April 10, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, submitted a scathing 46-page investigation report on an 18 month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
The investigative report found a pattern or practice of use of deadly force or excessive use of force in 4 major areas:
1. The DOJ reviewed all fatal shootings by officers between 2009 and 2012 and found that officers were not justified under federal law in using deadly force in the majority of those incidents. Albuquerque police officers too often used deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. Officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed. Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.
2. Albuquerque police officers often used less lethal force in an unconstitutional manner, often used unreasonable physical force without regard for the subject’s safety or the level of threat encountered. The investigation found APD Officers frequently used takedown procedures in ways that unnecessarily increased the harm to the person. Finally, officers escalated situations in which force could have been avoided had they instead used de-escalation measures.
3. A significant amount of the force reviewed was used against persons with mental illness and in crisis. The investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respects their rights and is safe for all involved.
4. The investigation found the use of excessive force by APD officers was not isolated or sporadic. The pattern or practice of excessive force stemmed from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. Chief among these deficiencies was the department’s failure to implement an objective and rigorous internal accountability system. Force incidents were not properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures.
You can read the entire DOJ report here:
The DOJ investigation included a comprehensive review of APD’s operations and the City’s oversight systems of APD.
The DOJ investigation “determined that structural and systemic deficiencies—including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies— contribute to the use of unreasonable force.”
DOJ CONSENT DECREE REQUIRED USE OF FORCE REPORTS
In November, 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the City of Albuquerque entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating reforms.
Under the consent decree and settlement, a yearly “Use of Force” Report is mandatory.
APD has not published a Use of Force Annual Report since 2015 with the primary reason being that the previous administration failed to implement adequate data gathering processes and procedures for accurate reporting.
After more than two years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has released a “Use of Force Report” combining a single report for the years 2016 and 2018.
You can read the entire Use of Force Report here:
According to the report, the current police administration encountered major problems analyzing data collected by the previous administration, calling the previous methods “poor at best” in the report release.
The DOJ court-appointed monitor in his audit reports to the federal court over the last 3 years has taken sharp issue with the APD’s data collection and analysis methods with APD ignoring recommendations.
Consequently, the report examines the use of force by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) over the two-year period of between January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017.
The CASA was designed to strengthen APD’s s ability to provide:
1. officer safety and accountability;
2. constitutional, effective policing;
3. high quality police services.
The report presents aggregated statistics regarding use of force by type of force, call types, individual demographics, area commands and other measures.
The Use of Force Report was prepared by APD’s Compliance Bureau in conjunction with the Force Division of APD Internal Affairs.
The following definitions were provided in the Use of Force Report to help understand the data reported:
“A ‘Use Of Force Case’ involves an incident with one or more individuals, one or more police officers, and one or more uses of force.
A “Show Of Force Case” involves one or more individuals, one or more police officers, and one or more displays of weapons, but no actual use of force during that incident.
A “Use Of Force Type Or Show Of Force Type” is the specific application of a force type or types in a Use of Force or Show Of Force incident. For example, one police officer may display or use several kinds of force (e.g., display handgun, or empty hand techniques and ECW) with one individual during one encounter. Thus the number of Use Of Force Types Or Show Of Force Types will be higher than the number of individuals involved in Use Of Force or Show Of Force Cases.
Police officers may display weapons, a show of force, as part of an incident which includes an actual use of force. Those cases are categorized as a Use Of Force Case.” (Use of Force Report, page 6.)
The “Use of Force” report for the 2016 and 2017 contains not data regarding APD’s crisis intervention efforts regarding the mentally ill.
GENERAL FINDINGS IN USE OF FORCE REPORT
General findings contained in the report can be summarized as follows:
1. Use of force was low for both years of 2016 and 2017.
2. APD officers were dispatched to approximately 450,000 calls to provide service in 2016 and that number increased to 480,330 in 2017.
3. Individuals involved in uses of force represented less than one tenth of one percent (0.09%) of those dispatched calls which was an increase from 2015. The 2015 report found that .04% of dispatched calls resulted in an officer using force.
4. The 2015 report found .04% of dispatched calls resulted in an officer using force. City officials believe the increase in use of force 2015 over 2016 and 2017 is likely due to more accurate reporting.
5. Fewer than 2% of all APD arrests involved use of force.
6. In 2016, 48.5% , of people involved in use of force cases were unarmed but about 30% were classified as “unknown.”
7. In 2017, 74.8% of people involved in use of force cases were unarmed.
8. In 2016 and 2017, there were three times as many use-of-force incidents as there were “show of force incidents”, defined as an officer pointing a firearm or other impact weapon at a person. ( NOTE: The 2015 Use of Force Report, compiled by the previous administration does not track “shows of force” incidents which explains the increase according to the report.
9. From 2016 to 2017, show of force incidents rose 35% while at the same time use of force incidents remained constant.
10. Firearm discharges made up to 2% of all use of force cases over the two years, but still rose slightly from 2016 to 2017.
11. Empty-hand techniques such as strikes, grabs, kicks, take downs and distraction techniques made up the majority of use of force cases at 70% in 2016 and 60% in 2017.
12. Fewer people were injured in use-of-force cases. In 2016, 68% of the injured needed to be hospitalized while in 2017, 94% needed to be hospitalized.
