The scathing report blasted APD on several fronts and said the department makes excuses for officers who use excessive force and really doesn't want to investigate use-of-force cases.
Ginger Says APD Might Not Be Able To Reform Itself
Almost No Appetite For Correcting Bad Behavior
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The independent monitor for the Albuquerque Police Department’s reform process on Friday ripped the department’s command staff and said the department might not be capable of reforming itself, especially when it comes to holding officers accountable in excess use of force cases.
And APD has “almost no appetite” for investigating and disciplining officers who violate department policy, the monitor, James Ginger, said in a 51-page special report on APD filed in U.S. District Court.
The report said that APD’s command staff is mired in a culture of “low accountability” when it comes to holding officers accountable for excessive use of force incidents.
The scathing report blasted APD on several fronts and said the department makes excuses for officers who use excessive force and really doesn’t want to investigate use-of-force cases.
“Events of the recent past … raise serious questions about the department’s capability to transform itself in the remaining months of 2016,” Ginger’s report to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack said. “In short, to effect the cultural change that will be necessary to reach compliance with the CASA [Court Approved Settlement Agreement], APD must institute a culture of accountability, and fairly and universally enforce policy provisions.
“In the opinion of the monitoring team, that will only occur after the highest ranking members of the organization apply a significant, persistent and genuine downward pressure of accountability, where supervisors at all ranks are routinely held to a high standard of performance.”
Ginger cited four cases at APD—all in 2015—in which officers apparently used excessive force to control suspects, and which he said weren’t properly investigated by APD’s command staff.
Once involved an officer kneeing a suspected car thief in the head, another resulted in a suspect’s arm being broken when officers tried to handcuff him, a third resulted in a suspect’s collarbone being broken after two officers tackled him to the ground, and the fourth was an incident where an officer tasered a suspect multiple times and put him in a neck hold.
APD never investigated that neck-hold case on its own.
“It was only through the persistence of the monitoring team that this case was ever investigated by APD,” Ginger’s report said. “Even today, despite extensive effort and oversight by the monitoring team that case lingers as having been only ‘adequately’ handled.”
Ginger ripped APD for, in effect, excusing away excessive use of force by its officers.
“At this point the monitoring team believes that even legitimately questionable use of shows of force cannot survive APD’s process, since each step appears preconditioned to rationalize or explain away officer conduct,” the report said. “Likewise, it appears to the monitoring team that APD sees many of the missed opportunities as ‘water under the bridge’ and not events that should be reinvestigated—or in cases that were missed, investigated at all.
“The agency has almost no appetite for correcting behavior that violates existing policy. Therefore it is nearly impossible at this point to rely on force data that APD reports.”
And Ginger also blasted APD for saying that its deficiencies are old news or the result of growing pains that are the result of its settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The standard response to this catalog of deficiencies has been that ‘these issues are history and APD is now operating under a new regime,’” the report said. “Another typical response has been to attribute these shortcomings to ‘transitional confusion’ as the Department implements CASA-related reforms.
“We beg to differ, as most of the deficiencies have little to do with the CASA and, instead, represent serious shortfalls in terms of basic, well-established oversight and accountability principles. Moreover, most investigative lapses are straightforward and basic. In our judgment, the majority of deficiencies are attributable to a culture of low accountability within APD.”
Ginger raised the issue of low accountability among APD’s command staff in July in his third report to Brack on APD’s progress in reforming itself.
“Across the board, the monitoring team has found that the components in APD’s system for overseeing (and holding officers accountable for) the use of force, for the most part, has failed,” Ginger’s July report said. “Hence, the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews.”
In Friday’s report, Ginger appeared to take a swipe at Brack, who in July held a “picnic” in his courtroom for the parties involved in the case to celebrate the fact that APD had met a deadline to rewrite more than 30 major policies. That picnic included barbecue for all involved, and it was criticized by some who thought it was premature to celebrate APD’s success.
“A lack of effort on the part of APD is no the issue,” Ginger’s latest report said. “Instead, high activity at APD is often confused with progress—at least in terms of force reporting, investigations and oversight.”
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