NM Sun Dinelli Guest Column: Dismiss Department of Justice Consent Decree

On May 31, 2023, the online news agency New Mexico Sun published the below 750-word Dinelli opinion guest column on dismissing the Department Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement against the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department:

HEADLINE: Nine years of reform; time to close the case on Albuquerque’s police department

On November 14, 2014, the City, APD and Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a stipulated Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The settlement was the result of an 18-month long investigation that found APD had engaged in an pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force”, and  found a “culture of aggression” existed within the APD.   The settlement mandates 271 police reforms, the appointment of a Federal Monitor and the filing of Independent Audit reports (IMRs) on the reforms.  Over 9 years, 17 audit reports have been filed. 

Under the terms of the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in 3 identified compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. APD was to have come into compliance within 4 years and the case was to be dismissed in 2018, but because of delay tactics from APD and the Police Union, the case has dragged on for 5 more years.

On May 10, 2023 the 17th audit report was filed and reported APD’s compliance levels were as follows:

Primary Compliance 100%

Secondary Compliance 100% 

Operational Compliance 92% 

Now after almost 9 full years of federal court oversight, the settlement has produced results. Reforms achieved under the settlement can be identified as follows:

  1.  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.
  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 also receiving 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. Civilian Police Oversight Agency has been created and  funded and is in the process of being fully staffed.
  11. The Community Policing Counsels (CPCs) have been created in all area commands.
  12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
  13.  The External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) was created and is training the Internal Affairs Force Division on how to investigate use-of-force cases, making sure they meet deadlines and follow standard operating procedures.
  14. Millions have been spent each year on new programs and training of  new cadets and police officers on constitutional policing practices.
  15. APD officers are routinely found using less force than they were before and well documented use of force investigations are now being produced in a timely manner.
  16. APD has assumed the self-monitoring of at least 25% of the CASA reforms and is likely capable of assuming more.
  17. The APD Compliance Bureau has been fully operational and staffed with many positions created dealing directly with all the reform efforts and all the duties and responsibilities that come with self-assessment.  

APD has fulfilled the spirit and intent of the settlement.  The city can argue “full and effective compliance” with all material requirements of the CASA and with its continuing improvement in constitutional policing as demonstrated by the agreement’s outcome measures reported in the 17th Federal Monitor’s Report. The two years of 95% compliance should be deemed as accomplished given the fact that the settlement has now gone on for over 5 years than what was originally agreed to. 

The work of the Federal Monitor can be declared a success and the case closed within the next 6 months by year’s end. The city should negotiate a stipulated dismissal of the case with DOJ by the end of the year or alternatively move to immediately to dismiss the case under the termination and suspension provisions of the CASA and force the issue with an evidentiary hearing.  




The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:

“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”

The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here:



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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.