13. APD Officers were injured in 23% of use of force cases but had to be hospitalized in less than 3% of those cases.
14. Use of electronic control weapons (TAZERS) increased while other types of use of force decreased.
The 2017 and 208 consolidated report merits review of major reported categories in order to get complete understanding of the general statistics.
Following is a breakdown of a few of the categories:
GENDER AND AGE
Individuals involved in use of force incidents are predominately male.
The percentage of female involved in use of force incidents increased from 15.5% in 2016 to 17.3% in 2017.
Individuals between the ages of 20 and 49 years of age comprise the majority of individuals in use of force incidents.
Individuals between 20 and 49 years of age increased from 2016 to 2017.
RACE AND ETHNICITY OF INDIVIDUALS WHO WERE INVOLVED IN USE OF FORCE INCIDENTS
The proportion of individuals of Hispanic decent accounted for approximately 48% of all individuals involved in use of force incidents across both years.
The number of individuals who were not proficient in English rose to 6.4% in 2017 from 3.6% in 2016.
The percentage of individuals classified as White involved in use of force incidents declined over the two years.
The percentages of individuals classified as Black and the individuals classified as Native Americans involved in use of force incidents rose from 2016 to 2017.
The report found Native Americans were involved in 15% of use-of-force cases, while they make up less than 5% of the city’s population.
The original 2014 DOJ investigation that found a “culture of aggression” within APD also found that APD would rely too heavily on the SWAT Unit.
SWAT deployments increased from 40 in 2016 to 77 in 2017.
The majority of these deployments were for similar types of calls across both years: Wanted Persons & Warrants, Family Disputes, Suspicious Person, and Auto Theft.
There are no statistics regarding the number of times the SWAT Unit was deployed to deal with the mentally ill and crisis intervention.
COMPUTER AIDED DISPATCH (CAD)
Calls for service, known as (CADS) where officers were dispatched to provide services, accounted for 88% of the CADs resulting in a use of force.
CADs which were categorized as officer-initiated actions accounted for 11% for the use of force incidents.
ELECTRONIC CONTROL WEAPON USE
A steady increase in the use of electronic control weapons (ECW or TAZER) either stand mode, drive stun mode, painting and arcing from 2016 to 2017, while there was a drop in other types of force the same period of time.
The increase could be accounted for by the major revisions in the Use of Force, Use of Force reporting and Electronic Control Weapon policies that occurred in 2016 and 2017, which primarily increased the requirements for reporting a use of force and show of force.
K-9 (POLICE DOG) DEPLOYMENTS
The data reported is that the number of K-9 (police dog) deployments, K9 apprehensions and K9 related injuries increased from 2016 to 2017.
88.6% of use of force incidents resulted in the arrest of the individual in 2016.
91% of the use of force incidents resulted in the arrest of the individual in 2017.
INJURIES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS
The number and percent of Use of Force cases in which an individual was injured decreased from 62.3% in 2016 to 52.9% in 2017.
The number and percent of Use of Force Cases in which an officer was injured remained consistent at 23% for both years.
The number and percent of Use of Force cases in which an individual was hospitalized increased from 42.4% in 2016 to 50% in 2017.
The number and percent of Use of Force Cases in which an officer was hospitalized decreased slightly from 2.7% in 2016 to 2% in 20
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The Use of Force Reports are absolutely critical for the community to evaluate whether the mandated reforms under the CASA are being implemented and working, especially when it comes to APD’s interactions with the mentally ill.
When you read and review the entire 2017- 2018 consolidated “Use of Force Report”, a major omission in the report is that there are no statistics regarding APD’s crisis intervention incidents and interactions with the mentally ill, especially by the SWAT unit.
The April 10, 2014 United States Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that found a “culture of aggression” within APD dedicated a significant amount of the force review against persons with mental illness and in crisis and APD’s specific responses to suspects that were having mental illness episodes.
What differentiates the DOJ’s investigation of APD from the other federal investigations and consent decrees of police department is that the other consent decrees involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and use of excessive force or deadly force against minorities.
The 2014 DOJ investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respects their rights and is safe for all involved.
Least anyone forget, during the last 10 years, there have been 32 police officer involved shootings and the city has paid out $61 million dollars in settlements to family’s who have sued APD for wrongful death.
A significant number of those lawsuits involved the mentally ill.
The most memorable shooting was the killing of homeless camper and mentally ill James Boyd in the Sandia foothills in April, 2014 where both SWAT and the K-9 units were dispatched.
The Boyd case was settled for $5 million paid to his family for his wrongful death and two SWAT officers were charged and tried for murder ending in a deadlock jury and no acquittal and the charges later dropped against both police officers.
A major concern is that the current report fails to elaborate or explain much other than hard statistics compiled in the various categories mandated by the settlement.
The report fails to include data on how many use of force instances were out of compliance with policy, how many officers were disciplined for use of force and if any policy or training changes were made.
The consolidated two-year report does report a dramatic increase in the percentages of use of force cases that involved unarmed victims without offering any possible explanation for the increases.
Perhaps when the 2018 Report is released at the end of the year, APD’s Compliance Bureau in conjunction with the Force Division of APD Internal Affairs can provide more analysis and not just the regurgitation of statistics with charts that that are difficult for the public to understand.
The 2018 report should also contain a report regarding APD’s interactions with the mentally ill, the number of times the SWAT unit was deployed over the last three years to deal with “crisis intervention” and well as the training of APD officers in crisis intervention.