officer misconduct.
The EPIC program is designed to show police officers how to recognize problematic behavior in fellow officers that may trigger a fellow officer to engage in misconduct.
The peer intervention training includes 6 hours in a classroom and 2 hours that is scenario based.
THE LEAD PROGRAM
On February 11, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department announced a diversion program where APD police officers will take low-level suspects to treatment instead of jail.
The diversion program is named “LEAD” and stands for “law enforcement assisted diversion” program.
The diversion program will first be used in the APD Southeast Area Command which has the highest number of calls for service to APD in the city.
The LEAD Program will allow APD officers to determine whether the person they’ve arrested needs to go to jail or would better benefit from a trip to a detox facility or a meeting with a case manager who can help them plug into services such as Medicaid, housing vouchers and substance abuse treatment.
APD officers are given full discretion to decide to arrest people on low level charges or to rely on the LEAD diversion program.
The main goal of the LEAD program is to send people to services before charges are ever filed which is unlike other court diversion efforts such as Drug Court.
The LEAD program will allow people to avoid an arrest and a criminal record.
Most of the State District Court’s specialty courts such as “drug court” are used to negotiate and are part of plea agreements and the defendant will often get a criminal record as a result of criminal charges.
CITY BUDGET AND TAX REVENUES
On May 21, 2018 the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved the 2018- 2019 operating budget of $577 million in general fund appropriations.
The budget was enacted after the city council voted on March 5, 2018 to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by 3/8 ths to deal with a then projected $40 million-dollar deficit.
The gross receipts tax of 3/8 ths of a cent went year went into effect July 1, 2018 and is estimated to raise upwards of $55 million each year.
Mayor Tim Keller signed the tax increase breaking his campaign promise that he would not raise taxes without a public vote.
The city council tax rate increase stipulated at least 60% of the revenue go to “public safety budget goal priorities.”
It has been reported that the $40 million deficit did not materialize and that the projected deficit now is $20 million.
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is in the process of spend $88 million dollars, over the next few years, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s new pay structure and increased longevity pay incentive bonuses are allowing APD to recruit experienced police officers from other New Mexico law enforcement agencies.
APD is projecting that it will have 980 officers by this summer by growing the ranks with both new cadets and lateral hires from other departments, including APD retirees.
APD DEADLY FORCE CASES STILL CONTINUE
On February 10, 2019, the Albuquerque City Council Finance and Government Operations Committee received a report giving a breakdown of the latest city settlements agreed to in civil lawsuits filed against the city.
A total of 26 settlements were reported in the quarter where the city paid more than $2,000,000 in settlements.
Eleven of the settlements involved the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
Notable APD-related settlements include Danan Gabaldon who was arrested while fleeing from APD police in 2015.
In 2015, Gabaldon was run over by an APD officer in a vehicle and Gabaldon sued for use of excessive force.
Gabaldon was awarded $75,000 by the city.
In 2010, Mickey Owings was shot and killed by APD and his family sued the city.
The APD shooting of Owings was severely criticized by the United States Department of Justice.
The city settled with Mickey Ownings family paying them $375,000.
In 2014, Jeremy Robertson was fleeing APD police when he was shot and killed by APD and his family sued the city.
The city agreed to pay the Robertson family $225,000.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The City of Albuquerque has paid over $62 million in settlements over the last 9 years involving 43 police officer involved shootings.
A number of those shootings involved highly experienced officers, such as Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez who shot and killed James Boyd.
The Keller administration is on course of finally hiring enough police officers.
Hiring police is great, but the training of those officers in constitutional policing practices as mandated by the DOJ is even more critical, especially when it comes to lateral hires who may be bringing with them old habits and attitudes of what is acceptable policing practices.
On April 1, 2019, the Keller Administration will be submitting its proposed 2019-2020 fiscal budget to the Albuquerque City Council for review, public hearings and final approval by the City Council.
All three APD programs consisting of the CIT-ECHO project, the EPIC program and the LEAD program have the potential and can reduce the use of excessive force and deadly force by APD.
The 3-year-old CIT-ECHO Program has already proven to be highly successful.
More than enough money would have been available to probably fund all three programs with just one of the recent city settlements.
The Keller Administration and APD would be very foolish not to find the money to cover CIT-ECHO PROJECT and fund the coordinator’s position and all the ancillary expenses to allow the program to continue now that the federal grant is ending.
All three programs show tremendous promise and results to having an effect on reducing police officer involved shootings that have cost lives and huge judgments.
The CIT-ECHO project, the EPIC program and the LEAD program should be a no brainer when it comes to finding funding for the programs.
But then again, after the disastrous ART Bus project, and Mayor Keller’s desire to save it, no one is accusing any of them of having any brains when it comes to priorities of what is truly needed.