The Albuquerque Police Department is in the middle of a reform process after the U.S. Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive use of force by officers. An independent monitor tasked with overseeing the process presented the second of a series of reports earlier this month.
Ryan Boetel is covering the APD reform process, he's a police reporter for the Albuquerque Journal. He told KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel that the monitor, James Ginger, found APD officers had reduced the number of deaths and injuries that happen in SWAT situations.
BOETEL: The tactical operations was pretty much the main thing that he commended them for. And it was sort of, he said that they strike a good balance of tactical officers and crisis intervention, you know, talking these people down. We’ve been at SWAT standoffs in this year where it’s dragged on for the entire day and then at the end of it the suspect surrenders and was taken into custody.
When you look at the James Boyd shooting, that happened after police had put in this self-imposed deadline of ‘we’re going to end this standoff by sundown.’ And when it got close to it they started using force and it ended the way it did. So, the situations are dragging out longer and they’re coming to better end results.
KUNM: Ginger did express some concerns about how the reforms process is progressing. What exactly was he talking about?
BOETEL: So, as part of this reform process, they have to rewrite 35 policies within the department. They range from use of force to lapel cameras, promotions, and they have to set up this process where they rewrite them, he approves them and then they start training on them. And he’s been really critical, now, in two reports of how APD is structuring this policy writing process. He says it’s disjointed, disorganized and confusing.
KUNM: He laid all this out before this U.S. District Court judge. There were folks from the City of Albuquerque present as well. What kind of responses did we hear from representatives of the city?
BOETEL: So, what the city said, and I guess it’s important to, when you’re looking at these reports, this most recent report, it critiqued the city on how they acted through November. So they’re delayed, we’re always behind the curve when we’re reading these reports. So, the city said, since the end of November we’ve made some changes to come in line with what he’s asking for. But we’re not going to see what Ginger thinks of how the city’s responded in December, January, February—until his next report comes out in June.
KUNM: So the city’s talking about what they’ve done since November, whereas Ginger’s talking about what they did prior to November, up until November?
KUNM: So, up through November, Ginger has said, ok, APD has reached compliance with just a fraction of the 277 reforms that are laid out in the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. Why have so few of those deadlines been met?
BOETEL: Well, it’s also important to know that most of the deadlines for those 277 haven’t come up yet. The ones that they’ve accomplished so far are just the basic organizational aspects to it, like, they have a policy and procedures review board. But, we are still not going to know if it’s sort of acting in line with Ginger’s vision until later on in the process.
KUNM: The whole process is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Robert Brack. What did the judge have to say after hearing from both the independent monitor and the city?
BOETEL: The city and Ginger were both talking about how, ‘we’re just getting started in this process, we’re laying the foundation of the reform.’ And I thought it was kind of interesting, at the end of the hearing he sort of said, ‘Stop referring to this idea as newly-hatched, we’re a year into this thing now, we’re in the throes of this thing.’