“At some point, with all the discussions, someone has to raise their hand and call bullshit!” so said former APD Chief Joe Polisar in a November 21 interview with Channel 7.
Polisar was talking about the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandated reforms. The “bullshit” Chief Polisar was referring to was the number of sworn police officers investigating other sworn police officers under the consent decree.
You can see the entire Channel 7 interview here:
Polisar spent most of his career with APD and was appointed Chief of Police by Mayor Marty Chavez in the 1990’s. Polisar left Albuquerque to become Chief of Police City of Garden Grove, California, a post he held for 12 years, where he retired. Chief Polisar has more than 30 years in municipal law enforcement. Amongst his notable accomplishments, Chief Polisar achieved and maintained accreditation for both the Garden Grove and Albuquerque Police Departments and he has a reputation for innovative leadership and effective communication.
Five years ago, the DOJ found APD had a “culture of aggression” and excessive use of force and deadly force. A Federal Court appointed a monitor to conduct audits of APD compliance of the settlement terms and conditions. The federal monitor was awarded a $4.5 million dollar contract for 4 years that was then renewed for another $1.5 million. The monthly cost of the federal monitor and his team to conduct audits amounts to $130,000 a month.
Retired Police Chief Polisar said what he finds really troubling is that more than 60 sworn police officers are investigating other officers. The 60 sworn officers are part of the APD Compliance Bureau mandated by the settlement agreement. According to Polisar, those sworn officers should be on the streets fighting crime instead.
According to former Chief Polisar:
“The department has moved forward. We’ve done the bulk of the things that you’ve asked of us. Take your boot off our neck and let us get on with protecting the citizens of this town.”
APD SWORN POLICE ASSIGNED TO DOJ COMPLIANCE BUREAU
On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued a “Staffing Snapshot” that reported the extent of resources and personnel dedicated to implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with APD’s Compliance Bureau.
According to the staffing report, APD as of August 1, 2019 has a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers assigned to the field services patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. 61 officers are reported to be assigned to DOJ Compliance Bureau. The staffing report has a breakdown of sworn officers assigned to the various departments. You can view the APD staffing breakdown here:
The APD Compliance Bureaus consists of the Internal Affairs Professional Standards Division, Policy and Procedure Division, Accountability and Oversight Division, Internal Affairs Force Division and the Behavioral Health and Crisis Intervention Section. One of the major concentrations of the bureau is the ongoing cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree (CASA) and its implementation of its terms and conditions. Internal Affairs deals with the investigation police misconduct cases. Crisis Intervention deals with the crisis intervention teams who deal with the mentally ill. Policy and Procedures deals with the review and writing of standard operating procedures.
The staffing reported for the Compliance Bureau is 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants and 40 Detectives for a total of 61 which is 6.28% of the department sworn police officers. Confidential APD sources are reporting that the actual number of sworn police officers assigned to the compliance bureau is now at 70 sworn police.
COMPLETION OF DOJ MANDATED REFORMS
From all appearances, and from review of all the Federal Monitor’s reports, the City and APD have completed the following mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement:
1.After a full year of negotiations, the new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented. All APD sworn have received training on the policies.
2. All sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training.
3. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.
4. The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use of force incidents.
5. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning chokeholds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implementation in new use of force and deadly force policies have been completed.
6. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training.
7. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated.
8. APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.
9. The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.
10. Police Oversight Board has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director has hired been hired and his contract renewed.
11. The Community Policing Counsels have been created in all area command and the counsels meet monthly.
12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
13. The CASA identified that APD was severely understaffed. APD has gone from 850 sworn police to now 980 and intends to add an additional 300.
14. The federal monitors 10th report issued on November 1, reported APD met 100% of CASA-established primary compliance requirements during the reporting period. Secondary compliance rates (training) were reported at 81%, up from 79% and overall compliance rates are at 63%, the same as the 9th audit report.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Former APD Chief Joe Polisar is absolutely correct with his assessment of the number of sworn police to oversee the conduct of other sworn officers as being unnecessary and a waste of personnel resources. At a minimum, the 40 detectives assigned to the compliance bureau should be assigned to the field services to handle calls for service.
The CASA was negotiated to be fully implemented over a four-year period, and it now has been over 5 years. Under the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all 3 compliance areas, the case can be dismissed.
According to the Use of Force Report for the years 2017 and 2018, APD’s “use of force” and “deadly force” is down, which was the primary objective of the CASA reforms. APD has dedicated 61 sworn police, or 6.28% of the police force to CASA compliance, including 40 detectives.
Many of the duties and responsibilities of the Compliance Bureau do not have to be carried on by sworn police. The duties and responsibilities can be performed by civilian investigators assigned to the city’s general counsel and the city’s human resources department.
ABOLISH APD INTERNAL AFFAIRS
APD has consistently shown over decades 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 other civilian departments.
The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators, not sworn police. 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 the General Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department.
The Office of Independent Council could make findings and recommendations to the APD Chief and Police Oversight Board (POB) for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.
NEGOTIATE DISMISSAL OF CASA
The biggest complaint of all the DOJ consent decrees in the country is implementation and enforcement “go on and on” for years, costing millions in taxpayer dollars. With expected, continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been realized. A 95% to 100% compliance with all the CASA primary, secondary and operational compliance goals should be achievable. The role of the federal monitor should be reduced, as well as the continued costs of the monitoring team reduced.
The city should commence negotiations immediately with the DOJ for a stipulated “Order of Compliance and Dismissal” of the CASA, and all causes of action the DOJ has against the city and APD. Otherwise, the city and taxpayers will be sucked into “year after year” of expenses and costs associated with a consent decree whose primary objective has been achieved and whose federal monitor was given another $1.5 million dollar contract extension on top of the first $4.5 million contract.
With the continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, especially those reforms involving the mentally ill, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been achieved and for these reasons every effort should now be made to seek a dismissal of the federal lawsuit.
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