APD Praised In Status Hearing Over Reform Efforts; APD Reports Use Of Force Cases Are Down; Reflection The DOJ Reforms Are Working; Full Compliance Of Court Approved Settlement Expected By 2026; City Should Move To Dismiss Case Sooner Rather Than Later

On January 3, the Albuquerque Police Department held a press conference to release statistics that APD police officers are using less force when they make arrests  even though there has been a major surge in arrests. In 2020, arrests decreased along with use-of-force investigations. Even though APD arrests are going up, use-of-force investigations have dropped by more than 40% since 2020.

The data released by APD shows that as annual arrests jumped 29%, from 9,494 in 2021 to 12,222 in 2023, officers’ use-of-force incidents decreased 30%, from 739 to 515.  Since 2022, APD Police shootings have increased to record highs.  APD officers have shot, or shot at, 32 people, with at least 16 being fatal.  The majority of the shootings have been found to have complied with APD use of force policy.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said of the 515 cases in which police used force on someone in 2023, 419 have been investigated fully. Of those, he said, 13 cases were found to be out of policy. Gallegos said across all out-of-policy cases in 2023, 17 officers were disciplined and 7 were given written reprimands with 156 hours of suspension imposed in discipline action.


APD Chief Harold Medina for his part pointed out that police shootings made up less than 3% of all uses of force in 2023. Medina also said at least 12 of the people shot by officers were armed, and several fired a gun, injuring two officers in separate incidents. Medina said this:

 “We are seeing more armed encounters with individuals, and these individuals are not afraid to use their firearm.”

Medina said the data released, in addition to an evolution in officers’ actions during police shootings, was proof of the culture within APD has changed. On a case-by-case basis, lapel video has shown officers switching to less-lethal weapons and giving people time to drop weapons before using deadly force. Medina said this:

I am proud of the direction our officers have gone.We’re out doing our job, taking individuals into custody and use of force still decreases. Look at the data. … Under the intense scrutiny that we have, use of force is down 43% (since 2020). How is that not a change of culture? … How is that not the number one measure for the change of culture? Arrests are the same but overall use of force is down. … I hope that the advocacy groups look at the data and the information and truly, fairly process what they’re seeing, and not go based off emotions. … Just because one advocacy group isn’t getting what they want out of this doesn’t mean that you should drop out [of the process].”


APD Spokesman Gallegos said in one case APD officers Brenda Johnson, Eric Wilensky and Violeta Baca were terminated after opening fire on a man with a knife. The officers killed the suspect but also shot  two bystanders in the process.  A fourth officer in the shooting incident, Christian Cordova, resigned soon after the shooting.  Attorney John D’Amato, who is representing the fired officers, said the officers have filed appeals in all 3 terminations.

D’Amato said there was no question there was a threat to the officers and the officers did what they were trained to do while also complying with APD’s use-of-force policies. He called the case a matter of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

The terminations marked the first-time multiple officers were fired in a police shooting since the city entered into its Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 outlining police reforms.

As the department nears full compliance with the CASA following a few turbulent years, police shootings , the majority found to have complied with policy,  have increased to record highs. Since 2022, APD officers have shot, or shot at, 32 people, with at least 16 being fatal.


Several advocacy groups, which have given APD credit for reducing the use of force and meeting CASA requirements, continue to question whether there has been a change in APD’s culture.  Much of that debate has centered around controversial police shooting in 2022, when officers shot Jesus Crosby, a man in crisis wielding nail clippers. Crosby was one of a record-breaking 18 police shootings in 2022. APD Forward is a collection of nearly 20 advocacy groups who say his death was horrifying, unnecessary, and showed an “indifference to the spirit of the reform process among some of the leadership of APD.”

In th 18th Federal Monitors Report, monitoring team described the Jesus Crosby deadly use of force  case as one of the “more obvious mishandlings of organizational oversight that we have seen since the inception of the CASA. … The case is replete with issues, from the shooting itself through the handling of the case.”

Officers simultaneously fired Tasers and bullets at Crosby, who was suffering a mental health crisis and holding fingernail clippers outside APD headquarters. APD officers shot Crosby 11 times.  A force investigator, civilian oversight director and one Force Review Board (FRB) member found the shooting out of policy, but an Internal Affairs Force Division commander and the rest of the FRB reversed that finding.  APD modified its policies following the shooting in the hopes of expanding the use of less-lethal force in such situations.

The 18th IME Report went so far as to questioned if Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD) leadership or Force Review Board (FRB)  members “are competent to review cases of this significance.”  The report said no FRB member asked questions about the policy disagreement or about the six shots fired after Crosby was on the ground, and only one member “asked insightful questions regarding the appropriateness of deadly force.” That same member, according to the report, voted the use of force was not necessary but was outvoted by the other members.

