The Tale Of Two APDs: Shootings Of Citizens By APD Alarmingly High As APD Comes Into Compliance With DOJ Mandated Reforms; Analysis And Commentary

On June 21, during a news conference to discuss Officer Involved Shooting incidents, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released a six-month report of seven officer-involved shootings for the second half of 2023. The report is dated October 4, 2023. The review was conducted by a working group comprised of APD Deputy Chiefs, one APD Major, one legal advisor, and one external contractor who specializes in uses of force.

APD Chief Harold Medina started the 6-month reviews in 2022.  The purpose of the reviews is to look at Officer Involved Shooting incidents collectively to identify patterns. The working group gave special consideration to whether de-escalation was used and where using a less-lethal tool earlier in the encounter might have avoided the need for deadly force.


According to the review, 2 of the 7 shootings began as minor offenses. Two were initiated as property crimes, and 3 related to violent offenses. Two of the 7 suspects shot at police. None began as behavioral health calls. All three people fatally shot had drugs in their bodies at the time of their deaths.  One of the 7 cases was deemed to be out of compliance with APD policy, but 38% of the officers involved had less than 6 years of experience, 35% had between 6 and 8 years of experience and 21% had more than six years’ experience.

APD Chief Harold Medina said that many of the incidents involved foot pursuits.  Medina said APD  is working on a policy to deal with the potential threats caused by a fleeing suspect and the potential threats of engaging in a foot pursuit.

Chief Harold Medina said this in a press release:

“We noted trends that need to be addressed, including the high number of foot pursuits that resulted in shootings. … We started work on a new policy that considers the potential threat caused by the fleeing suspect, whether the suspect has been identified by law enforcement, and any potential threats presented by engaging in a foot pursuit. Those factors must be balanced with APD’s mandate to enforce the law. … Officer-involved shootings will be reduced when the number of criminals who are armed in the community is reduced.”


The review made 7 specific findings. Quoting the report, those 7 specific finding are:

  1. 100%, 7 out of 7 Officer Involved Shooting  incidents involved an individual armed with a gun or knife/edged weapon. Five of those were armed with a gun.
  2. 29%, 2 out of 7 Officer Involved Shooting incidents involved individuals who were shooting at officers at the time of the Officer Involved Shooting incident.
  3. Less-lethal force was attempted prior to using deadly force in two of the OIS incidents.
  4. The working group determined two Officer Involved Shooting incidents involved situations where the use of less-lethal force earlier in the encounter might have resolved the situation and thus, avoided the need for deadly force. In making this assessment, the working group could not  predict how the individual would have responded to the use of less-lethal force. It is entirely possible the situation would have still resulted in the use of deadly force.
  5. De-escalation was used in two Officer Involved shooting The working group determined de-escalation was not feasible in 4 incidents based on the facts of each case. The working group determined de-escalation may have been used in one of the Officer Involved Shooting incidents after the initial shots had been fired, but before the second.
  6. None of the individuals had a history with APD’s Crisis Intervention Team. One individual is believed to have had a history of mental illness, according to a family member. It is not known whether any other individuals suffered from mental illness.
  7. Drug and/or alcohol use was not known with toxicology reports for deceased individuals having not been submitted at the time of the review.


The working group recommended 5 action items. Quoting the report, those 5 action items are:

  1. APD will prioritize in upcoming firearms training that officers will be trained on environmental and situational awareness, decision-making, and threat identification during lethal incidents.

There were 4 Officer Involved Shooting incidents where bystanders were in the vicinity of the offender during the incident, including one incident where two bystanders were shot and injured. APD said it will provide training in several areas including, but not limited to, firearms safety rules when pointing or shooting their firearm, identifying threats and non-threats with moving targets, and overall awareness of the environments in which they may need to use deadly force.

  1. Evaluate the assignments of less-lethal tools, specifically “40 millimeter launchers.” EDITOR’S NOTE:  A 40-millimeter launcher fires hard-foam projectiles at a subject at a high rate of speed to sub due a suspect and the force used is classified as non-lethal.

 While each officer cannot be assigned every less-lethal tool available, APD will evaluate the current assignments of the “40 millimeter launchers” to ensure the officers most likely to become involved in a critical incident, the Field Services Bureau, are more likely to have them assigned to squads.

  1. Prioritize command and control training and scenarios for upcoming supervisory training

APD is in the process of developing supervisory training that includes supervisory responsibilities during critical events. The Training Academy will include command and control training that includes decision-making and explicit assignment of officer roles (i.e. communications, lethal, and less-lethal).

  1. Evaluate policy for potential revision for lethal weapons deployment

 The working group collaborated with the use of force expert contractor during this review period. One recommendation was for APD to evaluate its policy with deployment of lethal weapons, specifically rifles. The department will consider reducing the initial deployment of rifles based on the information at the time with the supervisory capability to evaluate the need for certain weapon types to properly address the involved individual(s).

  1. Evaluate policy for potential revision for increased roles of supervisors and Emergency Communications Center (APD Dispatch)

Another recommendation provided by the use of force expert was for APD to determine if there are improved ways for supervisors and dispatchers to actively work together during calls for service with the goal of improving outcomes of calls for service, including but not limited to helping supervisors identify a call involving a mental health component, reminding officers to deescalate, providing a reminder to turn on their on-body recording devices, or to assist supervisors for additional resources.

The link to the October 4, 2023 six-month review of the 7 officer involved shootings is here:

Links to quoted and relied upon news sources are here:


For the past nine years, the Albuquerque Police Department has been operating under a Court Approved Settlement Agreement mandating 271 reforms after a Department of Justice investigation found that APD had engaged in a pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” and finding a “culture of aggression.”

