APD Has Achieved Compliance Levels Mandated By Court Approved Settlement Agreement; City Should Seek Immediate Dismissal Of Case And Not Be Required To Waite 2 More Years

On November 14, 2014, the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department and the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a stipulated Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The settlement was the result of an 18-month long investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that found that the Albuquerque Police Department engaged in a pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force”, especially when dealing with the mentally ill. The DOJ investigation also found a “culture of aggression” existed within the APD. Department of Justice investigators reviewed 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque Police between 2009 and 2013 and found that in the majority of cases the level of force used was not justified because the person killed did not present a threat to police officers or the public.

The Court Approved Settlement Agreement mandates 271 police reforms, the appointment of a Federal Monitor and the filing of Independent Monitor’s reports (IMRs) on APD’s compliance with the reforms. There are 276 paragraphs in 10 sections within the CASA with measurable requirements that the monitor reports on. The ultimate goal of the settlement was to implement constitutional policing practices  and it was  aimed at making sure police officers follow policy and don’t use excessive force and deadly force.

The link to the 118-page CASA is here:



On May 13, 2024 Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed his 19th report. The 19th Independent Monitor’s Report covers the time period of August 1, 2023, through January 31, 2024.  The report is 115-pages long.  It is the shortest report filed to date with the previous reports averaging about 300 pages.  The link to review the entire 19th report is here:


The 19th report finds that APD has reached 100% Primary Compliance,  100% Secondary Compliance and 96% Operational Compliance.   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. However, because of delay and obstruction  tactics by both APD management and the police union to implement in full the reforms, a 5 year delay resulted.

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.


The 19th Federal Monitors report contains the following succinct summary of the 115 page report:

“APD and CPOA  [Civilian Police Oversight Agency] have made significant progress during the IMR-19 reporting period. The monitor acknowledges that progress has taken a significant effort from APD, CPOA, and the City. The number of APD self-monitored paragraphs is at the highest point in the history of the CASA compliance efforts. This is a significant achievement, indicating that APD is now capable of assuming responsibility for oversight of CASA requirements and is not reliant on the monitoring team to do so.

We note that all the CASA paragraphs relating to discipline are compliant. This represents another milestone for APD’s compliance efforts. As of the 19th reporting period, APD is effectively self-monitoring 191 paragraphs.

Perhaps more importantly, we found all force investigation processes compliant during the 19th reporting period. Level 2 and Level 3 use of force incidents were down 16 percent from the last reporting period. We consider this strong evidence that APD’s policies, supervisory oversight, and disciplinary systems are working as designed.

We note that the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) is no longer providing oversight to the Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD). Similar progress is evident at CPOA during this reporting period. All the CPOA investigations reviewed by the monitoring team this reporting period were compliant with the CASA requirements. The CPOA Board has been fully reconstituted and are currently working to complete training and other requirements of the CASA.

We would be remiss, however, if we did not note some remaining areas that are still in need of improvement. These include:

  • CPOA issues related to timelines and staffing;
  • Completing the implementation of effective training for the CPOA Board members; and
  • Continuing improvement of supervisory oversight of in-field activities such as use of force.

Frequent readers of the monitor’s reports will note that this “to-do list” is markedly shorter than in the past. This is reflective of the significant progress APD has made over the last six months.”

The link to review the entire 19th report is here:



Mayor Tim Keller inherited the court-approved settlement agreement, known as the CASA, after being elected mayor in 2017. One of his major campaign promises was to fully implement the CASA term and conditions within his first term. Keller said this in a video statement:

The road to get here has not been easy, but we never gave up. … We believed that real reform was possible. We believed that we could support law enforcement and maintain the highest standards of accountability, and we’ve done both.”

