In November, 2014, the City and the Department of Justice entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating the implementation of 271 reforms by the Albuquerque Police Department. The DOJ determined that although most force used by APD officers was reasonable, a significant amount of deadly and less lethal force was excessive, unconstitutional and constituted an ongoing risk to the public. Under the CASA, APD is required to prepare a “ Use of Force Report” each year as part of the CASA.
The link to the CASA is here:
2020 USE OF FORCE REPORT
On July 30, it was reported the city and APD posted a “Preliminary Use Of Force Report”. According to the report, in March 2021, APD compiled the 2020 force data for the Independent Monitor for the monitor’s annual outcomes assessment report. The city link to the preliminary report is here:
APD is required to produce a use of force report each year as part of its settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. An extensive DOJ investigation concluded in 2014 that APD officers had a pattern and practice of using excessive use of force. For the past several years, APD has released the annual reports sporadically. The last Use of Force report was released in October 2020 but APD had failed to file others in timely manner and the October 2020 report covered the years 2016 through 2019.
USE OF FORCE LEVELS DEFINED
Before highlighting the major finding of the “Preliminary Use Of Force Report”, the terms use of force, show of force and the levels of force need to be defined as used in the report.
“Use of Force” is defined as simply “ physical effort to compel compliance by an unwilling individual above unresisted handcuffing.”
A “Show of Force” is defined as “Pointing a firearm, beanbag shotgun, 40 millimeter impact launcher, OC spray, or ECW at an individual, or using an ECW to “paint” an individual with the laser sight or utilizing a warning arc”
As of January 11, 2020, APD transitioned to a new classification of force cases, replacing the old classification of Show of Force (SOF) and Use of Force (UOF) with three levels. The new levels are:
LEVEL 1 USE OF FORCE: Use of force that is likely to cause only transitory pain, disorientation, or discomfort during its application as a means of gaining compliance. This includes techniques which are not reasonably expected to cause injury, do not result in actual injury, and are not likely to result in a complaint of injury. Pointing a firearm, beanbag shotgun, or 40-millimeter launcher at a subject, or using an Electronic Control Weapon (ECW) to “paint” a subject with the laser sight, as a show of force are reportable as Level 1 force. Level 1 force does not include interaction meant to guide, assist, or control a subject who is offering minimal resistance.
LEVEL 2 USE OF FORCE: Use of force that causes injury, could reasonably be expected to cause injury, or results in a complaint of injury. Level 2 force includes use of an Electronic Control Weapon (ECW), including where an ECW is fired at a subject but misses; use of a beanbag shotgun or 40-millimeter launcher, including where it is fired at a subject but misses; OC Spray application; empty hand techniques (i.e., strikes, kicks, takedowns, distraction techniques, or leg sweeps); and strikes with weapons, except strikes to the head, neck, or throat, which would be considered a Level 3 use of force.
LEVEL 3 USE OF FORCE: Use of force that results in, or could reasonably result in, serious physical injury, hospitalization, or death. Level 3 force includes all lethal force; critical firearms discharges; all head, neck, and throat strikes with an object; neck holds; canine bites; three or more uses of an ECW on an individual during a single interaction regardless of mode or duration or an Electronic Control Weapon (ECW) application for longer than 15 seconds, whether continuous or consecutive; four or more strikes with a baton ;any strike, blow, kick, ECW application, or similar use of force against a handcuffed subject; and uses of force resulting in a loss of consciousness.
As of the date the data were pulled, a number of Use of Force cases were still being actively investigated by APD’s compliance bureau and Internal Affairs. According to the report, use of force cases are investigated, the data points will be updated and the 2020 report is not to be considered final report.
According to the preliminary use of force report, 334 force investigations were still pending, 586 cases had been closed and f f those 586, only 15 were found to be out of policy. According to the “Preliminary Use Of Force Report” released the number of Use of Force Cases for all 3 levels for 2020 were:
Level 1: 288
Level 2: 468
Level 3: 141
Show of Force Cases: 5
Use of Force: 18
OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING (OIS) CASES
APD recorded 18 officer-involved shootings (OIS) in 2020. Not all OIS cases involve discharging a firearm in the direction of an individual and include discharging a firearm at an animal. Further an OIS does not involve accidental discharges of a weapon.
Two of the shootings were at animals, one was at a person in a vehicle and the remaining nine were at people. There were 6 accidental discharges which surpassed the previous years and was the focus on an in-depth analysis shared with APD executive staff, the Academy and the Force Review Board during the first quarter of 2021. The data suggested the majority of accidental OISs were a training issue related to manipulating the weapon during the unloading sequence.