The team noted it marked the second time the FRB has ignored “a compelling justification” for an out-of-policy ruling in a fatal shooting. The monitoring team added, “In our opinion, all parties should be concerned if any IAFD personnel believe, or were led to believe, that the use of deadly force by officers, in this case, was appropriate.”

The report noted that the FRB has excelled in recent years due to 3 “specific deputy chiefs,” one of whom has retired while the other two were not at the FRB meeting.  According to the report:

“We have commented in the past that reforms cannot exist as a result of specific people, and instead have to be woven into the fabric of APD’s culture.”

Referencing the November 2022 shooting of Jesus Crosby, the Federal Monitor’s report states:

“Most troubling is that in this case, the IAFD investigator and supervisor did what was required, and the deficiencies began at the Internal Affairs Force Division command level and were endorsed by the Force Review Board  … We are equally concerned with the chilling effect a case like this can have on Internal Affairs Force Division investigators and supervisors who will be called to make difficult, honest, and accurate findings in the future.”

Independent Monitor James Ginger said it was the second such occurrence in a year and warned the Albuquerque Police Department of the “chilling effect” it could have on those tasked with investigating use of force incidents in the future.

Private Attorney Mark Fine, who is represents the Crosby family in a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit, said the family thanked the monitoring team for its “good-faith assessment of the killing of Jesus and for calling out the backwardness of APD leadership’s absurd determination that the shooting was ‘within policy.’”

Fine said this:

“Since 2014, the City has known and admitted that a lack of supervisory oversight allowed a culture of aggression to develop in its ranks, which resulted in a pattern of unnecessary and deadly uses of force. …The Monitor’s report reveals that this toxic dynamic continues.”

When it comes to the Jesus Crosby case, Chief  Medina for his part said Crosby was released from jail, while in crisis, and onto the streets  ad APD  officers had to deal with with him at 2 o’clock in the morning.  Medina said this of the Crosby case:

“It’s unfortunate that the system, as a whole, failed Mr. Crosby. … One incident doesn’t create a pattern. … I hope that the advocacy groups look at the data and the information and truly, fairly process what they’re seeing, and not go based off emotions. … Too many times, you only look at the endpoint, and that happens to be the Albuquerque Police Department. I recognized a long time ago that there will be advocacy groups that do not respect the outcomes of this process. They didn’t support APD prior to this process, they were very unfairly critical of APD during several court hearings.”

According to Chief Medina, APD has learned from the Crosby shooting, making policy changes and bringing in an external monitor to oversee police shootings in the future.


It was on December 26, 2023 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced that the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Court Appointed Federal Monitor overseeing APD’s reform efforts agreed  to transition Level 2 and 3 police officer use-of-force investigations from the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) back to the APD Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD).

What this means is that APD is once again primarily responsible and in control of  all of  APD’s use-of-force investigations of  the most serious use-of-force cases involving APD police officers.  This is a major step forward for  a department that has been under a Court Approved Settlement Agreement  with the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014 and after federal investigators found a “culture of aggression” within APD and that it had engaged in “a pattern of  excessive use of  force and deadly force.”

There are 3 Use of Force Classifications enumerated in the APD Use Of Force Policies:

Level 1 is 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 (i.e., pain compliance techniques and resisted handcuffing). 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 is 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 is 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 ECW application for longer than 15 seconds, whether continuous or consecutive; four or more strikes with a baton; any Level 2 use of force, strike, blow, kick, ECW application, or similar use of force against a handcuffed subject; and uses of force resulting in a loss of consciousness.


On Thursday January 4, a six hour status conference hearing was held by Federal Judge James Browning on Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger’s 18th Federal Monitor’s report which was filed on November 8, 2023. Throughout the hearing, Department of Justice attorneys  and Independent Monitor Ginger praised the successes of Albuquerque police in its reform efforts and especially for APD reducing officers’ use of force and conducting better investigations into such incidents.

The hearing came after Independent Monitor James Ginger released his 18th Federal Monitors report  that gave the city of Albuquerque its highest ratings yet over the last 9 years in the 3 compliance levels mandated by the Court Approved Settlement. The 18th report finds that APD is only ONE percentage point from full compliance in “Operational Compliance” going from 92% to 94%.  APD went down by 1% in “Secondary Compliance” going down from 100% to 99%.  APD  and sustained  Primary Compliance at 100%.