Over nine years, the city has spent millions on reform efforts, has created and staffed new divisions to hold APD officers accountable, rewrote use of force policies and procedures and trained APD officers in constitutional policing practices. The reform has been accomplished under the watchful eye of the federal court and an appointed Federal Independent Monitor.

 On April 10, the on-line news publication Searchlight New Mexico published a story researched and written by its staff reporter Josh Bowling.  The article is entitled “Can the Albuquerque Police Department ever be reformed?”  The article goes into great detail explaining the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), what has been done to reform APD and the role of the Federal Monitor. The link to read the full, unedited Searchlight New Mexico article with photos and graphs is here:

The Search Light New Mexico article reported that last year, the Albuquerque Police Department killed 10.6 people per million residents, more than any other sizable police department in the nation, according to data tracked by the national nonprofit Mapping Police Violence.

Following are the relevant excerpts from the Search Light New Mexico article:

“In 2022, the department set a record for police shootings with 18, 10 of which were fatal. That year, a Searchlight analysis found, only the police departments in Los Angeles, New York and Houston killed more people than APD.

 Law enforcement officials, including police leaders and district attorneys, say such figures are nuanced. They point to the acute dearth of mental health resources in New Mexico and, anecdotally, stories of people who draw guns on police officers as explanations for why the problem of police violence is so outsized locally.”

“In the past four years, Albuquerque police repeatedly shot people who were suffering visible mental health crises. They shot 26-year-old Max Mitnik in the head during a “schizoaffective episode” in which he asked officers to fire their weapons at him; they shot and killed 52-year-old Valente Acosta-Bustillos who swung a shovel at officers and told them to shoot him; they shot and killed 33-year-old Collin Neztsosie while he was on his cell phone, pleading for help with a 911 dispatcher.

These grim numbers have led reform advocates, critics and law enforcement leaders themselves to question what it means to be “in compliance.”

“You can improve things on paper or comply with the terms of a consent decree and still have these things happening. … Albuquerque is a prime place to be asking the questions…about what impact consent decrees have. The city should be ground zero for the national conversation on police reform” said UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz, author of the 2023 book “Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable.”

This is not to say that the consent decree has been without merit. The 2014 Court-Approved Settlement Agreement between the DOJ and Albuquerque laid out nearly 300 mandated reforms: Since its launch, APD has fulfilled hundreds of reform requirements, including overhauling scores of policies and training procedures.”

The Search Light New Mexico article contains a horizontal graph listing the 50 largest cities in the United States. According to the graph, among the 50 largest cities, Albuquerque Police killed people at the highest rate than all the other city police departments in 2023  at the rate of  10.6 per 1 Million population. It is worth comparing Albuquerque’s 10.6 kill rate to the largest cities in the surrounding border states of Texas, Colorado, Arizona and also including Oklahoma and Nevada:

  • Albuquerque, NM: 10.6
  • San Antonio, Texas:  9.8
  • Phoenix, Arizona: 8.7
  • Austin, Texas: 7.3
  • Denver, Colorado: 5.6
  • Tucson, Arizona: 5.5
  • Fort Worth, Texas: 5.4
  • Houston, Texas: 5.2
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado: 4.2
  • Dallas, Texas: 3.1
  • El Paso, Texas: 2.9
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 2.6
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: 2.0”


On June 4, a federal court hearing was held on the 19th Federal Independent Monitor’s Report and APD’s progress in implementing the mandated reforms of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The federal monitor reported that APD has reached 100% primary compliance, 100% secondary compliance and 96% operational compliance of the 271 reforms mandated by the settlement.

Under the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement, once APD sustains a 95% compliance rate in all three identified compliance levels and maintains it for two consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. The significance of APD being in compliance is that APD has now entered into a new “sustainment” phase to last until the end of 2025. If there’s no backsliding, which has occurred in the past, the DOJ consent decree can be dismissed.


The APD six-month review of seven officer-involved shootings for the second half of 2023 is a reflection of the conflicting opposites that APD embodies. On the one had, APD is successfully implementing the mandated reforms and is achieving constitutional policing practices. On the other, APD is still having an alarming number of police shootings of suspects.  The report indicates that it can be attributed to the fact that APD officers are being confronted with more and more armed and aggressive offenders. The report says 7 out of 7 Officer Involved Shooting incidents involved an individual armed with a gun or knife or edged weapon with 5 of those were armed with a gun. Two out of 7 Officer Involved Shooting incidents involved individuals who were shooting at officers at the time of the Officer Involved Shooting incident.

Despite the improvement and gains made by APD in the implementation of the reforms, APD police officer shootings and the killing of civilians is occurring at an alarming rate. In terms of overall shootings, both fatal and non-fatal, law enforcement officers in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County shot 131 people between 2013 and 2022.

On April 10, the national nonprofit Mapping Police Violence reported that last year, APD killed 10.6 people per million residents, which is more than any police department of comparable size in the nation. APD was ranked No. 1 in police officers killing civilians in a listing of 50 largest cities in the United States.

The Court Approved Settlement Agreement was not designed to guarantee or completely stop nor prevent police officer shootings. It was designed to implement constitutional policing practices, especially when dealing with the mentally ill. There never was a guarantee that police officer shootings would go down or simply never occur even with reforms.

What the Court Approved Settlement Agreement reforms ensure is that police officers are being held accountable when they violate constitutional policing practices and people’s civil rights. All that really can be done is to train and implement constitutional policing practices in the hopes that it will bring down police officer shootings of civilians.

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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.