2020 RAW DATA
Calls for service: 36,550
Custodial arrests: 12,384
Officer involved shootings: 18 officer-involved shootings
Tactical activations (SWAT Deployments): 92
APD deployed police service dogs: 979
Total Force Events: 920
Individuals Involved in Force Events: 951
ELECTRONIC CONTROL WEAPON (ECW) APPLICATIONS
There are 3 kinds of “shows of force” that can be achieved with Electronic Control Weapon (ECW):
1. Pointing an ECW at an individual,
2. Painting an individual with the laser sights,
3. Arcing (sparking or activating an ECW without discharging the probes, sometimes done as a warning to an individual)
Shows of force involving the ECW were more than half of ECW applications. The Foothills and Northwest area commands appear to be most likely to display the ECW in a show of force rather than use it.
While uses of the ECW and painting are consistent with previous years, arcing has increased from one to three applications per year to 14 in 2020. This is likely driven by the transition to a new model of ECW which makes arcing easier.
APD began transitioning to the new ECW in late 2019. APD will continue to monitor the number of shows of force involving the ECW and look for corresponding changes in uses of force involving the ECW, especially as it could be anticipated arcing could continue to increase.
The 2016-2019 Annual Use of Force report recorded a slight 3% undercount of ECWs issued to APD employees. After updated data were obtained, it was discovered 1,006 ECWs were in use at the end of 2019, 34 more than previously reported.
During the course of 2020, 289 ECWs were replaced (APD began to phase in to a new model as of late 2019), 152 were returned, and 171 were newly issued. There were a total of 1,025 ECWs in circulation at the close of 2020. As with previous years, the majority of newly issued ECWs were assigned to new hires or rehires for a total of 135, and employees who were transferred or promoted for a total of 28.
POLICE SERVICE DOG (PSD) DEPLOYMENTS
A Police Service Dog (PSD) deployment is defined as any situation, except a muzzled article search, where a canine is brought to the scene and is used in an attempt to locate or apprehend a suspect, whether or not the suspect is located or apprehended.
APD deployed police service dogs (PSDs) 979 times in 2020 . The number is up slightly from 2019 but consistent with previous years. Not all PSD deployments involved an apprehension or a PSD bite. Police Service Dog Bite Ratios Bite ratios for the PSD unit are calculated on a rolling six-month basis. The average bite ratio stayed under the 20% threshold that would trigger a review and interventions.
According to the preliminary report, APD had some fluctuation in custodial arrests since 2016 and declining 17% in 2020 as compared to 2019. New Mexico’s relatively strict response to the Covid-2019 pandemic such as curfews and closures may account for this drop. It is highly likely that arrests were impacted by the public health orders that limited mass gatherings, restricted travel and closed businesses.
INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN USE OF FORCE EVENTS
APD used force in 920 cases against 951 people in 2020. This is an increase over 2019 when there were 768 cases and they have been rising each year since 2016. There were 5 shows of force and 18 uses of force in the 11 days before APD switched to its three-tiered system.
Demographic data for individuals are collected by APD officers reporting, interviews with the individuals, and case documentation (police reports, etc.). Similar to previous years, 81% of these individuals were unarmed while the remaining 19% were armed with a weapon. The oldest person who had force used against them was 88 with no details on the incident given.
UNARMED VERSUS ARMED INCIDENTS
In 2020 of the 951 people were involved with APD use of force incidents with 81% (721) were UNARMED while 19% ( 161) were armed with a weapon, and 69 reported as “UNKOWN”
Demographic data, including race, ethnicity, age and gender, for 2020 were consistent with percentages reported in the 2016-19 force report. The preliminary report is somewhat confusing when in reports that of the total of 951 Use of Force Incidents, 75% were White, then has a breakdown of Hispanic versus non-Hispanic. Editor’s note: Ostensibly, the report classifies Hispanic as White.
White: 75% (716 use of force incidents of which 55% were Hispanic)
Native American: 99
Mixed Race: 24
Pacific Islander: 1
The breakdown of Hispanic versus Non-Hispanic is as follows:
Over 90% of individuals were reported to be proficient in English.
From May 29 through July 19, 2020, there were four days of protests when force was used. The uses of force include pepper spray, 40 mm less lethal weapons, batons and more.
Some events included force being used against as many as 60 people, although the report states that the crowd size is an estimate and many people took off and detectives didn’t interview them. Some of the protests had multiple uses of force deployed over the course of the night.