The 18th Federal Monitors Report covers the time period of February 1, 2023 through July 1, 2023 and reports APD’s compliance levels being as follows:

  • Primary Compliance 100%
  • Secondary Compliance 99% (Down 1%)
  • Operational Compliance 94%(95%is needed to be achieved and sustained for 2 years)

Under the terms and conditions of the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all 3 identified compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. Originally, APD was to have come into compliance within 4 years and the case was to be dismissed in 2018.

The 3 compliance levels are explained as follows:


Primary compliance is the “policy” part of compliance. To attain primary compliance, APD must have in place operational policies and procedures designed to guide officers, supervisors and managers in the performance of the tasks outlined in the CASA. As a matter of course, the policies must be reflective of the requirements of the CASA; must comply with national standards for effective policing policy; and must demonstrate trainable and evaluable policy components.


Secondary compliance is attained by implementing supervisory, managerial and executive practices designed to and be effective in implementing the policy as written, e.g., sergeants routinely enforce the policies among field personnel and are held accountable by managerial and executive levels of the department for doing so. By definition, there should be operational artifacts such as reports, disciplinary records, remands to retraining, follow-up, and even revisions to policies if necessary, indicating that the policies developed in the first stage of compliance are known to, followed by, and important to supervisory and managerial levels of the department.


Operational compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency e.g., line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.


Between all the praises heaped on APD during the January 4 hearing, the Jesus Crosby killing by APD kept being brought up as evidence that the “culture of aggression” within APD has not been eliminated as a central question that conflicts with the data and that APD’s Use of Force has gone down.  Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said this:

“How do you know that culture is changing? … I consistently get that question and there is no scientific method. It’s going to, unfortunately, have to be anecdotal.”

Medina emphasized APD’s commitment to meeting CASA requirements over the past several years.  The department has invested millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours and has  created  entire divisions and rewriting policies.

Medina told the Court the “culture change”  can be measured in a large decrease in uses of force even as police make more arrests, the positive words he regularly hears from the community and from surveys taken by those who call 911. In general, Medina said the 32 police shootings the department has tallied since 2022 mirrored increases seen in other cities. Locally, he pointed to a growing number of people pulling guns on APD officers.

Again, Medina called Crosby’s death “a tragedy” but laid it at the feet of a “broken criminal justice system” for letting him out of jail while he was still in crisis. He said some “good came” from the incident, such as the creation of policies geared toward using less deadly force.

Paul Killebrew, deputy chief of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, also addressed the Jesus Crosby case calling it “a very troubling case.” Killebrew said this:

“In this case, we don’t judge Albuquerque by its words. We don’t judge Albuquerque by its promises. We judge it by its actions.  Those actions do not tell a coherent story, not right now. … And that gives a lot of us some unease. Had Albuquerque made a different determination in the Jesus Crosby shooting, the story would be more coherent, from our perspective. So the fact that it’s not a coherent story, what does that tell us? What do we need to do?”

Killebrew said they had not yet seen a pattern of shootings similar to the Crosby case and, therefore, his question was left open-ended.

Federal Judge James Browning  asked  another DOJ Attorney what specifically made the lethal force in the Crosby shooting within APD policy.  The DOJ attorney responded that at the time the  deadly force was used, it complied with APD policy.  DOJ Attorney Rahn put it simple terms “The shooting itself was fine, but the whole situation could have been handled better.”

Hager, another the DOJ attorney, said they reviewed APD’s police shootings from 2023 and found that in 12 of the 14 cases a person brandished a gun, and in seven cases actually fired it. He said they saw none of the same “issues that arose” in the Crosby case but they would continue to monitor APD’s actions.


During the January 4 hearing, Paul Killebrew, deputy chief of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division,  praised  the APD progress in implementing the reforms  noting a 43% decrease in use of force since 2020 as a “tremendous milestone” of  investigators working without external guidance and the rerouting of thousands of behavioral health calls to the Albuquerque Community Safety department.

50% of the 217 CASA paragraphs are being self-monitored by APD and 30% have already been terminated after being self-monitored for some time by APD. DOJ attorney Jared Hager noted that the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT), the outside team of contracted professionals hired to  investigate force and clear a case backlog of 667 cases, had left APD’s Internal Affairs Force Division investigators to handle cases on their own.  He said EFIT had completed 470, or 72%, of the backlog cases and found only 5% of those out of policy. Hager said the backlog should be done by mid-May.

DOJ attorney Melody Fields  said APD had “far exceeded” the CASA requirements on crisis intervention and related data collection. She said they reviewed a random sample and found that officers “showed both skill and empathy, in how they responded to people in crisis.” Fields said the crisis response has gotten better over time. She said in 2021, APD used force 312 times against those in crisis, a number that dropped to 195 in 2022.

