The following is the initial APD Forward Legal Team analysis of the DOJ/APD settlement agreement. This analysis may be modified as we continue to examine the document.
Areas of Strength
1) The way APD reports use of force internally and to the public is greatly improved.
- Requires detailed reporting of all uses of force
- Requires supervisors to review all uses of force and go to the scene where force was used
- Requires collection of demographic data in use of force incidents (race, gender
- Supervisors have to do a report on all uses of force
- APD must release an annual report detailing use of force by officers during the year
Bottom line: Better enforced and new reporting requirements will require APD to pay attention to use of force and allow the community to see whether there is improvement.
2) The settlement agreement does a good job of reconnecting officers to the community they serve and protect.
- Agreement places an emphasis on community policing
- Calls for establishing a community policing council for each area command
- Requires that APD hold public meetings in each area command, with every officer required to attend at least two meetings per year.
Bottom line: More interaction with the community will lead to APD more invested in the community and the community more invested in APD. Increased community engagement will decrease the “us versus them” mentality on both sides.
3) The agreement goes a long way to reforming how APD will interact with the people living with mental illness.
- Establishes a citizen Mental Health Response Advisory committee to improve how officers respond to calls involving people living with mental illness.
- Places more emphasis on crisis intervention and de-escalation when dealing with a person in crisis
- Puts in place a sensible, tiered approach for crisis intervention responders.
- Requires more behavior health training for officers
- Requires new protocols for dealing with suicidal individuals who are not threatening harm to anyone but themselves
Bottom line: These changes will make both officers and people living with mental illness safer.
Areas in Need of Improvement
1) The camera policy, while a big improvement, does not go far enough. Cameras are crucial to changing officer behavior and improving accountability.
- ALL encounters with the public should be recorded except for witness statements, confidential informant statements, and victim statements
- Camera policy must have mandatory, serious discipline for failure to record
- When a supervisor signs off on any police report, supervisor should note whether there is a recording. If not, explain or refer officer for discipline.
- APD should conduct regular audits on camera use
- Camera footage should be retained for longer periods of time
Bottom line: Officer worn cameras are an absolutely crucial component of this reform effort, and the camera policy should be more robust than it currently is. Officer worn cameras protect not only the safety of the public, but the safety of officers as well.
2) The agreement doesn’t do enough to rein in the overuse and misuse of SWAT teams.
- Currently the agreement leaves it up to APD to decide on what types of situations to deploy SWAT. Instead, APD should follow established best practices and standards for tactical team deployments.
- Deployments should be limited to situations in which people’s lives are in imminent danger—NOT routine police work.
- Need post deployment report: specific justification for SWAT deployment and accounting of criminal evidence found.
Bottom line: Overuse and misuse of SWAT teams has contributed to the militarization of police in ABQ and caused several preventative deaths. We need to do more to limit their use to the situations for which they were intended.
3) Failure to discipline officers has been a long-standing problem in APD. This agreement does not do enough to hold leadership accountable to consistently and fairly disciplining officers
- The vast majority of field officers in APD protect and serve the community with honor, bravery, and distinction. However, to date there is an especially problematic record of APD leadership refusing to hold abusive and reckless officers accountable.
- Nothing in the agreement requires leadership to change their policy of looking the other way when officers break the rules.
- We need reporting on officer discipline so the public knows that leadership is enforcing its own policies.
Bottom line: For the people of Albuquerque to regain the trust of APD, it needs to see leadership immediately adopt a discipline matrix that is fairly, consistently, and transparently enforced at all levels. As it currently stands, the agreement is vague about how this will be accomplished. The public should have clear and irrefutable evidence that the leadership holds peace officers to the highest standards of excellence
4) The federally appointed monitor that will oversee this agreement should have a proven track record of successfully implementing these types of reforms AND be from out of state.
- The consent decree does not lay out the qualifications they will look for in the federally appointed monitor.
- The monitor should be from out of state to avoid even the perception of inside connection to the APD.
- The monitor should be qualified for and have experience in this type of role
Bottom line: To clean house, we need somebody experienced who didn’t grow up in the house him/herself.