On October 28, 2023, it was reported that the he Department of Justice (DOJ) has agreed to terminate large portions of its settlement agreement that lays out reforms within the Albuquerque Police Department due to APD having been in full compliance with those sections for at least 2 years.
The joint motion filed by the Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque has as its goal to have parts of the Federal Court Approve Settlement completely removed from oversight by the Federal Monitor. This comes after the city cites sustained operation compliance with the federal agreement made with the Albuquerque Police Department. U.S. District Judge James Browning approved for the motion-filed parts to have no monitoring in 2022. After achieving an over 90% compliance, Independent Federal Monitor James Ginger agreed to a significant pay deduction for monitoring APD. Once the agreed order sought by the joint motion is approved, upwards of 25% of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement would be completed.
In the announcement U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez said it was “a second major milestone” for the department’s reform efforts so far this year with the federal judge overseeing the case having already suspended the monitoring of those sections in 2022. Uballez said this:
“This move to partial termination is yet more evidence of the City of Albuquerque’s dogged pursuit of progress … Much remains to be done, and the challenges facing us as a community are ever-evolving. While we continue to work together to confront those challenges, we applaud the steady and unrelenting drive towards the type of policing that the people of Albuquerque deserve.”
On November 8, 2023, the Federal Monitor Court filed his 18th report that covers the time period of February 1, 2023 through July 1, 2023. The monitor found APD is only ONE percentage point from full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) in “Operational Compliance”, one of 3 compliance areas. Under the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all the 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 18th Federal monitors states compliance levels are as follows:
- Primary Compliance 100%
- Secondary Compliance 99%
- Operational Compliance 94% (95% is needed to be achieved and sustained for 2 years)
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.
Operational Compliance is considered the most difficult to implement and achieve. The 15th and 16th reports released in 2022 saw significant gains in Operational Compliance but the 17th has brought APD the closest it has ever been to full compliance with 92% reported and with 95% needed to be achieved and sustained for 2 years in all 3 compliance levels.
PROVISIONS AGREED TO FOR TERMINATION
The terminations agreed to between the DOJ and the city include the Multi-Agency Task Force, which investigates police shootings; policies and training for specialized tactical and investigative units; and the public’s knowledge of how to file complaints, among other portions of the CASA.
If the joint motion filed by DOJ and city of Albuquerque is approved by U.S. District Judge James Browning who is overseeing the case the monitoring and oversight of those sections will fall squarely to APD.
REACTIONS TO AGREEMENT
APD Chief Harold Medina had this to say about the agreement:
“The fact is we have now been in compliance with these sections for years, and I’m glad to see them finally taken out of the consent decree. … It shouldn’t take years to acknowledge we are in compliance with the rest of the agreement. We are committed to reform and we have shown we can self-monitor.”
Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:
“This should put to rest concerns about APD’s ability to self-monitor and continue the reform process past federal oversight. … APD is proving the department is ready to institutionalize constitutional policing and ongoing reform on its own. Going forward, we need to push past the piecemeal approval process and focus on the future beyond the CASA.”
Paul Killebrew, Deputy Chief over the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division cautioned that even if APD reaches full compliance with all paragraphs of the CASA and all 3 of the compliance levels, APD will still have to sustain that compliance for full two years delaying the dismissal. Killebrew estimated that could happen by 2026, which would be 12 years into the department’s reform effort.
The links to quoted news sources are here:
AGREEMENT TO SUSPEND 25% OF CASA MONITOTING
It was on July 27, 2022, the Albuquerque Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice announce agreed to suspend several paragraphs of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA.) According to APD, the agreement “essentially removes about a quarter of oversight requirements.” The city reached an agreement with the DOJ to suspend the monitoring of upwards of 25% of the paragraphs in the CASA. Those paragraphs have all been in operational compliance for more than 5 years. Under the stipulated agreement between the City and the DOJ, the city is now self-monitor 62 paragraphs of the CASA. APD and DOJ representatives solidified the partial oversight requirement suspension during a virtual hearing on July 26. The changes went into effect on August 1 of this year.
Under the stipulated agreement between the City and the DOJ, the city will now self-monitor 62 paragraphs of the CASA. According to a news release, APD said the following areas have maintained operation compliance:
- Establishing and participating in the Multi-Agency Task Force, which investigates shootings and other critical incidents by law enforcement
• Developing policies, training and ways to track deployments for specialized units, including the SWAT team, canine unit and bomb squad, and specialized investigative units
• Providing behavioral health training for cadets, officers and telecommunicators
• Revising the field training program for new officers
• Publishing information on how people can make complaints to the Civilian Police Oversight Agency
• Developing recruitment plans, an objective system for hiring practices and fair practice for promotions
• Offering officer assistance and support, especially for mental health
REFORMS ACHIEVED UNDER THE CASA
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 found by the Federal Monitor by APD management and the police officers’ union as well as APD backsliding in implementing the reforms, it has taken another 5 years to get the job done. Now after almost 9 full years, the federal oversight and the CASA have produced results.
