On September 7, the following report was published in the on-line news outlet the New Mexico Sun:
HEADLINE: “Annual APD force report shows decrease in force incidents, increase in police shootings”
The 2022 Albuquerque Police Department Annual Use of Force Report was recently released to the public, and it showed a few new trends. Overall, there was a decline in the number of incidents that used force by the APD, but an increase in the number of shootings by APD officers, numbers that alarmed some in the Albuquerque community.
“Albuquerque has changed and APD has changed over the 9 years since the CASA was negotiated. The city has become more violent and APD has been trained in constitutional policing practices,” Albuquerque attorney Pete Dinelli wrote in an Aug. 28 blog post. “It’s because of the city’s dramatic increase in overall crime rates that there have been more police officer involved shootings as police officers are finding themselves in more predicaments where they feel the need to protect themselves and not attempt to deescalate a situation and use force or deadly force.”
Last May, KRQE News reported that an annual force report is required of the city due to a 2014 Court-Approved Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice after it was found that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) engaged “in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” In order to be free of independent monitoring, the APD needs to reach a 95% compliance level was at 92% as of the date of the report.
In its report, the APD defines “force” as “any physical means used to defend the officer or other people, restrain, or otherwise gain physical control of an individual who is resisting.” In 2022, the APD had 590 force incidents and 626 force interactions, which was down 18% from 2021, when the APD had 764 force interactions, and down 35% from 2020, when the APD had 960 force interactions. The 2022 numbers are down from 2018 and 2019 as well.
Out of those force incidents and interactions, about 4% were determined to be outside of APD policy. According to APD, “force is deemed in policy when every force technique is used correctly and was deemed to be reasonable, necessary, proportional, and minimal.”
According to the report, in 2022 APD shot firearms at 18 individuals, a record high. Ten individuals were killed, and three were injured. In those 18 incidents, 14 times the individual was armed or attempting to arm themselves; three times the weapon was later found to be not lethal; and in one instance, the suspect was throwing rocks at officers. In total, 16 of those incidents were determined to be within APD policy, and two weren’t, and the officers in those two incidents were fired. The two incidents that weren’t within APD policy were the rock throwing incident, which wasn’t fatal, and a situation where a suspect had a key fob, which also wasn’t fatal.
“The tragic reality is the city will likely see more police officer involved shootings even if APD achieves 100% compliance in the 3 settlement compliance levels and as all 271 mandated police reforms under the settlement are implemented and as the DOJ prepares to leave,” Dinelli wrote in his blog post. “A violent city has become our new norm.”
According to an April report by KOAT, Albuquerque ranks 17th out of the 70 largest cities in the country for homicide rate, according to a report looking at trends for murders, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Albuquerque was one of 27 cities across the country that saw an increase in homicides in 2022, as there was a 5% drop in homicides nationwide.
The link to the New Mexico Sun column is here:
On September 1, the New Mexico Sun published the following guest opinion column:
HEADLINE: “APD Use of Force Down, Police Shooting Up; A violent city is now norm”
By Pete Dinelli
The Albuquerque Police Department released its Annual Use of Force Report for the year 2022. The annual Use of Force report is required by the Federal Court Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 2022 Use of Force Report provides the following key findings:
- In 2022, APD used force in 590 force incidents.
- In these 590 incidents, there were 626 force interactions where a single person had force used with them in response to resistance.
- Compared to 2021, there was an 18% decline in the number of force interactions from 764 to 626.
- Compared to 2020, there was a 35% decline in force interactions from 960 to 626.
- 587 people were involved in force interactions. 5% of people were involved in more than one force interaction; 26 people were involved in 2 incidents and 6 were involved in 3 interactions. No individual was involved in more than 3 use of force interactions during this year.
- The median age of people involved in force was 32 meaning that half of involved individuals were 32 or under and half were 32 or over.
- 25 out of 590 cases were deemed out of policy (4%). Four percent (26 out of 626) of force interactions were out of policy.
- In every 1,000 calls for service, force was used 1.64 times, down 16.7% from 2021.
- Force was used in 4.4 out of 100 custodial arrests, down 20% from 2021.
- SWAT was utilized 69 times.
In 2022, there was a record-high number of 18 police officer involved shootings. 14 people were armed, 8 fired a gun. According to data released, the city had half of the state’s violent crime in 2022 but has just 25% or so of its total population. The Albuquerque Police Department reported that in November, 2022 gun law violations spiked 85%.
The last 2 years have been two very violent years for Albuquerque. In 2021, there were 117 homicides. In 2022, there were 120 homicides, a historical high.
On March 16, 2023, APD released the 2022 crime statistics along with crime statistics for 2021 for a comparison. There was a 3% decrease in overall crime and a 4% decrease in Crimes Against Persons and a 2% decrease in Crimes Against Property.
The slight 3% decrease in overall crime was over shadowed by the 24% spike in crimes against society which is made up of drug and gun offenses and a 71% increase in murders over the last 6 years. Over the last 6 years there has been a 28% increase in Aggravated Assaults which by definition includes the use of a firearms.
The Federal Court appointed monitor reports APD’s compliance levels currently are:
Primary Compliance 100%
Secondary Compliance 100%
Operational Compliance 92%
Once APD reaches 95% compliance in all 3 compliance levels, it must maintain them for 2 consecutive years before the case is dismissed.
Shootings by APD between 2018 and 2022 identified three common circumstances:
- When officers are attempting to apprehend violent suspects;
- When individuals are experiencing some kind of mental health episode;
- When people with little criminal history are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and make bad decisions.
APD released data that shows there have been 56 police shootings dating back to 2018. Of the cases reviewed, 85% involved people who were armed with a gun or a weapon that appeared to be a firearm. About 55% of the cases involved people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Albuquerque residents can take comfort that the 2022 Annual Use of Force Report shows that APD used force less in 2022 than in preceding years. Residents should be absolutely alarmed over the fact that there has been a spike in police officer involved shootings. It was such shootings, accompanied by litigation and judgements against the city, that brought the Department of Justice to the City in 2013.
Albuquerque has changed and APD has changed over the 9 years since the settlement was negotiated. The city is violent and APD has been trained in constitutional policing practices. It’s because of the city’s dramatic increase in violent crime that there has been more police officer involved shootings. APD officers are in more predicaments where they feel the need to protect themselves, not attempt to deescalate and use force or deadly force.
The city will likely see more police officer involved shootings even if APD achieves 100% compliance with all 271 mandated police reforms under the settlement.
Pete Dinelli is a native of Albuquerque. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney with 27 years of municipal and state government service including as an assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes, city of Albuquerque deputy city attorney and chief public safety officer, Albuquerque city councilor, and several years in private practice. Dinelli publishes a blog covering politics in New Mexico: www.PeteDinelli.com.
The link to the NM Sun Guest column is here:
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