On April 10, 2014, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), issued its report of the 18-month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The DOJ reviewed excessive use of force and deadly force cases and found that APD engaged in a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional “use of force” and “deadly force” and found a “culture of aggression” within APD. On November 27, 2014, the City and the Department of Justice entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating 276 reforms. APD is one of 18 municipalities in the United States under a Federal Court consent decree for excessive use of force and deadly force. The link to the CASA is here:
Within months after being sworn in on January 1, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller affirmed his commitment to implement all the DOJ mandated reforms agreed to under the CASA. Mayor Keller began implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program over a four-year period over increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers. The massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 2017 campaign promise to complete all the CASA reforms, increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates.
“DEFUND THE POLICE” MOVEMENT
On Monday, May 26, African American George Floyd, 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. He was unarmed and was killed when a police officer used a police suppression move to subdue him by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and he used his full body weight to suppress George Floyd. The killing started a movement.
Across the country peaceful protest over the killings by police of unarmed African Americans, started in city’s large and small. Many of the protests burst into violence with looting and vandalism. Mayors and Governors took action to deal with the protesters. As days past, the movement against systemic racism by police went global as millions took to the streets during a pandemic to protest. The protests have continued daily but by and large have turned peaceful.
A Black Lives Movement is now sweeping cities across the country and is referred to as “defund the police”. The movement has emerged in the wake of the killing of African American George Floyd, 46, who was killed by Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck to subdue him. “Defund the Police” can be defined in simple terms as meaning taking funding away from police forces and invest or reallocate those funds into social programs to address the real causes of crime.
ABQ CITY COUNCIL GETS INTO THE ACT OF REFORMING APD AFTER OVER 5 YEARS OF MANDATED REFORM EFFORTS
On Friday, June 13, Albuquerque City Council President Pat Davis announced that he and the city council have come up with their own plan to overall the Albuquerque Police Department by not “defunding the police.” Davis does not think the council’s reform plan will mean fewer police officers for the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Davis said police officers should not be responding to many calls involving a mental health crisis, homelessness and other behavioral health-related issues.
The City Council proposal would change multiple levels of the department, from reorganizing the police budget and officers’ jobs on the street to emphasizing behavioral health assistance and studies to determine the best route for community engagement. Davis said he believes the city can rededicate $1 million of APD’s $207 million budget to community organizations and social services. Davis is also suggesting a 24/7 dispatch line for calls regarding the homeless that would be answered by those in a public health role and not by the APD reducing APD’s volume of 911 emergency calls.
Davis also announced that the council will meet with the community in July to gain input into possible changes to APD’s budget, police operations and other avenues where funds could be placed to better the community.
THE ONLINE SURVEY
On June 13 and June 17, KRQE reported that Pat Davis published a survey online, asking people to weigh in on how they’d like to restructure APD’s budget. Links to the full KRQE reports are here:
The link to the full survey is here:
The survey was conducted and made available by email and online from Friday, June 13 through Monday, June 15, 2020. According to the survey city wage page, 10,053 completed the survey by June 15. Respondents included residents from every zip code in the city. The ethnic breakdown of the 10,053 who took the survey is as follows:
43% of the respondents were white (City white population is 39%)
29% of the respondents were Hispanic (39% of population is Hispanic)
3.2% of the respondents were Black (3.2% of population is Black
1.9% of the respondents were Asian (City population is 2% Asian)
1.8% of the respondents were Native American (City population is 4%)
20% declined to answer what their ethnicity
In the survey, respondents were asked which police reforms they support. The responses were as follows:
85% supported requiring every officer to wear and use cameras
81% supported bias-prevention training for every officer
71% supported a civilian oversight board to investigate police wrongdoing complaints
71% supported prohibiting holds and tactics likely to cause severe injury, including chokeholds and taser strikes to sensitive areas
61% supported creating community-based justice workers to help those with a criminal record access expungement, removing them from the criminal justice system and giving them a fresh start
59% supported requiring officers to do 8 hours of volunteer service with community groups
56% supported prohibiting the city from receiving military equipment for civilian law enforcement use
When asked if the city should prioritize hiring more police officers or increasing funding for community programs, a vast majority of those who took the survey supported investing in community groups. 51% of respondents said APD should not respond to non-emergency calls like minor accidents and lost property, taking those reports by phone or online instead.