AGE AND GENDER
Individuals involved in a force event are most likely to be in their twenties or thirties and 80% are males. The “Individuals’ Age Descriptive Statistics” are reported as follows:
Mean Age: 32
Median Age: 31
Standard Deviation: 11
Maximum Age: 88
APD Officers fired their guns 18 times last year, but a third of those incidents were accidental discharges. The report states that the increase in accidental shootings was the focus of an in-depth analysis and the data suggests that the majority were “a training issue related to manipulating the weapon during the unloading sequence.”
CALLS FOR SERVICE AND ARRESTS
Overall, calls for service declined in all six area commands since 2016. Albuquerque, like many cities in the country, saw a decline in calls for service that coincided with the covid-19 pandemic. In Albuquerque, as schools went virtual, the call center noted a decline in state Children, Youth and Family Department referrals.
Property crime appeared to decrease, perhaps as a result of more residents staying home. However, calls for service in Albuquerque appear to have been declining before the covid-19 pandemic.
Wait times, as measured by the time between a call being entered and the time an officer arrives on scene, climbed every year reaching a peak in 2019, before declining in 2020. Increasingly long wait times may have deterred residents from calling in relatively low-level issues.
As in prior years, the Southeast Area Command saw the most incidents of use of force cases with 3.2 cases per every 1,000 calls for service. The next highest was the Southwest Area Command, which saw 3 cases per 1,000.
The number of arrests decreased 17% in 2020, likely due to the public health orders to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
Overall calls for service have been declining over all six area commands since 2016. The report notes that many cities across the country saw a decline in calls for service during the pandemic, however in Albuquerque calls had been dropping for some time. One explanation for the decline in calls for service is that the amount of time people are waiting for an officer to arrive has been increasing – reaching a peak in 2019 before declining again in 2020 – and residents may be deciding not to call for “relatively low-level issues.”
OFFICERS AND INDIVIDUALS INJURED, HOSPITALIZED
The Southeast area command reported the most individuals injured during a force event. However, normed against the number of force cases and against the number of calls for service, the Southeast area command did not appear to have significantly higher rates of individuals injured. Compared to data from 2016-19, the percent of cases with at least one injured individual decreased from a range of 56-63% to 50%.
Hospitalizations were down significantly for individuals involved in force events. According to the report, this is largely due to data reported in previous years capturing all injuries and hospitalizations, regardless of cause. Hospitalizations for injuries which were self-inflicted, hospitalizations for a mental health crisis, or hospitalizations for reasons otherwise completely unrelated to the force were reported. Software changes in 2020 allowed APD to distinguish injuries and hospitalizations directly related to the force event, explaining the decrease.
FOUR YEAR USE OF FORCE REPORT
On Friday October 23, 2020 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released its “Use of Force” report covering a four-year time period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019. The October 23, 2020 Use of Force report has upwards of 56 bar graphs and charts and 8 maps in the 73-page report. Below are the combined totals in the top 8“consolidated” categories for the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. The calculations for the 7 categories are based on the raw numbers gleaned from the various bar graphs in the report. The link to the full report is here:
A NUTSHELL OF MAJOR APD STATISTICS FOR THE YEARS 2016, 2917, 2918, 2019
On Friday October 23, 2020, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released the “Use of Force” report covering a four-year time period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019.
Civilian deaths in 4 years involving APD shootings: 19
Number APD custodial arrests: 58,251
APD “use of force” incidents (Empty hand, TAZER, gun discharge): 2,395
APD “show of force” incidents (Handgun, rifle, TAZER): 1,087
APD firearm discharges: 65
Number of times APD officers displayed a hand gun: 524
Number of times APD officers displayed a rifle: 212
Times APD used “electronic control weapon” (TAZER): 365
Estimated total “calls for service” generating “case numbers” 312,000 to 375,000
(Combined number of cases generated by all 6 area commands)
NUMBER OF ARRESTS
Arrest is defined as “the taking of one person into custody by another. To constitute arrest there must be an actual restraint of the person. The restraint may be imposed by force or may result from the submission of the person arrested to the custody of the one arresting the person. An arrest is a restraint of greater scope or duration than an investigatory stop or detention. An arrest is lawful when supported by probable cause.”
The number of arrests for the four years of 2016-2019 are as follows:
2016: 14,022 total arrests made
2017: 13,582 total arrests made
2018: 15,471 total arrests made
2019: 15,151 total arrests made
TOTAL NUMBER OF ARREST MADE BY APD: 58,226
FORCE INCIDENTS IN CONTEXT OF NUMBER OF CALLS OUTS
“Given how much interaction APD officers have with the public in a given year, as measured by the volume of calls for service, officer-initiated actions and arrests, force events are an extremely rare occurrence. From the years of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, roughly 1 per 500 hundred to 1,000 calls for service and officer-initiated actions are associated with a use of force. Between 4% and 5% percent of arrests are associated with force.”