APD Chief Harold Medina, who has been charged with ensuring APD compliance over his past three years as chief, said he was proud of the strides made. APD Chief Harold Medina in a video statement:

It has been a long road for us to get to where we are today and it couldn’t have been done without the work of so many people. …  I’d like to thank the officers who stayed with the Albuquerque Police Department and fought through these changes to make sure that we improved the services that we deliver to the citizens of the city of Albuquerque. … Reform shall never end for any police department. We should always be evolving to see how we could become a better police department, more in tune with the community, and always changing to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Monday emphasized the need for continued vigilance to safeguard community members’ rights and safety. The ACLU said the APD should continue prioritizing de-escalation tactics and minimizing police interactions, especially with vulnerable populations.

ACLU Policing Policy Advocate Daniel Williams for his part said this in a statement:

“The APD has made notable progress in implementing critical changes; however, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the journey towards comprehensive reform does not culminate with the conclusion of the CASA. … Our concerns persist regarding the use of lethal force, particularly in cases involving unarmed individuals experiencing mental health crises. [New Mexico] consistently has one of the highest per-capita rates of people killed by police in the nation; killing by APD officers represent a significant number of these deaths. … Success should be measured not just by technical compliance but by fostering a culture of accountability and respect for human life.”

Shaun Willoughby, the President of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association and a critic of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA),  said he’s happy the APD is deemed to be in full compliance and said this:

“I think that the whole DOJ process is just a blatant fraud and tax money grab. Hopefully, the monitor is packing up and shipping away from Albuquerque and the DOJ is not far behind him.”

Links to relied on and quoted news sources are here:








There is very little doubt that Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina gave out a tremendous sigh of relief when the Federal Monitor issued his latest report and not just because of the findings of the APD being found to be in compliance with the settlement. The blunt truth is APD was expected to be found in compliance after the 18th Federal Monitors report  came out saying APD fell 2% short of being in full compliance.

What called into question if APD would finally reach compliance was the Department of Justice and the FBI investigation into allegations that DWI officers took bribes to miss court dates which led to hundreds of pending DWI cases being dismissed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. The APD Officers reportedly worked with  prominent criminal defense attorney Thomas Clear, III,  and his paralegal to get the cases dismissed.  Six of the nine officers implicated in the scandal have resigned from APD declining to be interviewed by APD Internal Affairs.


The announcement that APD,  after over 9 years,  is now in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement and implementation of the reforms is indeed a historic milestone.  APD is commended for at last getting the job done.  The 19th report from the  monitor essentially  says APD is “effectively self-monitoring” and that APD’s uses of force have decreased. The monitor’s report notes that APD still needs to improve supervisory oversight of in-field activities. The monitor also says the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, which focuses on police accountability, needs to address timeliness and staffing issues.

The resulting settlement agreement with the DOJ led to an overhaul of APD use of force policies, recruitment, training, internal affairs procedures and field supervision of officers.  The implementation of all the reforms took over twice as long as was originally agreed and required the expenditure of millions of dollars and oversight by an outside independent monitor. The Federal Monitor and his team have been paid upwards of $11 Million for their services and reports. The city has also spent over $40 to implement the reforms.

The Court Approved Settlement Agreement requires 95% Operational Compliance by APD. Operational compliance tracks whether officers follow policies and whether they’re corrected when they don’t. According to this latest report  APD is  at 96% Operational Compliance

Since October 2019, APD has been and has remained at 100% Primary Compliance, meaning all required policies and procedures are in place. APD is also at 100% Secondary Compliance regarding the training of officers.

The achievement of 96% of Operational Compliance now allows APD to enter a new phase of implementation directed towards a dismissal of the case. What the 19th report means is that APD can move toward self-monitoring with all of its remaining sections that have not already been dismissed by the court. If compliance can be sustained at 95% or more in all 3 compliance levels for two years, the case can be dismissed.


The Court Approved Settlement Agreement was the result of an 18-month long investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that found that the Albuquerque Police Department engaged in a pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force”, especially when dealing with the mentally ill and the homeless.  The 19th Federal Monitor’s report states in part as follows:

“[In evaluating APD’s  and the city’s current response to] individuals in crisis and people who are unsheltered, we note that APD has met, and in many cases, far exceeded, the requirements of the CASA as it relates to mental health response planning, crisis intervention, training development and delivery, and services delivery. … We remain highly concerned about the sheer number of officer-involved shooting of people in crisis or people with mental illness. We appreciate the CIU’s efforts to continuously review officer behavior in the field and take appropriate corrective actions when necessary. Still, APD leadership and accountability structures must also effectively address these issues.”


