Alan Wagman is a retired public defender attorney in Albuquerque. He served on the city’s Police Oversight Task Force in 2013-14 and continues to work on police reform and human rights. Mr. Wagman submitted the below guest column for publication on this blog:
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are those of attorney Alan Wagman and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Mr. Wagman was not compensated for the column).
“The window of opportunity for even the most modest of reforms to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is about to close. Almost everyone in Albuquerque wants some kind of change in APD. All people who want change in APD have something in common: All should be demanding that Mayor Keller not renew the city’s contract with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) until after the public has been engaged in a real, meaningful examination of what kind of police department we want and what kind we don’t want.
The APOA contract is due to expire on June 30. If you want nothing more than that APD make the changes the city agreed to and the federal court ordered five years ago, you will lose your opportunity to get what you want if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA. The city will continue to pay millions of dollars because its obligations under the federal lawsuit will remain unfulfilled.
If you want to see APD flat-out abolished, you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA. If you want something in-between, something that involves real change in who responds to medical emergencies (police or EMTs?), who responds to the mentally ill (police or counselors?), who deals with the homeless (police or social workers?), who deals with problems in schools (police or teachers, counselors, and experts in restorative justice?), who deals with drug abuse (police or public health authorities?), you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA. If you want yet something else, you will lose your opportunity if the mayor enters a new contract with APOA.
Entering contracts with APOA is the surest way to block improvement in APD. Six years ago, I served on the city’s Police Oversight Task Force charged with making recommendations for a new police oversight ordinance. We discovered that the city’s contract with APOA set a time limit beyond which discipline could not be imposed, and the civilian oversight statute required a process which pushed civilian oversight beyond the contract’s time limits. The result was no discipline. The Task Force raised the issue, and the Berry administration responded by renewing the APOA contract, preventing oversight and avoiding discipline.
With the Keller administration it has been more of the same. Under Mayor Keller’s APOA contract, the federal court monitor has been reporting for years that the road block to progress remains unchanged: supervisors stall the disciplinary process until it gets beyond the deadlines set in the APOA contract. Result? Cops aren’t disciplined; APD does not change; we taxpayers continue shelling out money to the federal court monitor. And we continue paying for and being victimized by police officers who break rules designed to protect us.
Without an APOA contract, the city can make whatever change the public desires. Without an APOA contract, the city can force APD compliance with the federal lawsuit and save millions of dollars. Without an APOA contract, the city can abolish the police. Without an APOA contract, the city can reallocate money to better and more humanely serve the people of this city. But only without an APOA contract.
There is little time left , until June 30 at the outside, to deliver our message to Mayor Keller:
“We need APD to change; hold public meetings; find out what we want and need. If you do not, if instead you enter into an APOA contract, you raise a legitimate question as to whom you serve: Do you serve us? Or do you serve APOA? Serve us; serve we, the people. Do not enter into a contract with APOA.”
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The APD Union was not a named party to the original civil rights complaint for excessive use of force and deadly force filed against the city by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2014. Soon after the DOJ initiated the federal lawsuit against APD and the City, the APOA police union intervened to become a party to the federal lawsuit in order to advocate for union interests in city policy and changes to the “use of force” and “deadly force policies.”
The Police Union, despite public comments of cooperation and comments made to the court, have never fully supported the agreed to reforms. The Police Union contributed significantly to the delay in writing the new use of force and deadly force policies.
The union leadership has always been at the negotiating table and for a full year were involved with the drafting of the “use of force” and “deadly use of force” policy. The union contributed to the one-year delay in writing the policies objecting to many provisions of the policies. The police union repeatedly objected to the language of the use of force policy asserting the policy was unreasonable. This was evidenced by the monitors claim that submitted use of force policy was missing key components and the monitor saw 50-plus changes needing to be made to satisfy union objections.
The union leadership has attended and has sat at counsel table during all court hearings and the Federal Monitor presentations on his reports. During all the Court proceeding where the federal monitor has made his presentation to the federal court, the APOA union has made its opposition and objections known to the federal court regarding the use of force and deadly force policies as being too restrictive with rank and file claiming rank and file cannot do their jobs even with training on the policies.
The police union and its leadership have said in open court that the mandated reforms under the consent decree are interfering with rank and file officer’s ability to perform their job duties. During the August 20, 2019, a day long status conference, the APOA union President Shaun Willoughby made it clear that the attitude towards the CASA has not changed in the least.
When the Federal Court asked APOA Union President Shawn Willoughby during a hearing what he and the union rank and file felt about the CASA, Willoughby’s responses were a quick condemnation of the CASA when he said “we hate it”, “we’re frustrated”, the reforms and mandates are “a hard pill to swallow”, that “all change is hard”. According to Willoughby, police officers are afraid to do their jobs for fear of being investigated, fired or disciplined. In the same breath, Willoughby went on to brag about how his union, unlike other police unions in city’s with consent decrees, actually worked and cooperated with the city and the DOJ.