Following is the breakdown of statistics for each year:
Dispatched Calls: 422,471
Officer Initiated Actions (OIAs): 45,672
Custodial Arrests: 14,022
Force Incidents: 524
Dispatched calls: 429,598
Officer Initiated Actions (OIAs): 55,856
Custodial Arrests: 13,582
Force Incidents: 570
Officer Initiated Actions (OIAs): 70,151
Custodial Arrests: 15,471
Force Incidents: 643
Dispatched calls: 370,036
Officer Initiated Actions (OIAs): 70,903
Custodial Arrests: 15,151
Force Incidents: 768
TOTAL APD FORCE INCIDENTS: 2,505
2020 RAW DATA FROM “PRELIMINARY USE OF FORCE REPORT”
Calls for service: 36,550
Custodial arrests: 12,384
Officer involved shootings: 18 officer-involved shootings
Tactical activations (SWAT Deployments): 92
Total Force Incidents: 920
Individuals Involved in Force Events: 951
CREATION OF ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT (ACS)
It was on Monday, June 15, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller announced plans to create a new Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS). It was proposed in part as a response to police shootings happening throughout the country, especially after the killing of African American George Floyd. Keller proclaimed it was the “first of its kind” department in the country. Keller solicited national news coverage on the concept, including the in the Washington Post. It turns out the only “first of its kind” aspect was the creation of a city department. Using social workers to take calls for service instead of cops has been going on for years in other major cities.
The is a department that was created by Mayor Tim Keller that he offered as a solution to reduce APD’s calls for service involving mental health calls and to transfer such calls to another civilian department with mental health experts to deal with those in crisis. It is a department that is supposed to be equipped to respond to 911 calls related to addiction problems and behavioral health issues.
A key component of the new department is to have trained and licensed mental health care professionals. The ACS department as presented in the original proposed budget did not address behavioral health care and long-term counseling nor solutions. On April 27, Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment 3 top managers for the newly created “Community Safety Department” (ACS). The department once fully implemented will give 9-1-1 dispatch an option when a community safety response is more appropriate than a paramedic, firefighter or armed police officer. The goal of the ACS is to bolster and expand investments in violence intervention, diversion programs and treatment initiatives.
The new “Community Safety Department” (ACS) department as originally proposed by Keller was to have 192 employees with a projected budget of $10.9 million a year. The 192 positions originally proposed for the new department was significantly pared down by the Keller Administration and the City Council. It went from 192 positions to 13 positions and the 2021 budget went from a $10.9 million projected budget to a $7.5 Million budget which was again cut to $2.5 Million. The 2022 enacted city budget provides for a Community Safety budget of $7.7 million with 61 total employees across a range of specialties in social work and counseling to provide behavioral health services.
Links to related blog articles are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
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 departments 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, there have been 32 police officer involved shootings and the city has paid out $61 million dollars in settlements to families’ 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 two SWAT officers were eventually charged with murder but after a trial on the merits, the jury could not reach a verdict and District Attorney Raul Torres decided not to retry the case. The City settled with the Boyd family for $5 million.
When you read and review both the 2017- 2018 consolidated “Use of Force Report”, as well as the 2020 Preliminary Use of Force Report, a major omission in the reports is that there are no statistics regarding APD’s crisis intervention incidents and interactions with the mentally ill, especially by the SWAT unit. This omission is can only be described as negligence given the creation, staffing and funding of the new Community Safety Department which is to interact with the mentally ill replacing APD.
Further, without considerably more licensed health care professionals, the new department is relegated to be a “pickup, delivery or referral” of people in crisis to take them either to jail or to a hospital. In order to be successful, the Mayor’s new department needs to deal with the city’s long-term behavioral health system needs and programs that are desperately needed now and in the future. The Use of Force Reports are absolutely critical for city hall and the community to evaluate whether the mandated reforms under the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) are being implemented and working, especially when it comes to APD’s interactions with the mentally ill. Those statistics are clearly needed when it comes to the new Community Safety Department and the use of force reports without the statistics is useless to the new department to determine staffing needs and priorities.
Both Use of Force reports fail 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.
When the next Use of Force Report is released, APD’s Compliance Bureau in conjunction with the Force Division of APD Internal Affairs need to provide more analysis and not just the regurgitation of statistics with charts that that are difficult for the public to understand. The next report should also contain a report regarding APD’s interactions with the mentally ill, the number of times the SWAT unit was deployed to deal with “crisis intervention” and well as the training of APD officers in crisis intervention.
The link to the 4-year report on Use of Force is here: