Albuquerque Police Department, Justice Department reform far from fully compliant

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The city of Albuquerque has called the overhaul of a police department one of the “country’s most ambitious ambitious goals.” At the end of October 2014, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reached a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice after discovering that the DPA was engaged in an “excessive use of force model or practice.” “.

City leaders have presented a four-year plan to achieve this. Now, seven years later, it is unclear when ODA will end its reform efforts.

“APD remains committed to improving the overall operations of the department and meeting the requirements
described, ”the ministry wrote in a report filed in September this year. The disciplinary policy of the ODA “was revised and published in July 2021”, specifies the department. And many other changes have been made over the past year, including the hiring of a civilian in May 2021 to develop the DPA training program.

However, recent reports filed in federal court outline the main issues that are preventing progress. An aversion to discipline and a lack of data-driven decision-making are just a few of the issues preventing APD from delaying its end of the settlement, according to one of the reports. As of October 2021, the ODA had only implemented 59% of the demands imposed by the courts on a daily basis.

Context: ODA is mandated by the court to make improvements

In 2012, amid a series of murderous and controversial police shootings and allegations of agents abusing their authority, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation to see if DPA agents had resorted to unconstitutional force. “The DPA engages in a pattern or practice of excessive use of force, including lethal force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” they concluded in 2014.

In response, Albuquerque reached a settlement agreement with the DOJ in October 2014. That agreement outlines 276 court-mandated goals that APD has been working on since then, under the oversight of a court-approved independent oversight team. The team is led by James Ginger, director of a private company called Public Management Resources.

A May 3 report from Ginger and the Independent Oversight Team shows that APD developed policies to meet all 276 targets, but only implemented and met about 60% of the settlement targets day by day. Compared to the previous progress report, ODA has in fact lost progress in terms of training and field operations. It’s a drop in performance that “should sound the alarm bells at all levels of government in the city of Albuquerque,” according to the Monitor report.

These declines in progress occurred despite “extensive and intensive advice and guidance from the monitoring team,” the independent monitoring team report reveals. “The monitoring team considers these drops in compliance to be serious and worrying, as they reflect substantial and serious deficiencies in ODA command and oversight practices. “

Several problems prevent progress

In response to recent allegations from the monitoring team, in July 2021, the DPA created a team of “outside investigators” who are “headed by an outside administrator,” according to a recent court document. This team, called the External Force Investigation Team, is intended to “guide, direct and, if necessary, take charge of investigations” into use of force.

Yet the same report that describes this new investigative team also includes analysis by AH Datalytics, a consulting firm. The AH Datalytics report and the Independent Observer report reveal that systemic issues can prevent APD from progressing.

“The DPA is ready to go through almost any machinations to avoid disciplining officers who break policy or supervisors who fail to note policy violations or act in a timely manner,” the Observer noted. independent in its report earlier this year. “In some areas of compliance, we [the independent monitor] are required to make the same recommendations over and over again because ODA simply does not respond to those recommendations in any way and refuses to implement their own processes designed to achieve a reduction in unwarranted use of strength.

According to AH Datalytics analysis, an outdated data management system at APD and a lack of department-wide data sharing compound the problems. They found that APD collects a lot of useful data, but doesn’t put it into practice.

“ODA data systems lack a complete and accurate representation of all ODA activities and often collect data in fragmented or incongruous ways,” according to the consulting firm. “Lack of a data-driven culture creates barriers to compliance [with the court-approved settlement agreement]. “

APD acknowledges some of the problems: “The archaic and outdated document management system in place since 2008 has analytical problems,” APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos told KRQE. While more modern systems can automate some tasks, the current ODA system requires users to manually collect data, he explains.

In addition to an outdated system, use of force data is not always shared with the public in a timely and organized manner, AH Datalytics found. As a result, APD is no longer in compliance with some of the requirements of the 2014 court-approved settlement.

Part of the court-approved deal that the DPA has with the DOJ requires the DPA to publish an annual report on the department’s use of force. Since 2014, APD has only published three comprehensive reports that collectively cover 2015 to 2019.

“The most recent report was submitted to court in October 2020,” reveals AH Datalytics analysis. Still, “we learned that the report was almost completed a year ago, in November 2019, and was apparently on track to be released in a timely manner,” they wrote. But issues with data and staff have delayed the release of the report, which covers 2016 to 2019.

The report, in addition to being late, is “poorly organized and provides little assessment of the department’s use of force,” according to AH Datalytics. In addition, they found discrepancies between the annual use of force report and data collected by the court-approved independent monitoring team.

“The most recent report provides data on the use of force in the order set out in the CASA [court-approved settlement agreement] but provides little overall context or analysis for a better understanding of the data, ”according to AH Datalytics. “There is no summary for easy digestion of the report’s most important findings and data analysis only begins on page 9, making the report difficult to digest. “

Yet notable progress is being made

To be clear, some progress is underway within ODA. The most recent report by Ginger and the monitoring team reveals that the DPA’s Internal Forces Review Board has taken a firmer stand against the misuse of force, “with some members increasingly willing to question the “model and practice” problems of the department, “noted the independent observer.

“We have been strongly encouraged,” the independent monitoring team reported. “And for the first time, believe that there is hope that the FRB [Force Review Board] can finally assume its rightful place in the control system by setting an example for lower managers.

“The need for ODA to develop its capacity to ‘watch’ itself is the centerpiece of its organizational reform efforts,” the most recent report by the Independent Observer states. “This is the keystone for achieving the long-term sustainability of these reforms.”

Thanks to state and city funds, APD is also benefiting from a technology update, as reported in the city’s latest budget. APD got a new radio system, updated computer aided dispatch and updated case management system. “This should drastically manage the flow of data throughout the system,” according to AH Datalytics.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the new system is expected to go live by the end of this year. “The new system will allow for better and more useful data analysis,” he told KRQE. “Overall, APD is very successful in collecting data and [we] take steps to better report on this data and perform appropriate data analysis to make data-driven decisions.

To combat delays in the latest publicly available Use of Force report, DPA has already released a preliminary report on 2020 data. “Despite the provisional nature of this data set, in the interest of transparency and responsibility, it would be better to publish a report, “says APD in the document.

Preliminary data shows an increase in cases of force: “While calls for service have declined, cases of force increased steadily from 2016 to 2020,” the report said. About half of these cases resulted in some sort of injury, but the resulting number of hospitalizations has declined.

How long will it take to achieve full operational compliance?

While there is no deadline for ODA to fully comply with the 2014 regulation, the department must comply with the 276 measurable goals for at least two years if it is to end DOJ oversight. . Since progress has not always been a step forward, it is not clear when APD could achieve this goal.

“That doesn’t sound good,” says Barron Jones, senior political strategist at the New Mexico affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-NM). “Needless to say, at this rate, if you take three steps forward and seven back, you’ll never get there. So it can be a multi-year effort, ”says Jones, who was involved with APD Forward, a community coalition advocating for police reform.

In a step towards progress, in the spring of 2021, the DPA changed leadership in both the Police Training Academy and the DPA’s Internal Affairs Force Division. This year, a civilian was appointed to manage all training programs, according to the DPA. Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, says better training is key to reform.

“The bad guys are going to fight and they are going to run and the cops are going to have to chase them,” Willoughby says. The police will “have to tackle it and use force.” It’s just a fact of life, it’s not going to go away. But, the Justice Department’s regulations helped invest money in more training, he says. “Some of our trainings are good, some not so good, but at least we get the training and access to reality-based training. This is one of the good points.

Despite changes to the Police Academy and investments in things like a new case management system, Willoughby says Justice Department oversight won’t end anytime soon. “The reality is that we are, I think, seven or eight years from that end, however remote,” he said.


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