UNION MEMBERS OF SARGEANTS AMD LUITENATS IMPEDE REOFRMS
In his 10th and 11th reports, the Federal Court appointed monitor made it clear that there are many within APD that are overtly resistant to reforms. The Monitor has found evidence of a “counter-CASA effect” among some at the supervisory, mid-management, and command levels at APD. Notwithstanding, both Mayor Keller and CAO Nair have refused to take aggressive action and remove those in the chain of command that are resistant to police reforms.
In his 10TH Monitors Report, Dr. Ginger finds:
“Sergeants and lieutenants, at times, go to extreme lengths to excuse officer behaviors that clearly violate established and trained APD policy, using excuses, deflective verbiage, de minimis comments and unsupported assertions to avoid calling out subordinates’ failures to adhere to established policies and expected practice. Supervisors, sergeants, and mid-level managers, lieutenants, routinely ignore serious violations, fail to note minor infractions, and instead, consider a given case “complete”.
“Some members of APD continue to resist actively APD’s reform efforts, including using deliberate counter-CASA processes. For example:
• Sergeants assessed during this reporting period were “0 for 5” in some routine aspects of CASA-required field inspections;
• Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) disciplinary timelines, appear at times to be manipulated by supervisory, management and command levels at the area commands, letting known violations lie dormant until timelines for discipline cannot be met”
In his 11th Monitors Report, Dr. Ginger found that despite all the progress made in training at the APD Academy, APD personnel:
“were still failing to adhere to the requirements of the CASA found in past monitoring reports, including some instances moving beyond the epicenter of supervision to mid- and upper management levels of the organization.” The monitor found that “some in APD’s command levels continue to exhibit behaviors that “build bulwarks” [or walls] preventing fair and objective discipline, including a process of attempting to delay and in some cases successfully delaying the oversight processes until the timelines for administering discipline had been exceeded. [The] delays prevented an effective remedial response to behavior that is clearly in violation of established policy.”
“ Since the beginning of the CASA compliance process … [there have been those] at APD who were overtly resistant to the CASA. [The Monitor] in the past [has] found evidence of a “counter-CASA effect” among some at the supervisory, mid-management, and command levels at APD. Those who knowingly or subconsciously count themselves in this group are beginning to face pressure to change their assessment of the value of the CASA. In some cases [they] have faced reasonably prompt and appropriate corrective efforts from the current executive levels of the APD for behavior that is not congruent with the CASA.” According to the report, “this as an essential “way forward” if APD is to move into full compliance. The remaining issue is that this pressure is neither uniform nor persistent.”
APD police sergeants and lieutenants are on the front line to enforce personnel rules and regulations, standard operating procedures, approve and review work performed and assist in implementing DOJ reforms and standard operating procedures policies. They are where the “rubber meets the road” when it comes to police reforms. The point that has been repeatedly made by the Federal Monitor is that “until the sergeants are in harness and pulling in the same direction as the chief, things won’t get done as quickly”. In other words, without the 100% support of the sergeants and lieutenants to the CASA mandated reforms, there will be little or no progress made with police reforms.
APD sergeants and lieutenants, even though they are part of management with supervisory authority over sworn police officers, are not “at will” employees and they are allowed to join the police union. Including sergeants and lieutenants in the union bargaining unit creates a clear conflict within management and sends mixed messages to rank and file sworn police officers.
Sergeants and lieutenants need to be made at will employees and removed from the police union bargaining unit in order to get a real buy in to management’s goals of police reform and the CASA. APD Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of Administration Management and Union priorities that are in conflict when it comes to the CASA reforms. Until sergeants and lieutenants are removed from the union and made at will employees, do not expect the CASA reforms to be in 100% compliance allowing the dismissal of the case.
The very lucrative two-year Police Union Contract expires on June 30. It is more likely than not that the Keller Administration has already negotiated a new contract with police and does not want to make it public. Keller will want to have yet another press conference surrounded by police union membership dressed in uniforms that he can use as he seeks a second term.
Mayor Tim Keller is now at a crossroad where he can show real leadership. As Alen Wagman point out:
“The window of opportunity for even the most modest of reforms to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is about to close. Almost everyone in Albuquerque wants some kind of change in APD. All people who want change in APD have something in common: All should be demanding that Mayor Keller not renew the city’s contract with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) until after the public has been engaged in a real, meaningful examination of what kind of police department we want and what kind we don’t want.”
RELATED BLOG ARTICLES HERE:
Federal Monitor Files 11th Compliance Audit Report Of APD Reforms; “Counter Casa Effect” Still Problematic; Order 100% Operational Compliance Within 6 Months Or Replace Chief Or Deputy Chiefs To Get Job Done