Fields said, going forward, APD should prioritize diverting even more calls to the Albuquerque Community Safety department, which has “more room for growth.” She said ACS diverted 1,500 calls from APD per month during the monitoring period and went to 24/7 coverage in August.

Ginger’s monitoring team highlighted the “exceptional” training that was observed being done by APD instructors on new policies. They also said the Internal Affairs Force Division  investigators would be “stress tested” with EFIT no longer overseeing their investigations.

Killebrew  said 16 paragraphs of the CASA remained out of compliance and three revolved around deficiencies with APD and its Force Review Board, due to “mishandling” the Crosby case. Killebrew said changes have been made to the FRB and, without any further problems, APD could be in full compliance in the coming months.  The other 13 remaining paragraphs are related to shortcomings with the Civilian Police Oversight Advisory Board.

Killebrew said APD will have to remain in compliance for a full two years, setting a possible end date to federal oversight in 2026. Killebrew said if APD comes into full compliance before the CPOA, the DOJ may seek an out-of-court agreement with the city to get the latter into compliance. With APD still out of compliance, the idea was “all quite theoretical at this point,” he said.

Chief Medina expressed frustration at the timeline and said this in reponse:

“My officers worked hard every single day to meet the requirements in the settlement agreement. … And today I’m being told that 2026 might be the day that this goes into compliance. This is a slap in my face for everything that I’ve helped accomplish here. … Because there’s a strong likelihood. … I will no longer be the chief who gets to sit here when the settlement agreement is completed.”


The majority of CASA paragraphs remaining out of compliance revolve around the Civilian Police Oversight Advisory Board, which was formed in January after the City Council abolished the previous board makeup.  Since then, board positions and leadership roles had remained vacant for months, leading to dysfunction and issues with investigations.

During the January status conference hearing, Diane McDermott, CPOA interim executive director, said recent momentum should have the board fully staffed within weeks and led to the hiring of a contract compliance officer. She called the latter “the first important step” in selecting a permanent director and gaining full compliance. McDermott said they received 723 cases in 2023, 300 of which needed full investigation, a workload that required more investigators, supervisors and a case intake worker. She said those hires, and more office space, would be part of her annual budget request.

McDermott said this:

“Our hope is that the [City Council] and the administration support the agency, and not for the purpose of just compliance, but so that we can perform in a way that our target expects and deserves. … My staff and I are optimistic about where we are headed if proper staffing and budgetary decisions are made.”








On November 16, 2023, it was a full 9 years that has expired since the city entered into the CASA with the DOJ. It was originally agreed that implementation of all the settlement terms would be completed within 4 years, but because of previous delay and obstruction tactics by APD management and the police officers’ union found by the Federal Monitor as well as APD backsliding in implementing the reforms, it has taken another 5 years to get the job done.

Over the last 9 years, APD has devoted thousands of manhours and the city has spent millions of dollars on the reform process, creating and staffing entire divisions and roles and rewriting policies and procedures. More recently, APD has implemented oversight outside of the CASA requirements, implementing six-month reviews of police shootings to identify shortcomings and possible solutions.

Despite the concerns raised in the 18th  Federal Monitors Report about the citizens  police oversight board,  APD’s compliance with reforms has never been higher. The monitor’s 18th report shows APD has reached 100% in Primary Compliance, 99% in Secondary Compliance and 94% in Operational Compliance the highest levels ever reached in 9 years. Once 95% compliance or better is reached in all 3 of the compliance levels, APD must sustain that compliance for two years. After a full two years of compliance in the 3 compliance levels, the case can be dismissed bringing and to end the consent decree.

Given the extent of the compliance levels, the fact APD has assumed self-monitoring in at least 50% of the CASA reforms, has taken over investigation of use of force cases and the use of force has declined substantially as evidenced by the latest statistics, it can be said the purpose and intent of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement has been achieved.  The city should seek to negotiate a stipulated dismissal of the case with the Department of Justice (DOJ) sooner rather than later.  Should the DOJ refuse, the City Attorney should move to immediately to dismiss the case under the termination and suspension provisions of the CASA by filing a Motion to Dismiss the case and force the issue with an evidentiary hearing and let the assigned federal judge decide the issue of dismissal.

A link to a related blog article is here:

Federal Monitor Issues 18th Federal Monitors Report On APD; Primary Compliance At 100%, Secondary Compliance At 99%, Operational Compliance At 94%;Civilian Police Oversight Advisory Board Found In Crisis; Police Union President Calls Monitoring Process “A Scam”; City Should Seek Dismissal Of Case

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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.