Reforms achieved under the CASA can be identified and are as follows:
- New “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented and all APD sworn have received training on the policies.
- All sworn police officers have received crisis management intervention training.
- APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.
- The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use of force incidents.
- 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.
- “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.
- 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.
- APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.
- The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.
- Civilian Police Oversight Agency has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director was hired.
- The Community Policing Counsels (CPCs) have been created in all area commands.
- The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
- 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.
- Millions have been spent each year on new programs and training of new cadets and police officers on constitutional policing practices.
- 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.
- APD has assumed the self-monitoring of at least 25% of the CASA reforms and is likely capable of assuming more.
- 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 attained a 100% Primary Compliance rate, a 99% Secondary Compliance rate and a 92% Operational Compliance rate.
CITY NAMES NEW POLICE REFORM TEAM
On November 17, Mayor Tim Keller announce he has hired a 3 member monitoring team that will oversee the APD Police Reforms and continue to do so once the city reaches full compliance in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. The three hires announced are:
- Former Metropolitan Court Judge Sharon Walton, who served for almost two decades, will be the monitor of police training;
- Former Metro Judge Victor Valdez, who was previously superintendent of police reform, will serve as monitor of discipline and misconduct; and
- Retired Las Vegas, Nevada, police undersheriff Christopher Darcy will be monitor of Use of Force.
It was also announced Eric Garcia, who had served as Deputy Chief of Police and Interim Superintendent of Police reform, will now permanently fill the position of Superintendent of Police reform.
The 3 will be contract employees and the total of the 3 contracts will be $288,000 with the contracts to run provided the contracts for through June 30, 2024 and subject to possible renewal.
Christopher Darcy will be paid $98,000 for “training and consulting services for de-escalation of officer-involved shootings.” Former Metro Judges Victor Valdez and Sharon Walton will be paid $95,000 each for “development of policies and procedures.” According to Mayor Tim Keller, the team’s contracts for the team, which he and his administration chose, are “narrowly tailored” to avoid conflicts of interest.
Keller said he chose two the former Metro Court judges due to their decades of experience in local criminal justice and a use of force expert in Darcy for “an external perspective.” Garcia, as a sworn officer in the role of superintendent, will be responsible for training, policy and discipline.
The 3 member monitoring team does not replace nor work in conjunction with the federal monitoring team, headed by Independent Monitor James Ginger, which is overseeing the city’s reform effort in its Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the DOJ. Mayor Tim Keller said this about the newly appointed monitoring team:
“One of the reasons why we got into the CASA in the first place was because the department was not doing internal reform and monitoring. And so in a way, it’s like preventing a CASA down the road. … And so had we had this set up, I think everyone agrees, we would have never needed the CASA in the first place. So for us, this is really for the future, at least decades, hopefully, of our Albuquerque police department so that we can learn from our mistakes and hold ourselves accountable.”
Daniel Williams, policing policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the CASA had brought about “real advancements toward constitutional policing.” Williams added this:
“But the lived experience of many in our community shows that the much-needed work of reform is far from over. …We welcome any meaningful steps the city and APD are taking toward long-term, sustained reform and hope that this internal monitoring will provide objective, rigorous oversight that our community can rely on.”
The monitoring team’s appointment comes as the city anticipates an end to the CASA after reaching 94% operational compliance in Ginger’s latest report, which was released this month. Once 95% operational compliance is reached, a threshold set from the beginning, the city will then be required to sustain compliance for two years to end the CASA.
The city and Albuquerque Police Department have made sizable progress in checking off CASA requirements since late 2021, after a period of backsliding and turmoil, and more recently are self-monitoring many of the requirements.
May0r Keller said the monitoring team’s duties and responsibilities are modeled after the Federal Court Appointed monitoring team that has overseen the reform process over the last 9 years. Keller said that in appointing the monitor team, “we decided to own it for ourselves, our way,” but noted it couldn’t have happened without the CASA.
“This now sets us up going forward to not have the consent decree, and to not have a monitor, and to still demonstrate a commitment to real reform.”
Links to the quoted news source is here:
Given the extent of the compliance levels, the work of the Federal Monitor can be said to be winding down and coming to an end. 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.
Links to related blog articles are here:
APD Projected To Be In Full Compliance With DOJ Consent Decree By Year’s End; Compliance Reached In 215 Of 238 CASA Terms And Reforms; Over 9 Years ABQ Has Become More Violent City Resulting In More Officer Involved Shootings; Negotiate Dismissal Of CASA By Year’s End