Monitor says APD's attitude is 'unsustainable'.
Policy is ‘do little, delay, and deflect’
City strategy is costing taxpayers, DOJ monitor says
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The Albuquerque Police Department‘s policy-making process remains in disarray and the department’s approach to reform is “do little, delay and deflect,” the independent monitor in the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice told a federal court judge Thursday.
And City Attorney Jessica Hernandez “flatly refused” an offer by the monitor, James Ginger, to send APD staffers to a policy-making workshop to rectify the situation, Ginger told U.S. District Judge Robert Brack in his second report on APD’s progress in complying with the agreement.
Ginger, appointed by agreement of the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque to settle a federal lawsuit alleging APD violated people’s civil rights, reported to the court that little progress has been made in reforming the mindset of APD’s top command.
APD policy-making process remains in disarray and APD is engaging in a policy of “do little, delay and deflect.” That inability to make acceptable policy that meets national standards is “the weakest link in the chain right now,” Ginger said.
APD’s policy-making ineptitude was evident in the prolonged effort to develop an acceptable use-of-force policy, Ginger said.
He explained that the time-consuming back-and-forth on the issue between his office and APD cost $100,000 under his contract. Albuquerque taxpayers are footing the bill for his efforts to clean up APD’s “culture of aggression.”
“That is unsustainable and we can’t have that with every policy,” Ginger said.
Hernandez told Brack that she never refused Ginger’s offer of the workshop and that APD personnel will be attending a policy-making workshop this month.
Ginger’s concern about APD’s inability to develop good policy was echoed by others, including U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez. “These are warning signs that need to be focused on,” Martinez said.
Ginger reported that as of the end of November, APD had made almost no progress in complying with the 277 requirements of the settlement agreement, which is designed to return the police department to community-based, constitutional policing. At November’s end, the department had met only eight of 277 operational goals, Ginger said.
APD did finally submit a acceptable use-of-force policy in January, and so far, 172 of the department’s 821 officers had taken the 40-hour training, Hernandez said. “This is essential to changing the culture at APD,” Hernandez said, adding that all officers will be trained by June 2.
APD’s inability to make policy dominated the two-hour-long hearing. Ginger told Brack in December that without good policy there can’t be good training, and without good training there can be no useful implementation and accountability.
“A major issue is the development of effective policy that meets national standards,” Ginger told the judge.
Hernandez countered that APD had just hired another policy-development expert and that the department was improving in that area. The issue is critically important because APD must meet all the settle agreement’s policy deadlines by June. And, it must be in “substantial compliance” with the agreement by November.
At one point during the hearing Ginger said that it appeared that Hernandez’s office had taken over the compliance effort and that his team was having was having less direct contact with APD officials.
Hernandez said her office had been heavily involved with compliance for a while and added that she thought there was now more contact between APD and Ginger’s team than earlier in the process. She also took a shot at Ginger, saying, “one of our challenges lately has been access to the monitor.”
Towards the hearing’s end, Ginger fired back by turning to Hernandez, pointing an index finger at her and saying, “I don’t want to see any more of this back-and-forth, we need to work with this, and it needs to stop.”
Mental health advocates also expressed concern about APD’s policy-making process and about how they could be more involved in the process of reforming APD.
The hearing wasn’t all bad for APD. Martinez, the U.S. Attorney and the DOJ’s representative in the hearing, praised the department’s tactical unit for enacting reforms and shooting fewer people. “This is significant and I want to compliment the team,” he said.
Brack said he was concerned about APD’ls ability to meet the “very aggressive timelines” of the settlement agreement. “The numbers indicate progress, but incremental progress,” Brack said. “I’m concerned too about communications issues. I am willing, at this point, to see incremental progress.”
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