The following suggestions were made from those who responded to the survey:
1. Demilitarize policing by ending our participation in federal programs giving military surplus to police for local law enforcement use. (EDITORS NOTE :For at least the past 5 years, APD has not applied for any military surplus, but that did not stop Davis from introducing a resolution to do so when the Mayor could have easily issued an executive order.)
2. Civilianize non-emergency police department positions to bring in new ideas and talent for specialized jobs where an immediate intervention or arrest isn’t required.
3. Require every police officer to serve in a non-profit capacity such as volunteering in an after-school program, a community kitchen, or a homeless shelter at least 8 hours per quarter.
4. Restructure the way the City allocates grants to community organizations to prioritize those empowering Black/African American, Native, Hispanic and Asian communities where historical underinvestment perpetuates poverty and disenfranchisement.
5. Create permanent, recurring funding sources for reinvestments in housing and job creation focused on disenfranchised communities.
6. Create community justice workers to help those with a criminal record access expungement, removing them from the criminal justice system and giving them a fresh start.
7. Hold public hearings on APD’s budget to take public input on priorities.
The survey and results can be viewed here:
Councilor Davis said the data from the survey will be used when discussing APD’s budget in July and the city’s budget in August that has yet to be submitted by the Keller Administration. The survey is open for participation until the end of the month.
A number of the respondents made suggestions for APD that it is already doing under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Davis put it this way:
“[The respondents said what is needed are] more psychological testing, more bias-prevention training, and it turns out we have implemented all those in the last five years and the public doesn’t really have a good sense of what we’ve done. … That means we probably have a bigger and better job to do in terms of talking about where we come from and what else we can do next.”
SETTLEMENT REFORMS ALREADY IN PLACE
DOJ’s finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD dealt with APD’s interactions and responses to suspects that were mentally ill and were having psychotic episodes. The investigation found APD’s policies, training and supervision were insufficient to ensure officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved. The settlement agreement (CASA) mandates sweeping changes and reforms to APD.
On November 14, 2020, it will be a full 6 years that will have expired since the city entered into the CASA with the DOJ. Specific reforms implemented to address APD’s training and interactions with the mentally ill and others include:
1. After a full year of negotiations, new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented and all APD sworn have received training on the policies.
2. All sworn police officers have received crisis management intervention training to deal with the mentally ill and others.
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 choke-holds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re-writing and implementation of new use of force and deadly force policies have been completed.
6. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods, and mandatory crisis intervention techniques an de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have been implemented at the APD police academy with all sworn police having received 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. Civilian Police Oversight Agency has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director hired.
11. The Community Policing Counsels (CPCs) have been created in all area commands and the CPCs meet monthly.
12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Nothing gets by the very observant Pat Davis that allows him to articulate earth-shattering remarks such as “we probably have a bigger and better job to do in terms of talking about where we come from and what else we can do next.” The truth is, the survey may be informative for budget discussions, but that’s about it because of the mandated DOJ reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
For the last 6 years, APD has been struggling to implement all 276 reforms mandated by the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The city has spent virtually millions to implement the reforms, change and write use of force and deadly force policies, provide training to all personnel, recruit and hire more sworn police, implement community base policing and training in mental health crisis intervention. The Federal Court Appointed Media has written and filed 11 Federal Monitor’s report. The Court Approved Settlement Agreement was to be fully implemented within 4 years and it has been almost 6 years and the case has not been dismissed.
After almost a full six years of the CASA, the city council ostensibly does not understand the authority of the United States Federal Court over the City or APD. The City and APD are still under the thumb of the Federal Court Judge and the watchful eye of the Federal Court Appointed Monitor. Little next to nothing can be done by the city with APD when it relates to policies mandated and resources and funding of the reforms required so long as the federal settlement remains in place.
The City Council and for that matter, the Mayor is seriously hamstrung as to being able to divert funding from APD to other social priorities. Even if the City Council and the Mayor wanted to defund the APD to the point of abolishing it, they probably could not without approval of the Federal court. The Federal Court has overwhelming if not absolute authority over APD and there is little that can be done to defund APD. Any plan to defund APD or change training of police officers will no doubt have to be approved by the Federal Court Judge after conferring with the federal monitor.
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