The only fly in the ointment at this point continues to be the Civilian Police Oversight Agency. Issues found with the Civilian Police Oversight Agency include inadequate staffing and late completion of investigations, due to excessive caseloads the report said.

The 19th Federal Monitor’s report put it this way:

“From the monitor’s perspective, CPOA remains in crisis. … The change in compliance levels does not effectively demonstrate the progress made by APD and the CPOA (Civilian Police Oversight Agency) during this reporting period. … In this report, APD has demonstrated its commitment to policies, supervisory oversight, and importantly, a disciplinary process that holds officers accountable when necessary.”

It was the 18th  Federal Monitor’s Report that identified the failures of civilian oversight as  representing  the largest remaining roadblock to the city in ending the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.  Twelve of the remaining 15 paragraphs of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement involve failures with the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) which is appointed and overseen by the Albuquerque City Council.  The Civilian Police Oversight Advisory Board (CPOA) was formed in January, 2023 after the City Council abolished the previous Civilian Police Oversight Board.

The 18th Federal Monitor’s Report found that the civilian oversight mandated by the CASA is “in crisis” with understaffing and excessive caseloads leading to inadequate investigations by the external board tasked with everything from evaluating civilian complaints to weighing in on police shootings.  The report also showed that 12 of the remaining 15 sections of the settlement that are noncompliant revolve around the operations of the Civilian Police Oversight Advisory Board. The monitor found that since the change made in January, 2023, the CPOA had not been able to properly function.

The 18th Monitor’s  Report states:

“From the monitor’s perspective, CPOA is in crisis. This crisis was birthed by understaffing, the need for the City to fill supervisory and oversight positions, and the need to improve the organizational structure of the agency.”

The CPOA’s problems led the city to fall behind on Secondary Compliance which had reached 100% compliance in the 17th report but dropped by 1% and is  now at 99%  in the 18th IME Report due to a drop in CPOA training.

Then City Council President Pat Davis  said in a letter to Mayor Tim Keller that changes to “key leadership” within the City Council and the administration “slowed things down” over the summer, but they have since interviewed more than a dozen applicants for the vacant board positions.  Davis said the council expected to reach its initial goal of having those positions filled, as well as filling a crucial leadership role, by the end of the year.

Davis said the board was  expected to be fully staffed and hire a contract compliance officer, who would make sure the CPOA abides by the settlement agreement and would be in charge of staffing, by the end of December. Davis said this:

“We’re on track. … This is the last big-ticket item, the administration wants it done fast, the monitor wants it done fast, we want it done well — and fast.”

On January 1, 2024  a new city council was  sworn in.  During a November 8 news conference announcing the 18th Federal Monitors Report, Mayor  Keller emphasized  the CPOA is the responsibility of the City Council, but said his administration is “here to help.”

When asked if the city could reach full compliance without the CPOA portions of the CASA fulfilled, city and police officials replied, “Just barely.”  Keller said if the City Council doesn’t get the CPOA into compliance with the CASA, one option would be to split the CASA into two, calling the CPOA half “a little casita.”


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.

After 9 full years, the federal oversight and the CASA have produced results. Reforms achieved under the CASA can be identified and are 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, funded, fully staffed and a director was hired.
  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 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.
  18. APD has attained a 100% Primary Compliance rate, a 100% Secondary Compliance rate and a 96% Operational Compliance rate.


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.  APD has implemented oversight outside of the CASA requirements, implementing 6 month reviews of police shootings to identify shortcomings and possible solutions.

Despite the fact that the Court Approved Settlement Agreement mandates 2 years of sustained compliance of all 3 levels, it can be said that the spirit and intent of the CASA have now been fully achieved.  Given the extent of the compliance levels, the work of the Federal Monitor is done. The purpose and intent of the settlement 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.


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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.