ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the APD Forward coalition filed an amicus brief with the court in response to the settlement agreement between the City of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that lays out reforms to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
“While we see many positive changes outlined in the current settlement agreement between the City of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice, we can still make it stronger in certain areas,” said Alexandra Freedman Smith, ACLU-NM Legal Director and APD Forward legal team member. “In APD Forward’s amicus brief, we have flagged for the court places where we feel the reforms could go further towards reducing excessive use of force and ensuring police accountability.”
The APD Forward amicus brief addresses the following issues:Read more
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the APD Forward coalition released its top three picks from the pool of seventeen candidates currently under consideration for the role of independent federal monitor, the position that will oversee the implementation of the settlement agreement governing reforms in the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). APD Forward acquired the applications of all parties under consideration via a public records request and analyzed the candidates based on criteria which APD Forward regards as crucial to the function of the independent monitor. On Wednesday, January 14th, the City of Albuquerque and the U.S. Department of Justice plan to notify the court of their choices for the monitor role.
“From our study of the police reform process in other cities, we know that the independent monitor is key to the success of a court-enforced agreement to address a pattern and practice of constitutional violations in any police department,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Mexico. “It will be the monitor’s job to hold APD accountable to the terms of the settlement agreement between the DOJ and the City. One of APD Forward’s primary goals is to advocate for a capable and qualified team of experts to oversee the implementation of the reforms that our police department so urgently needs.”
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.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 3, 2014
CONTACT: Micah McCoy, (972) 740-6675 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the APD Forward coalition condemned the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) decision to give APD officer Sean Wallace an award for outstanding service. Wallace, who has shot three unarmed men, killing two, has cost taxpayers more than 1 million dollars in wrongful death lawsuits. According to the APD, this award is“…presented to an officer who intelligently performs his/her duty in an outstanding manner to include performance during a critical incident…”
“There are plenty of officers in the Albuquerque Police Department who are highly deserving of commendation for their excellent service to our community,” said APD Forward spokesperson Nancy Koenigsberg, Legal Director for Disability Rights New Mexico. “However, it is hard to justify bestowing such an award on an officer who has shot three unarmed men, killing two. In addition to the unconscionable loss of human life, he has cost taxpayers more than 1 million dollars in wrongful death lawsuits.”Read more
You may have seen in the paper recently that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor and Chief Eden conducted a 3-day site visit with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department to learn from their reform process. Two representatives from the APD Forward campaign, Peter Simonson and Steven Robert Allen of the ACLU of New Mexico, accompanied the group to observe and learn.
A few years before Albuquerque, LVMPD went through a major spike in officer-involved shootings, most of them targeting unarmed Black men. Rather than sit back and wait until DOJ came knocking with an internal investigation, the Chief sought out the DOJ’s assistance, and thereby avoided the kind of court-ordered agreement that APD is now facing. The DOJ assigned the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to work with them on a “collaborative reform process.” Basically, COPS contracted with an outside agency to make a series of 75 recommendations for changes in the department’s policies, training and use of force investigations. While we definitely want to avoid the kind of “gentlemen’s agreement” approach to reform where the APD is concerned, the LVMPD has made some important improvements with COPS’ help.
Here are some of the main takeaways from this site visit from our point of view:
APD Forward Campaign Calls for Independent Investigation of Robertson Shooting and Immediate Release of Lapel Camera Video
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 23, 2014
CONTACT: Micah McCoy, email@example.com or (972) 740-6675
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the APD Forward campaign called on Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Chief Gorden Eden to invite an external law enforcement organization to investigate the July 22, 2014 officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of Jeremy Robertson. Traditionally, APD detectives have led official inquiries into shootings by APD officers. The campaign also called for Chief Eden to immediately release any footage that the APD collected during the incident.
Yesterday, eleven members of the APD Forward coalition met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to introduce the APD Forward campaign and gather information about the city’s negotiations with the Department of Justice. Also attending the meeting were Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, APD Chief Gordon Eden, and Special Counsel Scott Greenwood, among others.
In response to our questions, the mayor expressed his desire to make sure that the reforms to APD were sustained beyond his administration. He feels that community involvement is key to that sustainability. He wants the consent decree to be negotiated as expeditiously as possible, but not if it means sacrificing the quality of the agreement.
Special Counsel Greenwood reiterated that they were unable to discuss the status of negotiations with APD Forward in order to comply with ground rules that they agreed upon with the DOJ. However he did say that he thought the end of the year was a realistic goal for finalizing the consent decree.
CAO Perry discussed research that they are initiating to improve the existing lapel cam policy. Because the technology of officer-worn cameras is relatively new, the City still has challenging questions to address around the placement of cameras on officers’ uniforms, the uploading and storage of video data and the mechanisms for turning cameras on and off.
APD Forward coalition member Ken Ellis asked if APD was in compliance with a state law requiring CIT training for officers. Chief Eden responded that officers now receive training far in excess of what’s required by state law.
The mayor said they will not be able to estimate the costs of implementing reforms until the consent decree is completed, but he did say that neither the city council nor his administration have balked at any costs. The mayor and Chief are exploring new programs to offer professional development for officers, especially in the area of leadership training. The mayor invited APD Forward to take part in his community collaborative process to reform APD. The first meeting for this series of community discussions will take place in August.
All in all, it was a cordial and productive meeting. It ended with the mayor offering an apology to Steve Torres, Ken Ellis and Mike Gomez, who have all lost sons to officer-involved shootings.
The mayor and we agreed that we should schedule a follow up meeting in another couple of months. We look forward to working with the administration to ensure we get the crucial reforms we need to make APD the responsible, professional, and community-friendly police force our city deserves.
On Monday, June 9, 2014 representatives from a cross section of of Albuquerque community groups announced the "APD Forward" campaign to help reform the Albuquerque Police Department.
Community-driven campaign will press for sustainable APD reforms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 9, 2014
CONTACT: Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, Albuquerque community leaders and a broad spectrum of New Mexico-based organizations announced the launch of the APD Forward campaign, a community-driven effort to hold the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) accountable for implementing reforms of the city’s police department. APD Forward will serve as a powerful, targeted platform for Albuquerque communities to press for sustainable reforms of APD policies and procedures.
“The time has come for communities across the city to join together in pressing for crucial reforms so APD officers can safely and responsibly protect the people of Albuquerque,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “This is our best opportunity in decades to move the APD and our city forward so that the people of Albuquerque can believe in their police department again.”
In recent weeks, a Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation confirmed that longstanding deficiencies in oversight, training and polices have allowed a culture of aggression and a sense of impunity to thrive within the Albuquerque Police Department. APD officers frequently use excessive force against people who pose a minimal threat, including those who are unarmed or suffering from mental illness. To help fix these serious issues, the APD Forward campaign will use advocacy, community organizing, and public education to accomplishing the following four objectives:
- Achieve a court enforced agreement between the Department of Justice and the Albuquerque Police Department that ensures that the reforms we need are fully implemented.
- Obtain the appointment of a qualified, independent monitoring team to oversee compliance with the court-ordered agreement.
- Ensure that the City of Albuquerque dedicates adequate resources to fully fund the necessary reforms.
- Obtain sustained evidence that the City of Albuquerque and APD is complying with the reform agreement and taking real, concrete steps to address the problems uncovered by the Department of Justice investigation.